An investment that pays – the importance of Christian camps and conferences for young people
Are you thinking about the summer holidays? Have you considered sending your children, or young people connected with your church, to a Christian camp? Here are some benefits in doing this.
If you send them to a camp where the gospel is faithfully explained, they will receive more helpful Bible teaching. The more faithful preaching they hear, the more opportunities they have to repent and believe the gospel (Romans 10:17). The camp chaplain will be preaching the same gospel message as the pastor at home, but hearing it from someone different will help them to listen with ‘new ears’ (John 4:37).
Being away from home and everyday distractions gives young people time to think and encourages them to consider their spiritual state. It is no longer just a message for others (old fogies and parents!), but is now for them personally (Isaiah 43:1).
It is an opportunity to ask questions as they occur. For one whole week, they will be living alongside Christians who are willing and able to discuss the issues which concern them. Daily, small-group Bible studies encourage them to apply God’s Word to their lives and provoke lively discussions. The temptation to put off facing up to the call of Christ (maybe until next Sunday?) is countered by the fact that camp is like a ‘week of Sundays’, throughout which the gospel is preached (Isaiah 55:6).
Camp can be for some a life-line at a time of need. Teenage years can be tough — a time of fierce temptation, identity crisis, academic pressure and insecurity; and yet also a time when young people are obliged to make formidable decisions regarding their studies and future. Time out to consider life’s true priorities in the light of God’s Word can strengthen and prepare them for the Christian fight (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Christian camps can provide young people with godly role models. They are led by committed Christians who care about young people and are fun to be with, yet serious about following the Lord. Camp provides a window into their lives and their example can be an inspiration (Philippians 3:17; 4:9).
Spending a week in the company of other Christians is of immense value to a young Christian, who perhaps comes from a small church. He or she returns home enriched in many ways — with new books to read, new friends to network with, a new resolve to persevere in personal prayer and Bible study, and a new zeal for holy living and Christian service (Philippians 4:8).
Camps can set a pattern for life. They provide a holiday that refreshes the soul as well as the body. Hopefully, this encourages future involvement in helpful conferences and a lifelong love of Christian fellowship (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Camp provides an opportunity for young Christians to use and develop their gifts, and a training ground for Christian service. Under the oversight of experienced leaders, they can serve as cooks and junior officers, help to lead Bible-studies, share their faith and lead in prayer. Many go on to participate in other forms of evangelism and service in their home churches (Ephesians 6:14-15).
Then there is fun and friendship! Quite apart from the delight of spending a week in a beautiful location with people of a similar age and trying out new and exciting activities, it is a place where many lasting friendships have been formed — some even leading to marriages (Psalm 133)!
A week spent away from home at a Christian camp may not suit everyone. Some will feel homesick. Others may not be equipped to relate to a broader range of teenagers. However, most young people find it a source of great spiritual blessing.
Parents, no doubt you do everything in your power to help your children get on in life. You feed and clothe them and invest in their education. Are you making the same investment in their spiritual development? Is this a priority for you?
Church members, are there children in your church who will never have the privilege of going to a Christian camp unless you take the initiative to make this happen? Could you help with finance, or offer your services in some way, for example, as a driver? Are there young people in your wider family whom you could encourage to go?
I was converted at a Campaigner camp at the age of 10. My five now grown-up children attended Evangelical Movement of Wales camps or Christian Camps in Wales every year from about 10 or 11 years old, and we are thankful to God for the enormous spiritual blessings derived from their experiences there.
Alison de Jong