summer camp - the good news of belonging


I’ve been speaking up at Stillwood Camp this week, helping the summer staff prepare for all that a summer at camp brings. Having spent five summers working at camp myself I have a particular interest and desire to see summer camps be a meaningful place for all.

A common phrase at camp is “camp is for the campers.” And boy, does one see all sorts of kids throughout a summer at camp: Cool kids. Lonely kids. Excited kids. Nervous kids. Confident kids. Shy kids. Loved kids. Unloved kids. Bullying kids. Bullied kids. Big kids. Small kids. Happy kids. Sad kids. Angry kids. Quirky kids.

A big part of the staff training at camp is trying to make sense of how to give a great week to such a variety of kids- how to ensure camp is indeed “for the campers.” From my experience, this is no easy task. Yet when successful, it’s one of the most rewarding!

The theme at Stillwood Camp this summer is “mystery,” referring to Ephesians 3:4-6

4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles (outsiders) are heirs together with Israel (God’s people), members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Image courtesy of Stillwood Camp
It’s no surprise that at a Christian camp, Jesus is the basis for all that happens. Introducing kids to God’s love in Jesus - this “mystery of Christ” - forms the foundation for all the energy and resources that go into running a Christian summer camp. Yet easy to overlook, but profoundly impactful, is this message is lived out day-to-day and week-to-week at camp. The passage above describes the result of the “mystery” that determines so much of what camp is about - the reality that the mystery of Christ is all about belonging.

For so many kids, belonging is exactly what they don’t experience in much of life. All they know is difference and exclusion.

Camp, then, provides an alternative experience of life for many kids. Through all the craziness that is summer camp, kids get a taste of belonging from beginning to end - an experience that for some will truly be a mystery in a world often defined by the absence of belonging.

This is the good news Jesus. This is the good news of belonging. This is camp.

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