Let me start with this- I LOVE CHURCH CAMP! It’s one of my favorite weeks of summer (both when I was a student and now as an adult). The Lord used camp in my life in huge ways, and I’m forever grateful. I joke with my husband that I married him (a youth pastor), just so I could continue attending youth camp each summer.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, many church summer camps are cancelled or drastically changed. Though I understand these decisions, they’re still tough. I’m sad we won’t get that week full of Bible studies, worship, and nightly milkshakes this year. However, as odd as it may sound, I’m hopeful. God isn’t surprised by these changes nor is he confined to church camps. I’m eager to watch him work, even amidst an odd summer.
Today should’ve been our last day of camp with our students. I wish we were there, but instead of focusing on the negative, I’d like to focus on what God can teach us as he’s changed up our normal. Students, maybe this is an opportunity to learn some lessons I didn’t learn until my adult years.
I learned I loved summer camp maybe a little too much because of how much I relied on it. I longed for that “camp high” each summer, and felt I needed it to get “back on track” with the Lord year after year. I believed that to be rightly walking with the Lord was to feel that church camp feeling ALL the time. Over the years, the Lord re-shaped my thoughts on what it means to walk with him. I’ve learned it’s not about that “camp high” because those feelings are usually only at camp for a reason. For a week, most distractions are gone. We’re surrounded by other believers and are in God’s Word throughout the day. Real life is so different, though. In real life, there are to-do lists, conflicts, and more distractions (like TVs, phones, etc.). The truth is, it’s easier to walk with the Lord at camp when (mostly) everyone has the same focus and temptations are fewer. However, true believers walk with the Lord in real life too, though it might not feel good or easy all the time. Following Christ isn’t about feelings. Praise the Lord! It’s a faith based on facts. It’s about abiding in Christ (John 15:5). I’m no gardener, but a branch doesn’t reattach itself a few times a year. It’s constantly connected to the vine. Likewise, we’re not to attach to Christ at camp and then un-attach when real life hits. Instead, we’re to be constantly connected to the Vine- as we go to school, practice sports, work, or sit at home.
An excellent passage for this is the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. The seed sown on rocky ground excitedly hears the Word (like many do at camp), but there’s no root. When tribulation hits, this person falls away. Students, our walks with Christ can’t be based on entertainment or feelings. Eventually, we’re too old to attend summer camp. If our walk with Christ is based on the cool band and emotional high, then we’ll forever be searching for the next best thing to sustain us. True believers have good soil. They hear the Word of God, understand it, and bear fruit for God’s glory. They don’t fall away when the entertainment fades or tribulation comes. Students, my prayer for you is that this summer, you realize our walks with Christ are based on him and his Word. HE is the object of our faith!
Camp is an awesome tool God uses for his glory, but let’s not make it an idol. The danger comes when we elevate experiences such as camp above Christ. When we feel we need camp to walk with the Lord, the red flag should go up. Christ gives us everything we need in himself and his Word (2 Pet. 1:3). Honestly, I used to be excited about camp and anticipate God’s work, but not necessarily for weekly Sunday morning worship services. There’s great value in spending a week at camp, surrounded by your peers, but there’s also great value in weekly being plugged into a multi-generational church. The same Spirit that abides in the camp pastor and worship band also abides in the pastor and worship leaders at your church. God has taught me to show up on Sundays just as excited and expectant for him to move!
Though I’ll miss camp with our students this summer, I’ve learned Christ’s nearness is just as sweet as I do laundry as it is during camp worship services. My walk with Christ is based on God’s unchanging character, not my ever-changing circumstances. It’s based on the truth of his Word, not the range of my feelings. Students, there’s beautiful freedom in this. No longer do I have the burden to “arrive” in my walk with Christ. I’m no longer discouraged when I don’t feel that “camp high” on a random Tuesday. On this side of eternity, I’ll always be a spiritual work in progress, with a range of emotions. The Lord has given me a contentedness in sanctification. As I walk with him, I trust he’s working on me. I trust he transforms my heart in both my camp life and my everyday life.
Students, camp might be cancelled but the Lord at work isn’t. This summer, I pray you see how wonderful it is to walk with God in the everyday-ness of life. I pray you see encouragement, conviction, and life callings aren’t confined to camp, but that the Lord can bring those in our lives as we daily draw near to him. I pray you study the Word, fellowship with other believers (social distancing style, of course), and draw closer to God each day this summer.
And yes, I pray by summer 2021, we’re all back at camp together, laughing, making memories, and most of all, growing in Christ.