Camps come in all forms and sizes, and with hundreds of different camps you see all over the world, no two camps are ever the same—each one has its own stamp of uniqueness. When you look at camps from a broader perspective, you may find that they seem to all look similar: the same fun and games, outdoor adventures, day training and activities, camp songs, facilities, etc.
For a parent facing a myriad of options trying to choose what kind of summer camp to choose for his/ her child, that part alone is overwhelming. Summer camps may all virtually look the same, but we all know they are all essentially different—you will likely come across terms like “sports camps”, “boot camps”, “special interest camps”, “day camps, “fitness camps”, a combination of these themes—and the list goes on and on. And then you’ll come across “faith-based camps”, “religious camps” and “Christian camps” like ours at The Vineyard, Christian sports camp on Brown Mountain, North Carolina.
So what are some of the usual things a child experiences in Christian camps?
From its most literal meaning, religious camps are focused on faith-formation and instilling faith-centered values to its campers through meaningful and enriching activities incorporated in the normal “camp” routine. For a Christian camp like ours, The Vineyard is an inter-denominational summer camp and retreat center committed to serving Catholic and Protestant families from around the world. You will see a lot of similarities between a faith-based camp and a regular camp in as far as day-to-day activities are concerned. One will experience essential activities such as group games, day classes, skills-specific training, water activities, and fun bonfires at night. Fundamentally, all camps teach through experience, so expect to see the same water games, presentations, nature walks, games, and songs—and all those activities are intended to instill confidence, teamwork, and independence.
So what’s the difference with Christian camps? It all lies in the faith-focused approach embedded in all those activities and also in their one-on-one interactions with their camp leaders. Here are some of the fundamentals:
The Intention, Purpose, and Vision of the Camp
This is, in essence, the most important aspect that makes Christian camps unique from all other camps. Summer camps are formed with one ultimate goal: TRANSFORMATION. Transformation comes in many forms-- it can come in growth on specific skills and talents, appreciation in a certain subject, or coming out with more profound knowledge and insight in life. Christian camps, on the other hand, are intended to nurture our children’s faith in Christ and to grow in the spirit of His teachings.
As parents, we are our children’s first teachers in faith. For them to grow in the light of God, we do whatever it takes to teach them values at home from infancy up until they grow to become adults. We make it fun and understandable for them, so one day they will practice those teachings in their own lives. The same goes for Christian camps. For their days at the camp, we incorporate those teachings in fun individual and group activities from sun up till sundown. For us at The Vineyard, for example, From the beginning, it has been our threefold goal to share God’s love, demonstrate holy living, and explain the challenge of discipleship, so it’s more than just transformation. It’s making them grow in faith in Christ on their most important years when they start to question who they are, who they want to be, what they can contribute to society.
The Camp Leaders and Counsellors
In a faith-based camp, the most influential people our children will come face-to-face with are their leaders. Throughout all camps, leaders come in many titles—counselors, mentors, teachers, facilitators, educators—but in concept, these are the passionate individuals who will guide all campers every step of the way in camp. In a Christian camp, the leaders are the ones who impart knowledge and values from something as simple as teaching Gospel songs to as complex as training a child on specific skills. These leaders also facilitate some one-on-one time with your child to talk about some questions they may have in life, but most importantly, they serve as a spiritual mentor for them in leading them to appreciate the Christian ways.
Let’s take our example here in our camp. Because of our commitment to Jesus Christ and based upon the camp’s original vision, The Vineyard only hires staff who profess to follow and endorse the orthodox Christian faith. All Staff at The Vineyard are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Christian principles regardless of their denomination or position in the camp. With that being said, expect to have camp leaders who are not only passionate in their respective fields but also people who have surrendered themselves to the Lord’s teachings and have committed to spreading His love through teaching and counsellorship.
The Christian Approach
Christian and faith-based camps are key contributors to providing quality life experiences for children and the youth in their life’s most important formative years, especially among adolescents and teenagers. There is more to Christian camps than fun and games. In essence, it is their opportunity to co-exist among like-minded kids of their age range and share the same life experiences and questions. At the same time, they have leaders who are appropriately qualified and equipped to answer those burning queries of early adulthood. In Christian camps, the Bible is the ultimate source of strength and wisdom in answering those questions making sure our children thoroughly understand their journey towards becoming responsible adults. For us at The Vineyard, for example, we try to disciple youth using a “lifestyle approach” by spending most of the day with sports and recreation and offering evening worship services and optional Bible studies at night. Whether it is a gentle hand to teach a particular skill or taking time to reflect on nature’s quiet beauty in the forest, we teach by example and wait for the child’s response.
"Camp vineyard is a truly beautiful retreat and was instrumental in my walk with Christ!"- Kory Finley
As parents, sending our kids to camp is one of those important decisions we make to fill that gap during their school break. We have first to consider what kind of transformation we want to teach in them as they enter into their life’s most curious years. Christian and faith-based camps instill so many great values, but ultimately, it’s about shedding the Light of God to them during those years when they are overwhelmed with challenges in identity and life purpose.
Registration is now open for Summer 2020! Head on over to this link to reserve a slot.