Co-written by Pam Murphy (Director of Visual Outreach) and Alan Rogstad (Executive Director of PNW Camping),
A lot of people think that religious camps are either just fun and don’t provide much “benefit” or that they’re a super serious experience filled with altar calls and hours upon hours of prayer at a time. We like to think our UM camps hit a healthy balance of the two.
Our purpose is essentially to be an extension of the church. We share the mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That being said we definitely go about it in a different way 😉
Pam reflects: I don’t think kids come home from church camp and proclaim, “You’ll never believe it, I had an existential moment and found God in the Mud Pit!” However, that would be cool. #MudPitJesus #ThatShouldBeAThing
What does happen through all that mud throwing, water skiing, and zip line fun is that kids are watching their young adult counselors be silly and genuine with them, take care of them, and model the gospel for them. Because of all that, THE KIDS WANT TO BECOME LIKE THEIR COUNSELORS! That’s pretty cool too!
I was 11 years old when I went to camp for the first time. My counselor that year (who’s real name I never knew but we called Ladybug) made a HUGE impact on me and most definitely set me on the path to where I am now. I was a shy kid who felt invisible to the world. On the last day, Ladybug gave me an award, “Woman of Many Hidden Talents”. For the first time, I felt like someone saw me, and in that moment I knew that I wanted to be like her. Ladybug, if you’re out there…thank you 🙂
I went on to be a camp counselor for a few years and now I’m using some of those “hidden talents” to work for our camping conference and have also found myself providing leadership in my church. Shout out to Covenant UMC in Spokane, WA!
Many of my camp friends have also become leaders in their churches and communities. A few of them were recently ordained into the UM Church. Some now lead children’s, youth, or music ministries while others have chosen a variety of helping vocations.
My point is…camp raises leaders, and those leaders turn around and pour those talents back into the church. #ThisSoundsSoEvangelical #IWasRaisedPresbyterian #WhatAmIDoing #OkNoMoreHashtagsIPromise
Alan resonates with what Tom Rosenberg, President and CEO of the American Camp Association wrote in the April issue of “Camping” magazine;
“What are your earliest transcendent memories as a child? For me, they were in the woods or on the trail at camp with my counselors and cabin group. Sitting around the campfire feeling the warmth of friendships and listening to the rhythm of crickets and bull frogs. Gazing in awe on wondrous wilderness from a lofty mountain peak. These were deeply inspiring and spiritual moments for me as a child, and I have always believed that my leaders and role models at camp were instrumental in helping me discover and understand my own spirituality”.
Alan continues: I would go on to say we are living in perhaps the most challenging time ever spiritually, environmentally and socially. We need all the tools at our disposal to intervene and reach a world desperate for meaning and spiritual connection. We need to develop leaders with moral character equipped to work on the most profound problems we’ve ever faced. Camps fill an increasingly valuable role in this.
Camp intentionally provides kids their first serious exposure to gifted young leaders, as well as leadership opportunities in their teens and young adult years. Camp also specializes in providing places set apart from the trappings & pressures of current culture. This is a powerful combination for young people exploring and testing what they will soon become.
The case for camping is that the world, our country, and OUR CHURCH need what we do at camp. We can be thankful that in the PNW Conference, we have four amazing camps.
Send your kids to camp this summer and watch them grow. And hey, if your church is lacking in the tiny human department, send your big kids (adults) to camp…we have programs for all ages. For more information about our camping ministry check out our website www.pnwcamps.org