Camp and the Eschatological Formation of Students

Big Title - Simple Concept: Kids live within the embrace of the Resurrection and Heaven at camp. I don't wish to over dramatize the camp experience, but certainly, anyone who has ever led or attended a camp understands that something 'special' happens there. It is mysterious. It is magical. And it is a core aspect of the faith development of students.

As a retired camper myself, I can remember my leaders telling me that what we were experiencing — the happy belly flutters and feelings of deep peace and joy — during our week at camp was as close to Heaven on Earth as we would get. The full weight of their perspective was lost on me until I became leader myself. Now, I get it.

At camp: We smile at one another. We serve one another around the dinner table. We say thank you. We pray together. We read the Bible together. We stay up late together and gaze at the stars. We disconnect from our phones, internet, cable, and other distracting gadgets. We treat one another with respect. We reconcile our difference and conflicts. We take turns sharing our candy. We tell each other goodnight. We eat three square meals a day. We play games at which we would otherwise scoff. Quite simply, we love one another better during our week at camp than we do at any other time throughout the year.

Last month, I led yet another retreat with our middle school students — many of whom did not believe or care to know anything about Jesus. Rather, they were jacked about playing paintball and the high ropes course. While there, all of my boys at some point during the week told me that they wished they could stay longer! Many of them even yelled that they wanted to live at camp! After the first evening, it was no secret that this camp intentionally focused upon Jesus. Yet, these middle school boys who farted at the idea of Jesus now wanted to live at the very place that taught them ideals and truths about life that directly contradicted their young worldviews. Sure, the fun games were a draw, but they intently listened to the claims made about Jesus and seemingly bought in! How could this possibly be?

I wish to submit that camp more than forms the faith of young people through fun games and exciting adventures. It does that. But more so camp provides a significant, lengthy glimpse into the character of our God and what our world looks like when it is set back to rights. For a brief period of time during our lives, we get a glimpse into the most exciting adventure of all - the truth and reality of the resurrection of the Son of God!

Dare I say that some of us need more than the Gospel? Dare I say that - like Thomas - we need to touch it? Taste it? Experience it? …Even live it?

Camp allows our students - especially our students who don't believe in the salvation that God provides for them - to touch the wounds of Jesus by participating directly in the Body of Christ through the form of dancing shamelessly to rock songs about our Savior… rolling around in mud pits with adults who care for them… touching knee to knee during cabin time… asking the deep questions of the human experience in front of other non-judgmental friends… and living into the essence of a reconciled community!

Essentially, camp provides an eschatological experience of what God originally intended for our world.

Sure, there are fits and spells from time to time. We do live on this side of the Parousia. But how often have you danced on top of a dinner table in order to make a kid feel comfortable to hear the good news of Jesus?

QUESTION: Tell us about your camp experience. How have you tasted Heaven on Earth?