Camp closures leave a gaping hole

Camp closures leave a gaping hole

Written on 06/24/2020
William Dmytrow

Camp ministry is crucial in faith formation

Written by William Dmytrow

Christian camps reach thousands of youth in practical ways each summer, leading many towards Christ. But this summer, many camps have had to close due to COVID-19. These closures will diminish the significant impact camps make on the lives of youth.

According to a 2018 study called Renegotiating Faith: The Delay in Young Adult Identity Formation and What It Means for the Church in Canada, Christian camps can have a big impact on the faith journey of a young adult. Based on that study, here are three ways camps can play a vital role in passing down the Christian faith to future generations and some suggestions for how youth leaders can try to bridge the gap this summer.

1. Teenagers who go to camps appear more likely to keep their faith.

When someone has participated at a camp, they often take part in other spiritually formative activities such as being involved in a youth group or regularly reading the Bible. Having time to process and think through the whole Christianity thing without their parents is crucial, and camps provide this space.

2. Camp attendees are more than twice as likely to have a home-church mentor.

Only 26 per cent of kids from Christian homes who did not go to camps also had mentors in their home church. However, 64 per cent of those who attended camps had church mentors. This is a huge step in the right direction in a young person’s journey to keeping their faith.

3. Young adults who went to camps are twice as likely to get involved with a church after moving out of their parents’ homes.

In general, one third of young adults generally plug into a church after moving out. However, for campers who move out, nearly 50 per cent continue to be involved with churches.

The Renegotiating Faith study suggests camps have an effective role in the spiritual development of adolescents. Since camps are truly a significant part of the church, their absence due to the pandemic is going to leave a substantial hole this summer. If you’re are in a place to influence and support the teenagers and youth in your life, consider how to fill this gap in four different ways:

Create space

Think about how can you create space for youth to explore their own faith. Asking open-ended questions about topics they’re interested in and letting them research the answers on their own time could help substantially. Perhaps encourage them to take a day-retreat with God. Or even organize a small camping trip, if it’s safe to do so in your area.

Help youth find mentors

The stats say mentorship makes a difference. Do you know people who would make good mentors? Connecting youth to develop a relationship with a mentor, or mentoring them yourself can make an eternal difference. Even with social distancing, it’s possible to do this in person.

Ask about their church

Talk to youth about the church. See what they like and don’t like, engage with them about the purpose and importance of the church. Youth want you to be real with them, so don’t walk around the edges or give correct but impersonal answers to their questions.

Pray with youth about their future

If they’re nearing the end of high school, ask them what they’re considering doing afterward and what is motivating those decisions. Pray with them for guidance and direction. Prayer is powerful, and this includes praying with youth about their future.

Challenge youth about who or what they prioritize

Nearly all kids who grew up in the church have said “the sinner’s prayer” at some point in their lives, yet 66 per cent of them stop attending church as young adults. It’s time to call youth back to who should have lordship in their lives.

Across Canada, camps are also seeking creative ways to reach youth this summer, such as virtual camps. So, think about supporting a camp today, whether through prayers or donations.

The statistics in Renegotiating Faith make it clear we can’t forget about camp, especially in this season when camps will be significantly struggling in different ways. If we want children to follow Jesus Christ, camp ministry is an absolute must in passing down the faith to the next generation.

A version of this article was previously published at Briercrest.ca/blog.