Over my years of blogging and observing the online world, I've run into quite a few people who feel that children's and/or teen activities are unscriptural and unwise. We have always been members of independent, fundamental Baptist churches and have never had any reason to believe that these activities are unscriptural in any way, and most of the youth groups we've known have been led by men and women who are genuinely serving the Lord and working with parents to train godly young people. There have never been any perfect youth groups, Sunday school teachers, or youth directors, mind you, but we've always allowed our children to participate in children's and teen's programs. We have kept an eye on things, like what they're learning and who is leading, and have once or twice opted to pull one child or another from something that didn't line up with what we wanted for our family. We did it with a good spirit, with explanations to our child and the leadership, and never had any problems. All that to say . . . we believe youth groups and camp and Sunday school can be used to glorify the Lord and help teach children along the way.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you what we do at camp each day, to show you that it's not all play, but not all preaching, either. I think we have a good balance.
At 8:00 each morning, Pastor Conner meets with the adult staff for half an hour of devotions and prayer. This is my favorite time of day at camp! Pastor Conner shares a devotion from his personal reading from that day, then we all pray together for the kids, staff, and any prayer requests that the counselors have noted among their campers.
All campers rise and shine at 8:30 and clean and decorate their cabins for cabin inspection. Breakfast is at 9:15. We sing the Canadian anthem and pray, and Pastor Conner plays about 15 renditions of his favorite song - Keep on the Firing Line! ;) He also makes any announcements needed for the morning. Immediately after breakfast, the campers spread out over the field, with counselors interspersed, for "God & Me" Time. Each camper has a camp booklet with a Bible reading, devotion, and memory verses for each day (campers earn points for their team by memorizing verses). At 10:15 is Morning Chapel, where the campers sing some age-appropriate songs (choruses for the junior age and hymns and choruses for teens), have some sort of Bible game - Sword drills or Jeopardy-style game - then settle in for the preaching. Yes, it's real preaching geared to the age group, followed up by an invitation to respond to what they've heard. Chapel is followed by a short time in individual cabins to discuss the sermon and any decisions the children may have made.
Between chapel and lunch is an all-camp game, usually a relay race of some sort. On Wednesday is the traditional Counselor Hunt, where the counselors find creative hiding spaces and the campers hunt them down like dogs! LOL There are points for each team for the counselors they find, with extra points for finding the camp preacher for the week (should he choose to participate!) and Mr. Mak, the games & activities leader. Mr. Mak is known for his creative hiding places, and it's worth the bragging rights to find him! ;)
Lunch is when we find out who won the cabin inspections for the day. My little girls in Cabin 1 during Junior Week were so excited to participate in this cleaning and decorating contest, but all but 1 of them were new campers and had no idea what Pastor Conner looks for during inspection: absolute cleanliness, perfect order, creative decorating. So on the day that they thought we would win, we were actually deemed the worst cabin for the day - because they just couldn't wrap their little heads around shoes lined up neatly, floor swept perfectly clean, suitcases zipped up and lined up perfectly straight, nothing on the beds . . . all the things I'd been trying to teach them all week! They were pretty upset about being the worst, but it gave me the perfect opportunity to teach them about good sportsmanship and respecting leadership! ;)
After lunch is another favorite time: HHH (Horizontal Half Hour)!!! Every camper is in their cabin, and it's left up to the counselor whether they have to actually lie down. I made my juniors lie down every day, and they hated it so bad! But it gave us all a little break (except I had to be policewoman to keep them lying down and quiet for 30 minutes) and a few minutes of rest and quiet in the middle of a busy day. After HHH is free time and Tuc Shop - our very own snack shop! Kids bring money for Tuc Shop, which we collect at the beginning of the week, keep a running total of what they spend, then return the balance to them as they leave on Friday. This has remedied the problem of children having their money stolen or being tempted to steal someone's money. Tuc Shop is full of candy, pop, chips, and water, and is a favorite time of day; this is a fellowship and goof-around time for everybody, and it helps lend to the family atmosphere.
Afternoons are game time! The campers are divided by age and taken to separate parts of the camp to play games. After an hour, they switch games. These games are usually relays, ball games with a twist, team games - things that everyone can participate in. Then it's time to get ready for supper, after which the campers usually shower and/or get ready for evening chapel. The free time between supper and chapel finds everyone gathering around the chapel - another opportunity for everyone to be together without formality - a time for counselors to interact with the campers and each other.
Evening Chapel is much like a regular church service with songs and preaching, again geared to the age group, followed by an invitation. Salvation is clearly presented in each chapel service along with practical ways for children to learn to live for the Lord. Pastor Shawn Beliveau was the preacher for Junior Week. He centered his sermons around running a race, in this case Olympic races, since Vancouver is hosting the Winter Olympics in February, 2010. He began with starting at the right point - Olympic racers can't just start anywhere they want to; they have to start at the official starting place to be qualified to win. He compared that to salvation - you have to start at the right place - faith in Jesus Christ - no other way to get in this race. All of his sermons had this racing theme, and he had visuals and examples for all of his Bible points. He does an excellent job of bringing solid biblical truth down to the junior level - where it's easy for us adults to understand, too! ;) I always come away from camp so impressed with the relevance of the sermons for these kids' lives!
After Evening Chapel, the Tuc Shop is open again with some free time. Then it's Happy Time (another favorite time for me! LOL). This is when we get down to goofiness - skits, silly songs, games, all led by Mr. Mak - and then . . . the Night Game!!!! This is an exciting time for the campers. It's dark, they have flashlights, and they get to play a fun game. Junior Week's game every night was Capture the Flag. I have to admit, I do not like this night game. It's chaos! LOL But the kids love it. There are counselors and adult workers spread throughout the field, so no one goes missing, and then we all gather back in the chapel to make sure we're all there. They usually play at least 2 rounds, then it's bedtime. Or at least we try to make it bedtime. Everyone is usually in bed after short devotions led by each counselor in the cabins, and lights out by 11:30. It's a feat by that late at night to settle them down, but once they're actually in their bunks (I'm talking Junior Week here) they're soon asleep.
So that's a day at Camp YES! It's full of activity, but there's also lots of free time. And we have very little problem with the kids! I've been to some camps where they lay down the law when you walk in the door, keep you hopping every minute of the day, and preach the daylights out of the kids . . . and have to battle every step of the way with them. Not so here. There are rules and boundaries and plenty of preaching and activities, but it's not like a military boot camp. The kids love it and look forward to it all year, and the workers enjoy it too. Although camp is not my favorite thing to do, I always come away blessed to have worked with other pastors and their wives and many faithful church members who all have the same goal - to see children and teens saved and giving their lives to Jesus. It's worth it!