This past Tuesday Sandy and I drove out to Camp Allendale to visit our kids and volunteers who are enjoying a week of church camp. Chris Franklin, our Children’s Pastor, has done a tremendous job creating enthusiasm and support for Allendale. When he first came to Mount Pleasant we had around 20 kids going to camp. This week we’ve got 120 campers and the enthusiasm continues to grow.
I know one of the reasons why Chris is such a big supporter of church camp is because he went to camp when he was a kid. I can appreciate that because I had the same experience. Every summer I would get on the old church bus at Osage Hills Christian Church and head off to Sunset Bible Camp at Greenleaf State Park. Now Sunset Bible Camp was nothing like Camp Allendale. In fact, if you’ve never been to Allendale I’d recommend you find a way to visit. I’ve never seen a church camp with better facilities. But Sunset Bible Camp will always be important to me because I can still remember the day my Youth Minister sat on the side of my bunk during rest period and explained the gospel to me. Later that week I went forward and made a confession of faith and the following Sunday I was baptized in my home church.
One of the sad things I have noticed over the years is that the interest and emphasis in church camp has declined as so many other options have become available to our kids. There are sports camps, cheerleading camps, band camps, choir camps, art camps, academic camps, and on and on. And while I don’t want to be misunderstood…I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong these kinds of camps…I do sometimes wonder if we’ve lost a sense of priority when it comes to our children’s schedules. The only kind of camp my kids ever attended was church camp. And Sandy and I both talked about the memories we have of being at camp with them. Those are precious memories to us.
Sometimes in our desire to see that our children get to have every benefit available to them we can lose sight of the most important benefits. I’m talking about eternal benefits. I can’t write this from personal experience but I really doubt that a sports camp or a band camp can change someone’s life for all eternity. But church camp can. It did for me. And even though I’m 51 years old I still remember memorizing all the books of the Bible when I was at camp.
Proverbs 22:6 is a Bible verse that gets used a lot when it comes to our children. It says, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV) There’s a lot involved in that word “train.” We seem to understand that when it comes to school and sports and all other kinds of extra-curricular activities but sometimes fall short when it comes to spiritual things. My hope and prayer is that God would help us to continue to build the kind of Children’s Ministry that will help all of our parents make the right choices when it comes to their children…the kind of choices that have eternal consequences.