>Dangers of Christian Camp

>As I start the first of seven weeks of teen camp, I reflect yet again on over thirty years experience at these potentially life-changing events.

And, as I looked back over this blog; I realize I wrote about this a year ago…here is that post:

As the calendar races to the first of several weeks of teen camp at which I’ll be speaking this summer, I again reflect that youth camp is like R & R (Rest and Recreation) when I was in Vietnam.

One moment you are in a warzone, the next you are (in my case) in Australia enjoying seven days of relaxation. But, from the first moment, in the back of your mind, in ever increasing volume, is the tick-tock of the clock…four days, three days, 73 hours…and, boom, back to the war zone.

Students who come to Christian camps are, in varying degrees, leaving the war zone of “real life” and coming to what, prayerfully, will be a taste, a nibble, of heaven. Surrounded by staff/counselors/speakers who love Jesus, away from the all negative media and so forth…enjoying life, laughter, and being challenged by the Word of God.

Oh yeah, and exhausted!

But, in many of their minds, the reality of time slipping away thunders in their heads…three more days, two more, 27 hours…and, boom, back to the war zone.

So our goal should be to equip and arm them to fight the good fight when they get back to the real world. Obviously we want to declare the gospel to those outside the family of the redeemed; and we want to challenge and encourage Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” and give them tools and ideas to accomplish that growth; but we dare not get so “numbers” oriented that we think it is all about “decisions” and “going forward.”

After all, profession of faith is not the same as possession of faith.

But too often the emphasis is on “decisions”. Obviously some wonderful transformations take place when God’s Word is preached; but by the middle of the week the students are so tired and emotional that a careless or impurely solely emotional “altar call” will get plenty of “results,” but not often Spirit-prompted commitments.

And we must emphasize that Ephesians 2.10 is just as inspired as Ephesians 2.8,9; salvation works! And we must combat the sloppy agape stuff that indicates it is all about us, and emphasize that the life of a Christian is one of sacrifice,inconvenience, and great joy.

The battle is the Lords, yes, but we are participants in the battle. Lock and Load!
Then I notice I did a similar entry a year prior to that…here it is:
Janelle and I board a train this Thursday evening headed to Kansas City and ultimately Polo, Mo to speak at two teen weeks. I am amazed –

Amazed I’m in the family of God, redeemed, forgiven, justified…

Amazed I get to spend time bragging on Jesus to teens…almost three years of my life have been spent speaking at youth camps over the last 29 years…

Camp is an amazing thing.

The crucial ingredient is good, committed counselors. The best speaker with apathetic counselors is horrendous; an okay speaker with great counselors will work well.

Good food, good discipline, and good acoustics are key ingredients.

Notice I’ve not listed “programming” yet?

Doesn’t matter what programming you have…if you don’t have a good (meaning Bible-based) speaker, good counselors, and the other things listed doesn’t matter what kind of programming you have…

I also think camp can be a dangerous thing; if everyone is pushing for “decisions” rather than asking the Spirit of God to work in His way and His timing. I am not against altar calls; I am against “easy” altar calls. Why?

I read the Bible. And I notice that Jesus always made it easier to say “no” than “yes.”

Again…I am not diametrically opposed to “invitations,” as long as the invitee is the Spirit and not someone doing “business as usual”.

All too often, especially in camp situations, students are exhausted, emotionally drained, and a well-meaning but careless speaker can provoke “decisions” born of peer pressure, tiredness, and emotion rather than birthed by conviction and drawing of the Spirit of God.

So I ask prayer that I’d be bold in preaching, clear in communication, discerning in one-on-one counsel…and that the Wind of the Spirit would be pleased to change us during the coming two weeks of camp ministry. (the photo is Camp Polo two years ago)

Do you agree, disagree, or not understand my observations of camp ministry? I ask you to make the time to “comment” so we can, together, learn from each other.

Author: Jack Hager

Jesus invaded my life shortly after my arrest at age 26. I spent the first few years of my new life incarcerated. Went to Bible school after parole; have served with Kansas City Youth For Christ, Headwaters Christian Youth (Rhinelander, Wi), Family Life Ministries (Bath, NY), and now with Midland Ministries (Saint Joseph, Mo). Married with four children, work with youth, adults, inmates. Heavily involved in Bible quizzing for four decades. Narrow minded about Jesus and the gospel; fairly open minded about most other things. Speak in churches, camps (both teen and family), civic groups, public schools, Christian schools and colleges...amazed I get to do what I get to do....favorite verse Romans 15.13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may overflow with hope."

2 thoughts on “>Dangers of Christian Camp”

  1. >Good counselors are so important. I was at one of the camps you spoke at 9 years ago when I got saved. My decision was made on the last night of camp but it was a week long (well, God had actually been orchestrating it for much longer but as far as camp goes, it was a week) process. The first night as we were doing cabin devotions before bed, I confessed to my counselor, Erin, and the other girls in my cabin that I just wasn't sure I believed in God. I wanted to, but I wasn't sure. My life back home was a mess and had been for many years. I wanted hope but it just seemed…unrealistic. Well, the girls in my cabin were already devoted Christians so the 4 of them and Erin spent the week ministering to me. They talked with me, prayed with and for me, encouraged me, and loved me. The messages were great and by the last night I knew I couldn't go back to life as I knew it before I left for camp. I took the leap (of faith) and committed my life to following and getting to know the God that I had doubted for so long. Going back home, things were still tough but gradually, the bad habits, laziness, selfishness, and sadness became less and less a part of my life as God became more and more a part of my life. My mom (who had given her life to Christ a few years earlier) said she could see a difference right away.And the girls in my cabin as well as my counselor kept in touch and continued to encourage me as I grew in my faith. Life still is not always easy but it sure is better!!Camp is a great thing…and if it is done "correctly" (according to the spirit's leading) it provides Christians a safe place to rest from the world and grow closer to God and each other and it also equips people to better face the world when the week is over.

  2. >Nicki…I'm not sure what camp you refer to, or, of course, who you are. Can you email me at jack.hager at Gmail.com and fill me in? Thanks for your note and commetns; I put them in my latest newsletter to those who make my ministry possible…

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