By Josh Britton, Executive Director at Mount Shepherd Retreat Center, Asheboro
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but kids need camp now more than ever. At Camp Mount Shepherd, we consider it a privilege to work with students this summer. Besides top-notch programming and thrilling adventures, here are the top five reasons why you must consider camp in your 2021 summer plans.
1 – Post-pandemic relief
One year into the pandemic, kids are suffering from the constantly changing schedules and expectations. Children are reeling from diminished opportunities to connect with peers.
Besides loneliness, one of the most common challenges is that children are simply bored! I can already imagine our children thirty years from now telling their children “back in my day” stories about this past year. They have endured so much boredom; now it’s time to have some fun.
Plus, camp provides psychological relief not only to our campers, but also to you! Raise your hand if you’re ready for a week of adult time!
2 – Screen Break
Many apps and video games reward “streaks,” or consecutive days spent logging on. While these streaks bring rewards, it can be a subtle form of psychological bondage. Research continues to confirm that all this time online is making us lonelier and more anxious. What if we try putting together a streak of days away from devices? Think about it. How many days will your child spend this year not on a phone, a tablet, a tv or a computer?
Camp provides space for kids to reset their brains and reconnect with the natural world. Camp may not seem as fun as an all-day binge of Fortnite, but children desperately need to learn how to have fun away from digital devices. Camp provides a safe, challenging, and adventurous week full of fresh air and sunshine.
3 – Faith Community
For families who prioritize the spiritual formation of their children, faith-based camps are a great opportunity. In an average, non-COVID year, how many times will your family go to church per month? For most church-attending families, after factoring in trips, sports and other commitments, average attendance is two Sundays per month, or 24 Sundays a year. Sprinkle in an hour a week of programs like youth group or children’s ministry, and the average annual time in spiritual formation is somewhere around 75 hours.
Just one week at camp can provide more than 75 waking hours of time spent in an intentionally faith-based environment. At Mount Shepherd, this time includes formal and informal times of reflection, worship and prayer. We are sensitive to campers from all backgrounds, but it’s part of our mission to provide gracious evangelism to everyone.
4 – Resilience
In spite of all the hardship from this past year, I’m thankful that children are naturally resilient. Often, children are much better than adults at adapting to hardship. However, resilience and adaptability are skills that need to be practiced.
In his book, Homesick and Happy, Dr. Michael Thompson argues that challenging experiences during camp are crucial to the social development of young people. He highlights “the magic of camp,” –the experiences where children learn to fail. Camp provides an environment where children can fail safely. The campout night might be a challenging experience, but the self-confidence that is achieved through enduring an uncomfortable night can’t be found elsewhere.
Children need controlled experiences away from their homes and away from their families. This builds skills of independence. After a year cooped up in so-called “bubbles,” our campers will almost certainly feel homesick. But that’s good! Dealing with homesickness is a critical life skill! Camp experiences make kids more confident and more resilient.
5 – Lifetime Connections
Camp is fundamentally about connections. Forget FaceTime, Google Classroom and Zoom. Camp gives kids authentic, face-to-face relationships. Friendships are formed. Bonds are strengthened. And children learn how to interact with the people around them.
In addition to peer relationships, camp also gives children a space to connect with mentors. Where else can an elementary schooler connect with a college student? Intergenerational relationships are vital to our world.
And finally, camp gives kids a chance to connect with something deeper. Sometimes that connection is simply with nature. But, more often than not, camp helps kids form spiritual connections with themselves and God.
*Sponsored by Mount Shepherd Retreat Center