Years ago the choices for summer camp were fairly limited. There were lots of church camps and maybe a few secular or scout-type camps. However, almost everybody went somewhere for at least a week. Church camps were opportunities to remove worldly distractions and focus attention on the spiritual lives of children and teenagers, especially through good preaching. Plus campers had a great time and were exposed to the great outdoors. Ask enough people in the ministry (older than 35) and you’ll find many that either trusted Christ at camp or committed their lives to full-time service. Perhaps one of the reasons that fewer young people consider “vocational ministry” these days is a decreased emphasis on summer camps or a change in the focus of such camps.

Along those lines there is a noticeable trend regarding summer camps: Fewer Christian parents view Christian summer camps as absolutely important for their children. Fewer children and teens attend church camps. Churches (pastors & staff) become discouraged in their efforts to recruit campers. Some churches give up and quit promoting these types of camps altogether. Camp ministries fade as tools for spiritual growth of young people.

Why has this happened? It is not because of time or money considerations. Young people are attending camps in record numbers. Dozens of specialty camps are offered to our children every summer. They promise to make your child a better hitter, kicker, actor, wrestler, musician or free throw shooter. They are anything but inexpensive. Before you jump to any conclusions about my limited perspective, consider that my children attend sports camps every summer. My daughter will attend two weeks of music academy in July. But these will never replace the value of Christian camp in my book.

Missionaries around the world continue to use summer camp as a prime method for reaching young people and helping them grow into mature believers. This week we sent approximately fifty teens to North Carolina for an exciting week at an awesome camp. I have spent a lot of time praying for a spiritual impact in the lives of our teenagers. Church leaders and parents should reconsider the value of this time-tested tool.

One result of diminished emphasis on Christian camps will be that churches will suffer from a lack of dedicated and trained ministers. But we should have plenty of excellent hitters for our church softball teams.