Question: "What is the value in attending a Christian camp? Is the concept of Christian camping biblical?"
Answer: There are many factors that make Christian camping a positive and valuable experience. All of these experiences are found to some extent in the local church and in other types of ministries, but they are strongly present in Christian camps.
First, in most Christian camps, there is an extensive exposure to the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Bible is living and powerful. A typical day in a Christian camp will have some form of personal or group devotions, an evening chapel service, and a Scripture memorization program. This repeated use of the Word of God over a week’s time is very valuable in letting the Word dwell richly in the lives of the campers and staff (Colossians 3:16). God often orchestrates the various times in the Word to emphasize the same themes from different angles or to offer a variety of emphases that will meet different needs in the different individuals.
There is also the opportunity for campers to observe and learn from godly mentors (counselors, staff, and speakers). Many campers come from broken homes or grow up with less-than-ideal role models because one or both parents are unsaved or weak and immature in their faith. As Paul encouraged others to follow his example as he emulated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), these godly mentors are able to model loving discipline and the freedom it offers. They are also able to show unconditional love, model how a godly man or woman behaves, and display God-centered living before the campers. Commonly, it is God’s written Word that He uses most to affect and change lives, but often He also effectively uses the “Bible” bound in shoe leather—godly mentoring.
A Christian camp is typically sponsored and supported by a number of local churches. These churches commit and encourage their members to systematically pray for the campers, staff, and speakers. God promises that the fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) accomplishes a great deal (James 5:16). God, in His grace, works in response to these praying saints, and it is the campers (as well as the staff and speakers) that receive the benefit of these unseen labors.
Another beneficial factor is what is commonly absent at a Christian camp: TV’s, cell-phones, mp3 players, computers, video games, etc. These distractions serve to busy the mind and keep young people from focusing on the deeper questions of life such as, “Why am I here?” “What will happen to me when I die?” “Does my life have meaning?” While occupied with fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:3), young people have little time to ponder such questions. When these mind-occupying distractions are taken away, campers have the time to ponder the Word in a much deeper way than a once-a-week church experience allows. Once distractions are removed, campers find themselves surrounded by God’s creation, an environment that turns their minds to Him and to the eternal and away from the world.
A Christian camp also provides a place for godly young people to grow in serving Christ, both behind the scenes in tasks that Amy Carmichael might have described as “holy drudgery,” but also in learning how to share the gospel, give devotions from the Bible, and pray with others about their needs. God not only works in campers’ hearts, but He is typically busy in the lives of staff and counselors as well.
Another major blessing is that Christian camping allows the broadening of one’s circle of fellowship. For many campers, new friends they meet at camp one year, and continue to see year by year, become lifelong friends that they care for, pray for, and encourage in Christ for decades. And it has happened more than once that a camper even ends up meeting his or her future godly spouse while attending or serving in a camp setting. God has greatly used Christian camping in calling out ones to be saved and to serve Him as Lord, whether as missionaries, pastors, or just as importantly, as “full-time Christians.”