(This is my May column from our diocesan newspaper ChurchActs)
Let me be clear right up front. This month's column is intended for the adults. The parents, the youth leaders, the adult friends and relatives. Some of the young people don't want you to read this.
Summer time is almost here. There are a thousand things to be planned. Vacation schedules to coordinate, summer activities, family events, summer jobs and more. In the midst of all of that I want you to think about sending your kids to camp.
Not “send them to camp” as in “Oh, that's something you might want to think about this summer”. No, I mean send them to camp. Even if they don't think they want to. Even if they think they have other things they'd rather be doing. Her first year my daughter didn't want to go to camp. We made her. We sent her to camp. I'm here to make the case that sending your kids to camp is one of the best things you can do for them.
A couple years ago a friend sent me an audio file of a sermon preached by Father Jay Mills at St. Paul's Episcopal church in Kingsport Tennessee. It had to do with young people in the church and my friend thought it would interest me. It certainly did. Father Mills said several things that struck me so profoundly that I “rewound” the audio file and played them again so I could copy them down. One of them is a great argument in favor of sending youth to camp. Here's what I copied down (my apologies to Fr. Mills if I got this wrong. Any errors are mine)
“This is the only place on earth, and it is the grace of God, that if a kid doesn't show up they're not gonna be benched. The next time they come they're welcomed. It's the only place that happens”
Think about what most of our young people face daily. All the routine grades, the standardized tests, the team sports, virtually every step of the way they are being tested, graded, held up for comparison. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against testing or competition. Rather what worries me is that they may never get a break from it. I worry about the effect on their lives, especially their spiritual lives. That's what camp can be. It is the chance to step away, for just a little while, from the rigors of regular life. Camp is a place where there are no grades, there is no judging process going on. Instead it is a place of where they can explore their own faith. They can spend time with friends, old and new, in a lower intensity environment. That may be the greatest gift we can give them at this time in their lives.
Sure some of them are going to be grumpy about it. It wasn't what they had planned on doing this summer. Fr. Mills made another point that is worth repeating here. He pointed out that we need to make sure that they know:
“...that they will not lack what they need although they may not have what they want...”
Make sure that your youth, your children have what they need. A time to rest. A time to think. A time away. Send them to camp.