Camp Brings Faith Alive
Spirituality, Faith-Formation Practices Nurtured at Camp
By Rev. David Berkey, Executive Director
Most U.S. parents, regardless of their faith identity or practice, want their children to “have a healthy relationship with spirituality,” according to a recent study by the Barna Group. Yet parents are also concerned this is not happening – nearly 75% of U.S. parents said so.
Attendance at faith-forming events — like Sunday School, worship, and youth group — by children and youth has been in steady decline. Parents tell researchers they feel less comfortable establishing faith traditions at home like prayer, talking about God or Bible stories.
Today more than ever, summer camp, day camp, Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs or mission trip experiences help connect young people to the lifelong process of faith formation and spirituality. They give them the words and experiences to help explain who God is in this difficult time, how to be reassured that God is alive and available to them, and that there is purpose and hope in their lives.
The immediate benefits of camp are clear: friends, fun and personal growth in a safe environment. Faith-based summer camp also opens doors for conversations and questions, clarifying what one believes, and a desire to share in a supportive community. Studies show that these seeds planted well can lead to a young adult and adult life of resiliency, strength, confidence, and clarity about the meaning of life and God’s role in it.
Camp instills simple practices that help enrich anyone’s spirituality. Consider trying out these 10 spiritual practices (from the United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries):
- PAYING ATTENTION: stopping to notice God’s creation around us.
- BLESSING: giving one another assurance that we are loved by God.
- BREATHING: pausing to center oneself by breathing in and out, calling on God.
- SILENCE: short intentional periods that raise awareness of God’s presence.
- CREATIVE EXPRESSION: writing, drawing, journaling, music, movement allow our gifts to emerge and grow.
- THE EXAMEN: a time to share a review of the day – when we noticed God’s presence and when not – highs/lows, joys, concerns.
- SCRIPTURE: sharing the stories of God’s love and action.
- BODY PRAYER: movement with spiritual words that express prayer.
- SHARING GIFTS: tangible acts of generosity, kindness, and compassion.
- DO 1 THING: a simple daily act of sharing God’s love.
God is with us and our children and youth. Camp and retreat experiences help them grow their awareness of God and a spirituality that can sustain them for a lifetime.