My husband and I met while working at a Christian day camp.
My dream in high school was to run my own camp, however, God had other plans for my life.
But, when the topic of summer camps comes up I get uncharacteristically quiet.
I’ve friend asked me point blank if I would send my child to any of the 5 or more camps I attended as a child or the 2 I worked at, and I had to answer her honestly that I would not.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as far as camps go, these were for the most part excellent camps.
Here are some reasons I’ve chosen not to send my children back to camp.
1) It’s against my educational philosophy.
Camps are set up like public schools: no parents, age segregation, and very low teacher to student ratio.
All the problems present in the public school classroom are present in these groups, but now instead of an adult with a degree in education, you’ve got a 19-year-old kid in charge.
These kids may be sweet and love the Lord, the deck is stacked against them.
(Or they could be unsaved and just knew the answers to the questions: true story.)
If I had my way, day camp would include the whole family.
I’m leery of this like I’m leery of Sunday school, youth group, and anything else that mimics our broken public education system.
I don’t believe the system is immoral: I’m just philosophically opposed to it.
2) The counselors aren’t prepared to deal with special needs kids.
It’s hard for me to get adults who are parents to understand my children’s issues.
It’s a whole nother ball of wax to try to get someone between the ages of 18 and 21 to understand.
Back when I worked at camp parental help with special needs kids was appreciated; now it’s viewed as helicopter parenting even if your child had a legitimate developmental delay and mental health problems.
3) I don’t trust the counselor’s bible knowledge.
False teaching is rampant in our churches.
I grew up in a church with false doctrine which left damage in its wake, damage that I don’t want to have to undo false teaching in their lives like I had to in my own.
For this reason, I’m cautious about who they sit under for spiritual guidance.
Most of their biblical education comes from their father and me, and hopefully, by the time they’re grown, they’ll have a full and healthy grasp one the truth of scripture so that they can identify that false teaching for themselves.
4) I want to protect them from sin.
Let’s be honest.
A bunch of just-barely-not-teens are not great caretakers even if they’ve got good intentions.
I saw a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have when I was at camps.
I once stumbled upon two teens having sex in a meadow at a Christian camp.
A Christian camp.
A girl snuck out of my cabin to meet her boyfriend in the middle of the night and our counselor was nowhere to be found.
I know of another camp where two of the counselors were having sex and the administration did nothing when they found out even though it violated the terms if the counselor’s contracts.
I was bullied at many camps I attended. If I was not bullied, I was ostracized.
I still wanted to go and be with my friends, but it was always a mixed experience.
Drugs, sex, bullying, smoking –wait, aren’t these some of the reasons my kids aren’t in public school?
They surely are.
5) I don’t want my children to associate spirituality with an emotional high.
You know the feeling.
You go to some event, have an emotional experience (I used to call it a spiritual high), determined to change a hundred things about your life, go home, everything stays the same and nothing changes.
Am I right?
You know I am.
That’s because those experiences are emotional and not made with your mind.
We are to be renewed in our mind; we’re supposed to grow in knowledge.
That’s what matures us, not an emotional experience at a camp.
You know what had the most significant lasting impact on my life, the stuff that stayed with me?
Me, in my room, with my bible, reading the word and applying it to my life.
That has lasted the decades when the emotional, “spiritual” high is but a memory.
That’s what I want for my kids.
6) I don’t want my kids “pliable.”
Let me explain what I mean.
As camp counselors, we learned that the purpose of a camp was to get the kids out of their comfort zone, shake them up a bit with the newness and differentness of the camp, and that makes them open to ideas.
I don’t want my kids open to ideas from those around them who I don’t know.
I answer to God for who these children are influenced by.
I take that very, very seriously.
If I thought my children were mature enough to not be influenced then I would send them, but that defeats the purpose of the camp which is to shake things up so the kids are more responsive to the leader’s ideas.
If you get the kids to a place where they’re pliable, they could be influenced by all kinds of false teaching or even by other ungodly kids.
At some point, my children will be mature enough to face that, but I’ll have to prayerfully consider when that is.
Is it really worth the potential fun they’d have when considering the potential damage?
I also have to take into consideration that special needs kids develop at a different rate and are more easily traumatized than “normal” kids.
Of course, every family has to prayerfully decide for themselves if they want their children to go to camp. Parents should consider the child’s maturity first and foremost in my humble opinion.
When my friend asked me if I would send my children, I said no, listing some of the same things as above.
I also have a few stories I’m not at liberty to share.
I thought maybe I was overreacting, so I asked my husband if we would send our children to camp or send our teen to be a counselor.
He gave me a look, a recognizing-what-I-was-thinking-about look.
I knew he was thinking of the same unmentionable situations I was.
Without me prompting him, he said that our children could go to camp if we were with them, and he wouldn’t recommend camp based on what he’d seen.
He said that there was just too much opportunity for even a good kid to get into trouble.
That was confirmation that my intuition and response was spot on.
It’s hard to say these things because I want to endorse camp, but in good conscience, I cannot.
Sure, maybe the camp you’re sending your child to isn’t like the ones I was exposed to.
But what if it is?
I’m not fear mongering.
I’m calling for wise, prudent, and prayed-about choices.
While this is the decision we’ve made for our family, ultimately this falls into Christian stewardship.