Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Things I Have Learned From Family Camp

Camp Nicolet, Eagle River, Wisconsin (2008)

Hello, everyone! It's been a long time since I created a post. But, it's been very, very busy around our house during the month of August. One main event was family camp, from which we just returned on Labor Day.

Les and I have been blessed to be a part of two family camps in our 20+ years of marriage. One was Camp Victory near Lancaster, Missouri, which is associated with the independent baptist churches, and the Northwoods Baptist Church (Rhinelander, WI) family camp held at Camp Nicolet located near Eagle River, Wisconsin. We have been attending the Northwoods camp for most of the past five years.

Here are some things we have learned from participating in family camps:

  • They are a great place to find fellowship with believers of like faith and practice, especially if your home church is deficient in this area. In fact, if you have been praying about a move, you just might find another church home through contacts at family camp.
  • Even if you already have a great church, family camp can be a means of bonding with other families from your congregation who attend it with you.
  • It's a great place to nurture relationships with other families from which you may find future mates for your children.
  • Most family camps are cheaper than staying at a motel and eating out. Therefore, many families utilize them for their once-a-year vacation.
  • If you choose a camp which is led by men of like faith and practice, it is a wonderful opportunity to hear special speakers who may not be able to visit your part of the country.
  • Some camps are the perfect setting for parents to watch over their children as they play and develop lifelong friendships. (*See warning below.) There is just enough freedom to explore and develop relationships, but still plenty of time to put a stop to ones which are not healthy.
  • Sharing a cabin, tent, or RV with your family is a unique experience which often tends to bond families in ways which are not possible in the typical home setting.
  • Family camp may become a treasured tradition for your children and their families and become a way for extended family to be with one another for a whole week without maxing out Grandpa's and Grandma's living space, kitchen duty, and finances.
If you ever decide to attend a family camp, you might also take these warnings into consideration:
  • Check out what the leadership of the camp believes concerning biblical truth and standards of conduct and modesty. Unfortunately, some camps which are right on the money about doctrine may be very loose in their music and clothing (or should I say un-clothing) choices. The opposite may be found in ultra-conservative groups which are not right on biblical teachings. There must be a balance, and only the parents can decide how much they are willing to compromise in these areas. You must be very careful, however, since your children could pick up on false teaching and/or immodest behavior from their experiences at camp. Also, you would not want them forming lifelong relationships with children from families who do not agree with what you are trying to teach your children at home.
  • *It is easy at some family camps to lose track of the kids and what they are doing. Our camp has a rule that children must be accompanied by one or more parents at all times. This is important not only for their safety, but for discipline purposes. Encourage older children to help keep track of younger siblings throughout the day and to report any harmful or inappropriate behavior to you immediately. Older children can usually be trusted to visit in groups, but even they must be monitored throughout the day. Our children know to keep one of us informed about where they are going, what they are doing, and who they will be with at all times. If they go out on the lake or for a hike in the woods, we want to know about it. If they don't show up for dinner, we won't be clueless about where to go searching for them.
  • Don't allow the children to spend all of their camp time with friends. Remember, this is family camp. You might set aside a time at the beginning or ending of the day for family devotions and/or prayer. (I regret that we have never done this. Maybe next year.) Or, how about sitting together as a family for meals or for services? One thing we have always done is designate the last night of camp as family night when we roast marshmallows in the cabin fireplace and talk about what we've been doing all week. We also take one afternoon out of the week to go to a nearby town to do laundry and visit the little tourist traps downtown. Family camp isn't complete without a trip to the fudge shop. Yeeeeeuuuuum. Perhaps you could play a board game or take a special hike or boating trip together as a family without any friends along. Whatever you decide, make it a family tradition which will become a fond memory for your children.
  • Simplify your packing so that Mom doesn't spend all her free time cleaning, reorganizing, or doing laundry. Perhaps you could make it a rule that no one leaves the cabin in the morning until his or her things are put away and the bedding is straightened or rolled up. Delegate routine cleaning chores among all family members so no one is stuck doing it all. This should be a time of relaxation and recreation for everyone, including Mom. Make the kids keep track of their own stuff. I used to put all the children's clothing needs for one day and/or event in a zip-top gallon storage bag with their name and the day/event marked with a permanent marker. For instance, there would be one "play" bag for each day of the week, one "swim" bag for the whole week, which included their towel. I would have them change into their clean clothes for the next day for attending the evening services. When they took off their dirty clothes, I had them first dry anything wet, then roll them up and put them back in the bag labeled for that day. This kept them from getting confused about which clothes were clean and which were dirty.
These are only a partial list of things to help make your family camp a more pleasant experience. If you have any ideas or warnings of your own which you have learned from your own experience, please leave them in the comments section below. Also, if you have found a great camp which your family enjoys, we'd love to hear about it.