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The unexpected benefits of family camps image

The unexpected benefits of family camps

Going on a Christian camp as a family can create powerful moments of fellowship and growth.

Having just returned from CMS Summer School in Katoomba and heading towards the beach for a fix of the Aussie life, it has been interesting to pause and see the intended and unintended impact on our family.

First there was the great Bible teaching and time spent in the Word, then the riches of renewed fellowship with past and present church friends. Summer School has found a way to minister on both the vertical and horizontal planes in rich ways. The stunning thing is, this has been achieved both for ourselves as adults and for our (teenage) kids. Like all camps, the extended periods in the Word of God and with Christians provides a sustained spur to faith that a month of Sundays can only hope to imitate. Camps of this kind allow for a cohesive unit of the Bible to be studied, and for sustained fellowship under the tutelage of dedicated leaders and teachers. Furthermore, the missionary sessions for the adults, and missionary visits to the respective youth groups provide living examples of people who have taken God's mission seriously. These are some of the intended impacts of Summer School.

There are also some other impacts of Summer School we were not quite expecting but welcome just as gladly. We have for several years rented a house with another family (as many do). This provided opportunities for us as parents to ask our kids about what they had learned, and who they had met in the context of peers being asked the same question. The dag factor, or the 'dad's doing his religious bit' factor suddenly disappears and the questions become an open discussion on the interests and experiences of this mini-community. If one child finds it embarrassing or difficult to answer the 'what did you learn today' question, they have the engagement of the other kids to provide example and encouragement. At least this is what we noticed. As we went around the table, some kids needed more time to think, but in the end they all made some sort of contribution. We wondered how much easier it has been at home for the 'pass' on their answer never to find an answer. The other family at the table helped us engage our own kids on reflections about spiritual learning.

As a result I've been thinking about the benefits of 'family camps' and not just 'camps'. Apart from CMS summer school, beach mission and Easter Convention, most camps are either for the kids or for adults. However, if as we do with Sunday church, we want the whole family to be growing in faith together and sharing in common fellowship and teaching, then perhaps we need more family camps and not simply adults or kids camps. No doubt the latter has a place, but the family camp has the potential for the family to learn and grow together, and the presence of other family has the potential to break kids out of unengaged states.

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