In pre-pandemic “normal” times, the impact of summer camp was well known: a place to build life skills while also exercising the muscles needed for healthy independence, resilience and courage. But, as kids and teens emerge from navigating pandemic life behind a screen and isolated from their friends, summer camp has become more important than ever. Enjoy this blog post written on why camp is a uniquely suited context for helping our Star Rock Ministry kids regain skills they may have lost - or not even had the opportunity to build – over the last two years.
Summer camp has always been a place to make friends and build healthy relationships. Learning to make friends is an even higher priority for kids today and an essential piece to well being. Young kids and teens have had to navigate a lonely world for the last two years. Summer camp provides all of the pieces for campers to build these healthy peer relationships. “Friend-making” skills are about making a connection, finding something in common with each other and then sharing an experience together. “Friend-keeping” skills include collaboration, being empathetic to someone else’s opinion, saying I’m sorry and working it out. Kids are longing to build connection and camp provides a meaningful space to re-engage those muscles. For many of our urban youth, they have needed to grow up quickly and have missed some of these benchmark skill developments. Camp can help kids develop these skills and with them, gain a sense of belonging, unconditional love and worth as a human being.
At home during the past two years, kids have lost some confidence and security around being independent. Families may have let some boundaries, rules and discipline go during the pandemic due to a myriad of challenges faced in underserved communities. At camp, kids and teens are reminded that they are part of a larger community that deeply cares for their well-being and where working and understanding our differences is valued.
Campers practice appropriate and healthy independence in safe and nurturing settings. They get to make more of their own choices, problem-solve, try new things, explore their talents, interests and values. Camp is full of opportunities for kids to try bigger and braver things, which in turn builds the muscle of self-esteem.
Camp continues to be a place where kids can explore and discover a relational faith in God within a meaningful community all around them. Wonder is at the core of faith at camp. As campers grow and absorb the wide world around them, they have the stunning ability to be interruptible, happily caught off guard by curiosity, awe and delight. Cultivating faith in kids requires all of us to slow down enough to notice and consider all that God has to offer us.
Summer camp provides room for campers to be happily interrupted. Whether it be the discovery of a seashell to the pristine beauty of Yosemite Valley, wonder builds muscles of attentiveness to all of God’s creative expressions. Campers begin to see God in nature and one another, in fun camp songs and silliness, in newfound friends, in questions and awe under starlit skies, and especially in nurturing conversations with counselors who listen intently to thoughts, doubts, and joys around faith and trust in God.
In short, summer camp gives the space for campers to understand that they are deeply valued by God simply for who they are, not for what they have or what they do…and this is the wonder of all wonders.