My Problem With Christian Camp Spirituality

Summertime is almost here. With summer comes the inevitability of summer camp.

True confession: I hated summer camp.

Never liked em. One of the reasons why is because I went to about 300 of them. This isn’t really an exaggeration either.

I was never a social person. I’d rather go home and do stuff on my own than go be with a bunch of creepy kids who will pick on me for being blind.

Christian camps, although promising the possibility of being free from being picked on, never really delivered on that.

Even if they did, I was still so ridiculously insecure I felt picked on anyway. I can’t see the target in archery. I can’t see the pole in horseshoes. I can’t see the demonstration of the stupid craft thing.

Christian camps also threw Jesus at you. I sat through so many chapel services at camps it aint even funny. Seriously, it wasn’t funny.

I saw the same church kids get saved over and over. I saw kids get saved who then went right back to picking on my crossed-eyes. I figured out how the preachers manipulated emotions. I knew the last day of camp with the heavy-handed, “You might die on the bus ride home” Gospel message.

Seriously, who did these preachers think drove camp buses? Perhaps this is a human resources issue rather than a Gospel issue.

Ir drove me nuts.

Although I couldn’t necessarily explain the theological problems with camp messages then, I can now.

The main problem with Christian Camp is its emphasis on experience.

“When did you get saved?” Was always the issue. “Oh, you don’t know? Well, have I got a deal for you! You can have our little experience (carefully tailored to the camp’s denominationally accepted experience) and then you can now say you are saved!”

You don’t know you’re saved because you remember an experience of getting saved. Show me one verse in the Bible that even hints at saying “You know you’re saved if you can remember getting saved.”

The real question is: How do you currently know you are saved? What is going on in your life that shows you are living by faith, that you are a new creation in Christ? Where is the fruit that proves you’re a branch in the Vine?

But camp doesn’t mess with that question. Too messy, not as easily manipulated into a definite yes or no answer. Camp salvation is a one-time experience; spiritual growth is a lifetime. Guess which one fits most nicely into a 20-minute time slot?

It’s much easier to manipulate young minds into jumping through your hoop so you can feel special about reporting to the church that 47 kids got saved. Or the “47 kids rededicated their lives” line the not-quite-so-gifted preachers have to use.

Now, I know, all kinds of people point to camp as the time when they got saved. That’s fine and I hope it’s true. And, yes, I’m a tad cynical.

But Hell is filled with kids who “got saved” at camp. Your experience you supposedly had at some point as a kid isn’t what matters. What matters is whether Christ is alive and well in you today.