Stephen Watson: The Value of Christian Camping Ministry.
The mission field of serving and strengthening local churches here in the U.S. is often overlooked. We need to be sending missionaries out across the world, but the local churches need help too. After this past year, we know more than ever how much our local churches need help. So, who is going to come alongside us and help reach the lost here? Who is going to help our pastors strengthen families and individuals from the Word of God here? Who is going to help serve churches in ways they need help or in ways they need a push?
Answer me this question: What comes to mind when I say Christian camp? For some - going to summer camp as a kid with good times and maybe bad food. For others maybe you’ve never even been to a camp.
I can tell you, as a missionary at a camp in the California desert, of all kinds of fun things about camp -waterslides, rifle ranges, paddleboards, horses, archery tag, shooting ranges, hayrides, great food, amazing cabins, and the list goes on. But all of this is just a tool that I think is greatly misunderstood or not even known how valuable it is to the local church.
Recently, I was doing some painting of a building and some of my previous knowledge of painting led me to the conclusion I needed paint, paint rollers, brushes, paint trays, and a paint scraper. A friend of mine was a painter for several years and introduced me to a multi-tool that scrapes old paint, hammers in loose nails, scrapes paint off the roller and so much more. I was shown a technique for rolling paint and brushing that gave a better finish and made things quicker with less waste. I was then introduced to a paint sprayer which was an awesome tool when painting the exterior, but I needed help learning how to use it well.
Why share my painting experience? Because I think this is how many people view a Christian camp. “No, we got this” as you go to paint a 30 foot by 60-foot building - either not knowing about the tool to help or not understanding how to use it.
Let me try to just help shed some light on the importance of the camp ministry. At our camp, we have a mission statement:” Ironwood is a home missions ministry, using the unique aspects of the camping ministry, to reach young people for the Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen families, and serve local churches. It is a place of decision in the areas of salvation, surrender, and consistent Christian walk.” Every word of that is important, but let me just focus on three things as I try to convey the importance of Christian camps coming alongside the local church.
Reach: Camp is a place for us to reach campers in so many ways…from reaching into our community to inviting people to a unique setting to hear the Word of God. It amazes me how many people will say yes to camp but would not set foot into the church building. Camp doesn’t just reach outward; it reaches into the group. The ultimate goal is to point lost souls to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the ways that the camp ministry does that is we create a unique setting. While it is fun and exciting, it can also just be a restful time away from the distractions of life. On top of that, it is all centered around the opportunity to share from the Word of God. One soul coming to know the Lord as Savior is worth more than this world can offer.
Strengthen: Oftentimes we can get stuck on the point of salvation and we forget about the equipping/sanctifying. Camp is more than just a summer camp where one person’s life is changed (although that’s part of it). It is a place where families are strengthened, church bodies are strengthened, and individuals grow in their relationship with God and others which in turn impacts those around them. A few summers ago, we had the privilege of serving a young lady at a camp that came from a foster home. Her brother was supposed to come but ditched out. After hearing the Gospel and seeing the love of God through His people, she accepted the Lord as her Savior. At the end of camp, she went home told her brother, and demanded that he go to camp the next week. He came to camp and put his faith and trust in the Lord as well! We have had couples come to camp with divorce papers in hand and at the end of camp, after hearing the Word of God and allowing His word to penetrate the heart, rip up the papers and recommit to each other. We all need to be strengthened in some way!
Serve: Camp is a place to be served. As missionaries in the camping field, it is our privilege to serve churches here in the U.S. We know that it takes so much work to pull something off for a getaway - whether it be men, women, teens, kids, families, mothers or daughters… It is our goal to allow you to come and be served without all the extra work of planning meals, cooking, accommodations, activities, meeting rooms, the list goes on. In fact, that is part of why our camp started, a youth pastor in southern California saw how much work it was to try to put something effective together and wanted to be that tool that helped churches serve their people effectively.
Camp is a huge tool just waiting to be used!
We are thankful to our Lord and those that have come alongside us in through prayer and financial support in order for us to serve the church body.
Newberry Springs, California