What Makes a Week of Camp So Life-Changing?

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One of the great privileges of being the Executive Director of Lake Ann Camp for the last three decades has been the stories I have heard from people who have attended Lake Ann as far back as seventy years ago. It is remarkable how vivid the memories are even though they happened decades ago. I love to ask, what else do you remember from that year and I often get blank stares and usually the only memories are not forgotten are tragedies or an outstanding teacher.

What makes camp so effective and what makes those memories linger so strongly? Let’s start with the reason camps are so effective. In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs Moses on how to teach the law to the children of Israel. There are four mains steps and they can be described in four words:

  • Information: Deuteronomy 6:6 “These words that I command you”. God’s word is more than just great literature. It is the inspired Words of God to man, nevertheless, they are words of instruction that need to be taught to the next generation.
  • Relationship: Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach them”. The instruction of God to Moses was that people need to pass on the Words of God to others. Specifically, in this text, the admonition is for parents to teach their children but in a broader sense it is a believer’s mandate to not hoard what they know from God’s Word but they are to communicate it to others that they are in relationship with on a daily basis.
  • Experience: Deuteronomy 6:7 “Talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise”. God’s Word is meant to be experienced not just heard. “God talk” is not to be relegated to the church only but to be a normal part of life. We are to invite people into a discussion about God in the normalcy of life.
  • Structure: Deuteronomy 6:8-9 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates”. What we see here is that as humans we are prone to forget so creating structures that will remind us of what we have learned is an important part of life-change.

How does this relate to Lake Ann Camp? Simple: God’s Word is taught, the counselor develops a relationship with their campers, the learning process is tactile as what is taught in chapel is then lived out in the intentional experiences the campers have in their day. All that happens is reported back to the local church and parents for follow up –which is an intentional process of creating structures. Those structures also include letters that the campers write to themselves while at camp about the life-change that happened.

The lingering part is also quite simple. For many campers sleeping over at camp is a new experience. Think of the new things that you have done in the last year. They are likely more vivid in your memory bank than the repetitive things you do on a weekly basis. Add to this the support team of counselors and program directors, great meals and songs in the dining hall and an age-relevant speaker, and you have a recipe for life-change. 

As only the third director in seventy years, you also have a continual program of improvement at Lake Ann Camp. When leadership changes often meaningful traditions get lost. Each year we sharpen our focus and I think Lake Ann Camp’s effectiveness is largely impacted by the consistency of our core team. From history I can assure you that the experiences campers had in the summer of 2018 will be vivid in their minds for decades to come and so will the life-change accompanied by those great memories.

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