Camping - How can Parents Help?

We're blessed to work closely with Grow Ministries, our national ministry partner in the Lutheran Church of Australia. Grow does amazing work supporting churches with research, coaching and resources that foster the sharing of faith with children, youth and families. Below is an article from our Grow Ministries colleagues that we hope will inspire and equip you to share faith with others.

Research shows that parents continue to be the single greatest influence on their children’s faith. It is important you take an active part in the faith formation of your child. Give them an opportunity to experience all that camp has to offer and share in the journey by talking to them about the experience before and after camp.

BEFORE CAMP

Encourage your child to go to camp! We often refer to camping as a peak experience. These camps provide a journey, often through a specific topic such as identity. They offer an opportunity for young people to ‘go deeper’ than they can at a once a week youth event. Faith is deepened through the mixture of meeting new people with a real faith, hanging out with inspiring leaders who have a vibrant faith and living in community together. It is a place where the presence of God can be felt in a real and tangible way through others. Young people often report a camping experience as a turning point for them in the formation of their faith.

Discuss with your child their expectations of camp. What might they do, see and hear? Talk about who else is going. Show that you are interested in them and excited about what camp might mean for them and their relationship with Jesus. Ensure they have all that they need to be ‘successful’. Go through the camp list with them, especially if they are younger. Pray for them in the lead-up to camp, pray for them in the car on the way there.

AFTER CAMP

The after camp experience can be a bewildering time for young people. They are coming down from a high, often very quickly as they are tired and excited all at the same time. They’ve had an awesome time, appreciated sharing stories, intense bible studies/sessions, and enjoyed small group time with new friends. They have valued being part of a community where they have found acceptance, been loved on by some amazing leaders and heard some new and exciting worship music.

Be prepared to be an ‘outsider’ to their experience – You weren’t part of the experience, trying to play catch-up on the way to lunch straight after picking them up from camp might be a bit too much to expect.

Tell them you missed them – Let them know you are glad to see them! Let the first words they hear when they return be words of love, engulfed in a hug. “It’s so good to see you. I missed you. I’m glad you’re back.”

Let them have space – Allow them some transition time. They will be very aware of all of the responsibilities such as homework etc. that await them. Avoid talking about school and home obligations immediately upon their return. Let them enjoy the moment.

Pray for them – Pray for them while they are away. Pray that they will experience God’s love in a significant and perhaps new way. When they return, tell them that you prayed and share the specific things that you prayed about.

Create space – Young people can be hesitant to divulge too much information. It’s important to remember to give them some space initially, especially if they’re tired, but you might like to say something like this when your young person arrives home, “It sounds like you had a really great time. Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’d love to hear about it.” Allow them to find the time and place to talk about their experience.

Follow up – Parents can help by planning follow-up events after the peak experience of camping. Organise or offer to help your congregation leaders to offer events where your child can reconnect with their new friends.

When they are ready, here are some things that might help the conversation:

  • What commitments did you make on camp, to yourself or to God, and can I help?
  • Your child may have a desire to pray, read the Bible or support their friends. Perhaps your child wants you to help them get a new devotional or Bible, take them to a youth group or help them catch up with friends from camp.