Kids will find themselves something to do when left to their own devices; it’s better to plan summer adventures for them than risk them making a poor choice. I remember one summer when my son was in middle school he spent an inordinate amount of time laying on the living room floor, curtains closed, playing his video games. That may also be the summer he and his best friend were so bored they decided to see what would happen if they lit gun powder in an old garden hose; I got a call at work from my neighbor suggesting I better get home, the police and fire department were in my backyard. I gave cell phones to both children thinking I could stay in touch better; my daughter was notorious for not answering so I could only wonder what she was up to when she was ‘out-of-pocket.’ To encourage good activity choices, I tried to involve them with family and church activities, my retired neighbors were a great help, and I financially managed to enroll my son in karate and my daughter in gymnastics year round.
A very beneficial summer option is to send children to a camp. Whether it is a day camp or a week-long away from home, the hope is it will be a very positive experience. There is a wide array of camps covering Outdoor Skills, Fitness, Special Interests, or Special Needs. Activities may include hiking, camping, horseback riding, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, sports, crafts, theatre, science, cultural studies, cooking, reading, writing and arithmetic. Surely a child will find something that piques their interest amongst all of those. A crucial ingredient to add to the experience is found at Bible Camps. They have many of the same activities; however they add biblical context and exploration to all that is done. My children and I were able to attend a family camp once at Assembly of God’s Little Beaver Lake Camp near Wasilla. I was a newly single mom struggling to finish my Accounting degree. My church paid our way, and it was a peaceful week of family togetherness, spiritual growth and renewal, despite how hard it was being a single parent family amongst all those couples. The three of us spent time in Bible study sessions and activities, a lot of quality time walking along the trails, or playing by the lake, which included salting leeches off my daughter’s hands after I had her rinse dirt off them in the lake. That may well be all she and my son remember: her and I freaking out because I couldn’t pull them off, rushing into the camp kitchen where the staff calmly filled her little hands with salt, and easily plucked away the slimy things.
Through some googling I discovered the first organized summer camp was in 1861. Schoolmaster Frederick Gunn and his wife Abigail ran a boarding school in Washington, Connecticut. Mr. Gunn felt learning about nature as well as academic subjects was important; he also believed pleasing outdoor surroundings enhanced learning experiences. Towards that end, he took his students on a two-week camping trip, which was a complete success. On a smaller scale, the first Vacation Bible School was held about 30 years later, in summer of 1894, in Hopedale, Illinois. A Sunday School/public school teacher felt she had too little time to teach the Bible. So D.T. Miles decided to offer a Vacation Bible School; she had 40 students enrolled in the four week session. Similar to the Gunnery Camp, she emphasized book learning and being active outside. Vacation Bible School (VBS) is still a critical community outreach for children. Unlike the aforementioned Bible Camps with wilderness facilities, VBS is held at local churches, mostly free of charge. While time constraints and location preclude VBS from having as varied activities as the camps do, the curriculums have entertaining themes designed to engage and inspire faith in children. Each year publishers offer a new theme, with accompanying promotional posters, decorating ideas, lesson materials, games, songs, videos, pre-packaged crafts, and memorabilia.
While kids are having fun with synergistic activities at Bible Camps and Bible Schools, a moral and spiritual foundation is being built that will serve them for the rest of their lives. They develop meaningful friendships with those on the same journey. The outdoor activities teach them Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The invaluable biblical wisdom threads woven throughout the experience encourages them to embrace 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ By having such opportune spiritual experiences as children, they are better equipped to make good choices for themselves in adulthood.