by Jonathan Seamon
“Camp is better than Christmas!” - Chase McDonald
Several years ago one of our campers made that statement, and it has stuck! It even became one of our camp themes.
However, when you think about it, can camp be better than Christmas? To a child, Christmas is one of the greatest days of the year. For a week of camp to be better than Christmas—it has to be a pretty special week.
I was nine years old when I went to Carolina Bible Camp for the first time! Now, some 49 years later, I still get excited when I turn off the main road and head toward Camp Leatherwood, where Brentwood Hills Christian Camp has met for the past 25 years.
As a young person we compared camp to heaven! Camp was a place where we were separated from the world—no cares, a lot of fun, great worship and singing! It was like heaven on earth!
So, how do you build and sustain a CAMP?
Campers. It starts with the young people. “Camp is for the campers” is a phrase that we repeat over and over again every year in our pre-camp planning and in our opening staff meetings. As adults, we have to remember we are there to help the campers have a great time and grow closer in their walk with Jesus. Your goal is for the campers to have a great week! Some of my best memories as a director are coming home and listening to our campers tell story after story and reliving their week at camp. I also love the year I spend planning for their return to camp!
Adults. You can’t sustain a great camp without a great staff. I grew up going to a ‘state-wide’ camp that was staffed by preachers and some adults who were able to take vacation for a week of camp. When we decided to start Brentwood Hills Christian Camp, my biggest concern was having enough adults to staff the camp. Our church stepped up to the plate, and for 25 years we have never had a shortage of staff members. Parents, couples, individuals, university students—some with experience and others with no camping experience—have helped to develop a great camp staff. We seek out “servant leaders.” We want staff members that have the same attitude as that of Jesus—“not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
Memories. “It is more than a happening…it is making a memory!” Camp memories are some of the best! First boyfriends and girlfriends, baptisms, and camp pranks are all memories that get better with time! Camp traditions are great! Some traditions are passed on from generation to generation, while other traditions are created with each new camp. We try to leave the world behind when we arrive at camp. We are all addicted to our phones, social media, technology, etc. At camp, we like to go back in time where simple old games and a hike to the creek can make memories that last a lifetime. We use modern technology and we talk a lot about what is happening in the lives of our campers today, but we try to mix the old and the new. Every year, camp is a lot like the past, however every year camp is new and different! That’s what helps to make each encampment unique!
Purpose. Every camp needs a purpose or plan. Several years ago, we developed the following purpose for our camp: “To use an environment of God’s creation with concentrated periods of Bible study, recreation, fun and fellowship to encourage our campers and staff to develop a Christ-centered, spiritual lifestyle.” Each year, we emphasize this purpose as we plan our theme and activities for camp. A Christ-centered lifestyle is the central focus of our camp. We have a lot of fun as we work to strengthen our relationship with Jesus.
Over the years, a lot of people have impacted me through camp. Staff members and campers have shared with me and taught me a lot of lessons. As a young person going to camp, there were two people that had a big impact on me. C. R. Franks, a minister and the camp “Athletic Director,” taught me that you can teach a lot of Bible on the ball field, basketball court, or volleyball court! You must live what you learn in a Bible class. That is a Christ-centered lifestyle.
The second person was my camp director, H. R. Butler. Every year, he always said, “Go home a little better than you came.” It is a simple statement, but it is what we try to do each year at camp.
Jonathan Seamon is the director of ministries for the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.