My daughter is working at camp this summer. She phoned home after training camp was finished. After talking to my wife for a while the phone was handed over to me and I said, “You don’t have to repeat everything you said to Mom about how you’re doing, but is there something you’d like to talk to me about?”

“What’s premillenialism?” What an odd question about summer camp! It seems they had to sign a statement affirming the camp statement of faith, or at least not teaching anything to the contrary. I gave a brief explanation of the various millenial views, all the while wondering the relevance of holding to a particular millenial view for ministry to indiginous children from northern Canada. Maybe this is one place where “love Jesus and love kids” might be a sufficient statement of faith. I’m sure the director probably doesn’t care very deeply about the millenial views of the counsellors but a few decades ago a board somewhere hundreds of miles from the camp thought it might be pivotal to effective ministry. I suspect millenial views are probably part of a larger theological package.

Camp ministry has been an important part of Christian ministry for many years. I also worked at camp for a few summers during my young adulthood. [I led singing, played guitar and was the rodeo clown if you can believe it!] My experience at camp was very positive but I do have some concerns about camp ministry that this millenial question raises for me again. Our effectiveness as counsellors was too often informally evaluated by how many “decisions” we could report at week’s end.

Camp has great potential in that children are removed from their usual surroundings and placed in the midst of God’s unspoiled creation, usually in an appropriate rustic setting. There is great potential to get in touch with our Creator at camp, but there is also great potential for the spiritual manipulation of innocent children. Camp directors and counsellors should be made acutely aware of this potential so that authentic, compassionate, and age-appropriate ministry can happen there. Teaching staff an elementary understanding of human developmental stages and how they relate to faith would be in order at every training camp.

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