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Last week was quite possibly the busiest week of the entire year for our family.

Why?

Every third-week-in-July, Jeremy and I load up our five kids- and more luggage, bedding, and snacks than you can imagine!- and make the four hour trip to east Texas for our fellowship’s kids and youth camp.

Let me tell you, church camp is not a vacation!  It’s work for us, and for all the other pastors and parents involved.

From the perspective of a mostly organized mom who loves routine and simplicity, church camp- with it’s late nights, early mornings, and endlessly busy days- isn’t especially appealing.

Typically, I spend at least two weeks packing and prepping for camp, and at least another week “recovering!”

So why do we go through all the trouble and effort?

Why don’t we just send our older kids to camp, instead of hauling the whole family (preschooler and mommy included) for a challenging week away from home?

Kids' camp choir | photo courtesy Darren Smith
Kids’ camp choir | photo courtesy Darren Smith

Let me tell you why:

Because parents invest in what they value.

My family moved to south Texas when I was six years old, where agriculture, farming, and “cow boy life” defines much of the economy, culture, and even entertainment of the state.  Growing up, many of my family’s friends traveled hundreds of miles on weekends, or took off work and school, so their kids could participate in barrel racing, 4-H events, and other ag related competitions.

Today as a parent, I see many families investing time, money, and energy into various aspects of their children’s growth and development: sports, education, music, and other personal interests or skills.

Devoted parents are typically willing to lay aside their personal convenience and time in order to keep their kids involved in activities that they feel are important.

I believe in furthering the education, skills, and life experience of our kids.  It’s an important part of raising children who become healthy, well rounded, and confident adults.

But the one aspect of “good parenting” that I feel is too often overlooked in our culture is the spiritual dimension.

Simply put, kids need to know that God is real.  Not because someone tells them that it’s so, but because they experience God for themselves.

Kids praying in the altars after a church service | photo courtesy Jerri Ann Arnold
Kids praying in the altars after a church service | photo courtesy Jerri Ann Arnold

I know this isn’t news to anyone, but raising kids who have a real relationship with God doesn’t just happen.

There is nothing passive or accidental about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; it has to be a priority in my life that defines and guides all other priorities and pursuits.

The same is certainly true of raising my kids to know and love Jesus.  Introducing their hearts to the experience of life in Christ cannot be an afterthought.  

Sometimes, people assume that because my husband is a pastor then we must automatically be a “spiritual” family.

The truth is, we struggle like every other set of parents.

Life is full of challenges, and while our set of difficulties may look a little different from yours, we face very real issues just like anyone else.

Raising kids in a culture that is in love with convenience poses a huge challenge for the parent who desires their children to pursue the heart of God.

Righteousness is never convenient.

Relationships- with God and with fellow humans- require much effort, much time.

What American mom or dad “has time” for daily devotions, private or with the family?  Where does church attendance and fellowship with other believers squeeze into the busy boxes on the calendar?

And yet, we cannot escape the fact that we make time for what we value.

Think about the priorities in your life over the past week or month or year.

If you’re not sure you can honestly articulate your priorities, just take a look at your calendar.

What you do with your time expresses your priorities, loud and clear.

Lots of fun in kids camp! | photo courtesy Leighanne Wilson
Lots of fun in kids camp! | photo courtesy Leighanne Wilson
Moms need to have fun too! Me with two sweet friends, Miranda and Leighanne.
Moms need to have fun too! Me with two sweet friends, Miranda and Leighanne.

Do you value spiritual things?

—–> Are you pursuing Christ?

—–> Are you cultivating closeness with your children, so that you can lead their young hearts toward Jesus?

—–> Have the busyness of the culture and the pressures of life swept you away and left little time or desire for spiritual pursuits?

We cannot raise Christ-followers by accident, in our spare time, or on spiritual autopilot.

 If God has blessed you with a child, then He has called you to disciple that young life in the ways of Christ.

No, it’s not always convenient.  Not to the American mindset, anyway.

Yes, it requires sacrifice.

Sometimes it means personal effort, like spending a week at church camp when I’d rather be home with my convenient little routines.

It always requires a life driven by faith, instead of cultural or even religious norms.

So how are you doing on the parenting spectrum? 

I know you’re a good parent, but cultural “good parenting” isn’t always enough.

My friend, be careful to not neglect the spiritual needs of your kids.

These “needs” may not be readily felt, either by you or your children, especially if they’ve been allowed to lie dormant.  Very often, spiritual appetites must be awakened and cultivated.

Girls craft time | photo courtesy Jerri Ann Arnold
Girls craft time | photo courtesy Jerri Ann Arnold

Like adults, children must grow in their desire for Christ. 

And, friends, this is unlikely to happen without purposeful parenting.

I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to stir my heart and open my eyes to the spiritual needs of my kids, and my own need for growth as well.

What priorities might change in my home if I valued my child’s spiritual growth as much as his academic, physical and social growth?

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2 thoughts on “Why We Pack Up Our Family and Head to Church Camp Every Year

  1. I love your blog so much! You do such a good job! Love you much!

    Posted on July 26, 2016 at 10:10 am
    1. Thank you, sweet friend! I love you too!

      Posted on August 12, 2016 at 7:41 am