As summer begins, it’s that time of year for your kids to travel to camp. If you have any of your children going to a church camp or mission trip this summer, I want to warn you about something that could do significant damage to your child’s relationship with Jesus and with you.
Don’t ruin your children’s camp once they return home.
As you anticipate your student’s return home, prepare for how you want to receive him or her. The best way to ensure life-change continues in your child is by you intentionally celebrating it and contributing to it.
Think about something for a moment: What was your most discouraging disappointment?
Can you think of a time when you were so excited to share news with someone only to receive disregard? Maybe you can think of a specific example, or you might have a person in your life who always knew how to kill your momentum.
Please don’t be a source of discouragement for your child when he or she returns home from camp.
Imagine the ride home for your children coming back from the trip. Your child is wrapping up a long week of camp. Preparing for the ride back home, your child has great memories but probably also experiencing some level of exhaustion. Prayerfully, he or she has been radically changed at camp. God has done incredible work in his or her life.
One of the constant expressions heard at camp is a fear of going home. Even in situations where a family is intact and encouraging, students realize that it is easier to follow Jesus at camp than at home. At camp, every single element is crafted to help point students to Jesus and to relationships that encourage one’s spiritual growth.
Going back home can be a fearful trek of reemerging to environments more prone to temptation and conflict.
Your student is going to bring back extra responsibility for you but arrayed with a renewed spirit. Your job is to help prepare the landing pad so that what began at camp can continue once home.
Here’s some practical steps for you, parent:
- Ask about the spiritual impact first (don’t start with the list of non-essentials investigative questions).
- Lead with some open-ended questions (you want to hear more than “yes” or “no”).
- Affirm what they loved (don’t belittle the aspects that you might not understand).
- Share that you missed your child (and don’t make their return feel like a nuisance).
- Don’t major in the minors (if you nag about lesser matters, they are less likely to share with you about weightier matters).
- Ask to hear about the greatest biblical truth that was communicated (it could be a sermon, Bible study, etc.).
- See if they had a favorite worship song while at camp (and listen to it with them for bonus points).
- Ask if they would want to go again next year (and what would they tell a friend why they should go next time).
- Do something special together once home (keep affirming and encouraging).
- Pray out loud over your child (and ask God to solidify what He did over the last week).
Kids often worry about coming home. Don’t take away what God did by focusing on the non-essentials.
While Paul wrote this instruction to fathers, I think all parents can use this as a reminder:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.