The Power of Camp
Summer camp is a breath of fresh air. At least that’s how singer-songwriter Justin McRoberts sees it.
McRoberts, who has recorded seven albums and is a speaker at camps and elsewhere, says that he first experienced camp at age 13 in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Soon he returned to Young Life’s Woodleaf as a Young Life leader. Until he was 24, not a summer (and even some winters) went by without at least one stay at Woodleaf.
What attracted him to the Christian camp, he says, was “the unique opportunity to be away from the normal patterns of life.”
Today, McRoberts lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and 3-year-old son. And he still goes to camp.
As he’s done eight times before, he’s committed to serve a month at camp with his wife, Amy, and another couple who will be staff coordinators for 30 to 40 college students this June. In addition, the artist will share his speaking and musical talents to provide inspiration and entertainment for the campers.
Why devote this much time and energy to camp ministry? Teens need a break. Family vacations for youth may just mean that the family and home issues they struggle with follow them to a new location, he says. But camp is different.
“There are not a lot of other ways for teenagers to get away,” he says. “[It’s a chance to] take a look at your own life from the outside.”
Christian camps provide an opportunity, the musician says, to step away from bad habits, from social media and from the complexities of everyday life, making room for encounters with God and healthy friendships. And the environment makes it an even richer experience.
“We live in a really, really mechanized world,” McRoberts says. “Being in nature tends to invite us to live more healthfully, live more slowly.”
This, in part, is why McRoberts returns annually to camp.
“It’s a concentrated time of living well,” he says. “Ultimately, as Christians, we want to be about Christ. It is a month that is entirely focused on living well together and serving Jesus.”
But that’s not the only reason he believes giving up a month of summer work and other commitments for camp is worthwhile.
“What a week away for a kid ends up doing is giving kids a taste for living life differently,” McRoberts says. “That’s why kids leave a camp and say, ‘I really wish I could just stay here,’ because kids can be themselves.”
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