The biblical Church, the collection of all Christians in the world, is said to work like a body. In his letters, Paul talked often about the importance of every part, the individual gifts every person brings to create a functional whole. The reality, though, is that most groups of Christians, from churches to school clubs, work more like a contentious family than a body. We’re humans, and flawed, so while there might be love, there’s a lot of bickering, jealousy, and conflicting personalities too. The only perfect community will exist in Heaven, so here on earth the best we can do is strive for that standard set by Paul. It’s helpful in all of life to think of community like the body of Christ, but it’s especially good preparation for Christian summer camp.
If you’re sending your son or daughter to Christian summer camp for the first time, they’re likely to be shocked by a number of things. Homesickness often dominates the letters sent home, and the ruggedness of the outdoors surprises many kids who haven’t spent much time outside of the city. The first time away from home and expansiveness of God’s creation is a lot to take in, but encountering the diversity of fellow campers can require more preparation than anything else. Camp may be the first time they’re confronted with kids of different denominations, upbringings, and ethnicities—or at least the first time they all have to live side by side. Culture shock isn’t just something that happens to missionaries going abroad. It’s a reality for even Americans, and one of the best antidotes to that shock is understanding the Body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul described the various gifts that Christians receive, from teaching to wisdom to faith. It’s a long list and a segue into his metaphor of the Church. Like parts of a body, every Christian has different gifts, different strengths, and different weaknesses. On their own they’re very limited, but together they create a human machine better and more powerful than the sum of its parts. It all sounds great in theory, but differences tend to create disruption and distrust more than unity. Paul discusses the Body of Christ in almost all of his letters because he has to instill this notion in every church: that living and worshipping together may be a challenge, but it’s God’s design for Christian community. It applies to Bible studies, international ministries, and even Christian summer camp.
At Christian summer camp, the main things kids have in common is that they’re there, and they’re Christian. Everything else, school, home lives, and hobbies, can be completely different, but that’s okay—it’s actually one of the joys of camp friendships. Your kids will get to sleep, hike, and eat alongside dozens of others from different schools, denominations, even states. It’s a small glimpse at the grander Body of Christ. Amazing friendships will emerge, but not all campers bond instantly. Some will annoy your son or daughter; some will seem calloused or strange; and a few tend to boss everyone else around. In a work environment, that’s a fact to tolerate, but at Christian summer camp, it can lead to a spiritual lesson. If your kids know about the Body of Christ and understand that God gifted each person differently, they may be more patient with the campers that seem annoying. They might be hard to live with, but often they’re just different, and always they’ll have gifts and talents that the Church needs.