Author: ryancahill

Just being away from the city, house-cleaning duties, and the standard pressures of the world makes retreats special enough on their own. Something about escape fosters good things. Retreats are by their definition a kind of escape, a withdrawing from the normal routine of life. They create a weekend of fellowship, peace, and fun—joys that elude most people too much of the time. Whatever church or organization you’re with, a Texas group retreat can become all the more special when you bring in an outside speaker. It makes sense why. If you’re setting your attendees apart from the normal routine of their lives, that wonderful sense of escape only increases if you invite a new, exciting speaker too.

God blesses all speakers and pastors with a unique perspective and wisdom no one else possesses. Through their individual experiences and studies, they have a wealth of knowledge to share with everyone. Because of that, a Texas group retreat is one of the best places to host a pastor or author from another church or city. Churches allow guest speakers all of the time, but their congregants only get to hear a 45-minute sermon from them, at best. Especially if they’ve flown in from another state, these men and women should be able to share a whole lot more. A Texas group retreat allows them to relay much more of their wisdom. After a whole weekend listening to these speakers, attendees leave with a fuller grasp of their knowledge. The presence of these guest speakers not only furthers the sense of retreat, but it allows people the time to glean and absorb much more of their wisdom.

These days, you can find Christian summer camps for all ages, from Kindergarten to young adults, which is a confusingly wide range. Proper childhood development has become the subject of endless parenting books, all of which offer a different opinion on how and when children should experience the world. Sending them off to an overnight camp way too early could be traumatizing, but waiting too late could make them miss an opportunity to really grow, mature, and enjoy themselves. Parents might know their sons and daughters well, but they might not be able to discern the proper time and age to send them to camp. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set rule that dictates that eight, six, or eleven is the best age. It all depends on your child. That directionless statement might discourage some parents, but they can at least follow some guidelines to determine the proper time for Christian summer camps.

  1. While there isn’t a specific age that’s best for sending your kids off to camp, most professionals warn against sending kids younger than seven. A handful of six-year-olds might be prepared, but in general, boys and girls who have completed first grade tend to be more skilled at adapting to a camp environment. If they do well at friends’ sleepovers, they’ll probably do well at overnight Christian summer camps. Just be sure to research the age range of a camp before you send your son there. If he’s eight but surrounded by high school aged campers, it can be a terrifying experience. First time campers, in particular, should be surrounded by peers their own age.
  1. Observe your child’s interest in Christian summer camps. If you went as a kid and loved it, casually tell some stories about your experiences, or watch a movie as a family about summer camp. It tends to be an amazing experience that almost any personality type can enjoy, but kids of any age can have a miserable time if they’re forced to go against their will. The idea should excite your kids, and judging their reactions to stories or movies about camp will reveal if it’s a good idea or not. You might think the socialization and adventure would be optimal for your daughter, but if she expresses no interest—or worse, a disinterest—this year is probably not the best summer to sign her up.
  1. Parents fear college because it’s the point when, finally, their sons and daughters are independent adults, making their own mistakes and decisions. To lose that control frightens a lot of people, so they spend every year of parenting instilling values and offering guidance. Christian summer camps aren’t as dramatic as that, but they do serve as a time of little parental control. It’s the first time most children have to experience God without their parents beside them in church, and it’s the first time they encounter people and friends their parents haven’t met. It takes a mature kid to be ready for that sudden freedom. So before you send your children off to camp, make sure they’re prepared to make some good decisions.

Professional athletes often devote their whole summers to personal training: adhering to a strict regimen of exercise either on their own or with a trainer. Many members of the military do something similar before they serve on active duty. Really, any participant in a physically strenuous pursuit will prepare himself beforehand. Preparation for wilderness ventures might not be as intense as athletic or military training, but it never hurts to be a bit experienced and ready.

Wilderness ventures probably sound more extreme than they actually are. It’s a vague term that could describe anything from nature walks to something that resembles Man v. Wild. In a camp setting, these ventures usually fall somewhere safely in between. True naturalists believe that the world and nature can’t be sufficiently appreciated unless they expend a lot of effort expended to see it. They hike miles into a desert to witness a perfect sunrise, or tread through endless acres of swamp to photograph a rare flower. God has made a violent and beautiful planet, and experiencing it really does become much more real with a little effort. Hikes and bouldering provide a visceral encounter with His creation—something a nature book or National Geographic Special can’t recreate. Wilderness ventures, then, allow participants to more fully appreciate and enjoy Creation. They require a bit of sweat and some cardiovascular activity, but their reward is great. Preparing for them hardly means anything more than conditioning yourself to walk long distances, and sometimes at elevation. You don’t have to go to boot camp to be ready, but they’re better enjoyed if you’re in sufficient shape to hike and explore.

Even if you don’t have student loans to start paying off, having a summer job helps provide a little extra spending cash during the school year. Most college students, though, can only commit to a temporary position, which few businesses offer. With the time invested in interviewing and training, managers and business owners want more permanent employees. If school prevents you from working beyond August, there are a number of reasons to try and land a Texas summer camp job.

  1. Time commitment. Unless you have a high school employer to return to year after year, it’s almost impossible to find work that lasts exactly as long as your school’s break. A Texas summer camp job is exactly what it sounds like: a job that only occurs during the summer. You can start soon after you finish finals and leave before heading back to school, a time frame few jobs offer.
  1. Experience. A lot of summer jobs are just a means to make some extra cash, but working at a Texas summer camp provides real world, marketable experience. It requires leadership, ingenuity, and hard work. You might encounter some stress working as a restaurant host, but the challenges of camp life can be adapted and used in a real professional environment.
  1. Fun. Every job involves work, but the responsibilities and duties of camp life are intrinsically fun. Leading campers on adventures, bonding with other counselors, and experiencing the great outdoors are as much a pleasure as a job. So if you’re looking for something practical and fulfilling, working at a camp is one of the best jobs you can find.

For some parents it’s liberating, for others terrifying, but either way overnight summer camp readies every parent for an empty nest. If your son or daughter is just in elementary school, this might be a difficult thing to hear, but every parent knows, deep down, that leaving home is an inevitable part of raising children. They might not like to remember it, but they know it, and camp can be a good time to prepare them for the sensation of a house without kids.

Caring for newborns can feel interminable: endless nights of insufficient sleep, imagining you’ll be changing diapers and spoon-feeding forever. Once that passes, though, time can fly. Preschool and kindergarten flash by in an instant; grades seem to last just a month. After pottytraining, parenthood sometimes feels like careening down a highway, with high school (or college) graduation standing as a brick wall in the middle of the road. So: it’s natural to suppress and ignore the inevitable, but having your kids go to an overnight summer camp makes the inevitable a bit less painful.

Some people would argue you never control your kids at all, but everyone agrees you can’t control them forever. That’s certainly the case with overnight summer camp: the things they eat, the friends they make, the thoroughness of their hygiene. It’s a time where they really have to fend for themselves, and you just have to let go. That’s hard, but the peace comes from seeing them return, alive, all fingers and most clothes accounted for. It’s the relief every parent needs, because it’s probably the cause of most empty nest anxiety. Of course it’s hard to let go, to know your son or daughter won’t be trooping into the kitchen every morning, but they’ll be okay. They might not shower as much as they should, but they’ll survive—at camp, and in life.

To people who don’t go to church often, a Christian camp retreat might sound a bit cultish, but to anyone who’s been, it’s a powerful experience. Companies, wellness centers, and fraternities have “retreats” pretty often, but they’re usually a long day spent in a hotel conference room. These events tend to be productive gatherings to create business plans and learn new procedures, but they’re not restful or relaxing as the word retreat traditionally means. All that changes, however, with a Christian camp retreat. Not only does the respite from a big city force relaxation, these weekends can be as productive as any business event. But instead of learning new sales techniques, attendees learn about God.

A retreat should energize the people who go to it, which doesn’t mean giving them a long weekend to sleep in. A Christian camp retreat is often full of friends and acquaintances that will become friends by the end of the weekend. This conversation and fellowship makes for short nights, but somehow people still leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. The Spirit of God works powerfully beyond the distractions of everyday life, and a community of believers supports and strengthens even weary souls.

Those feeling especially exhausted with work, life, and familial responsibilities often come away from Christian retreats ready and excited to face the world. These weekends of isolation help establish perspective. Even people who considered their faith lacking can return from retreats strengthened and supported by God. It does sound cultish to some people, but a Christian camp retreat is really a personal, energizing experience that many others have come to rely on.

Except for a few exceptions, summer camp is for kids, an experience that ends with high school graduation. For those who love it, this can be a sudden even, but despite having grown up, those who really love it tend to return to their old stomping grounds. College students, in particular, want to relive their camp experience after they turn in term papers and finals: just as workers, not campers. Since college affords a nice summer break, many people hope to fill their free time as Christian camp counselors, but only a few are really qualified. We at Deer Creek know how integral great counselors are to a great camp experience, so we’ve identified a handful of qualities we consider important to the job.

  1. Discerning. Camp tends to be a lot of fun, but that doesn’t guarantee every personality will mesh well in a cabin. Kids can put on a good face and feign excitement in a crowd, but Christian camp counselors need to be able to see how their campers are honestly fairing. If someone feels left out, sick, or scared, counselors have to discern those hidden feelings in order to address them and make campers feel welcome, better, and more at peace.
  1. Empathetic. Even high school campers can get homesick, and the best Christian camp counselors will be sensitive to and understanding about this. Their counselor should be the primary person campers trust, and that trust is often built upon a caring, sensitive spirit. Even if kids are being irrational, which they often are, a good counselor will be mature enough to see past that and care for them regardless.
  1. Fun. This often defines a camp experience, so we think it should define our counselors too. Empathy and discernment are critical, but camp isn’t just about sitting around, discussing feelings. It’s about enjoying the outdoors, making new friends, experiencing God in a new, exciting way, and just having a good time. Christian camp counselors should love to have fun as much as their campers. Excitement and joy are infectious, so the more fun a counselor can have, the more their campers will have.
  1. Experienced. Especially if they’re attending camp for the first time, kids can find the whole concept a little daunting. It might be the first time they’ve been away from family, their first experience with the outdoors, or the only time they’ve been surrounded by so many peers and so few adults. They look to their Christian camp counselors for direction and guidance, so those counselors need to know the process well themselves. The best tend to be former campers, but others can learn the ropes quickly through orientation and exploring the campgrounds on their own.
  1. Respectable. Parents send their kids to camp for a variety of reasons, but if they’ve chosen a Christian camp, they’re probably hoping their kids will grow in faith. Seeing a young adult, really living his or her faith, can finally make Jesus become alive. Christianity can seem like a Sunday thing to kids, or just what their parents believe. Christian camp counselors can shatter that notion by being the first young, cool Christian that kids encounter. That’s a respectable role. We look for counselors who are worthy of such respect, men and women who serve as role models and Christians who really exude the light of Christ.

 

The Lone Star state retains its rugged, cowboy reputation of old Westerns, but really, it doesn’t possess many more dangers than other places in America. The outdoors just about everywhere will have similar risks: harsh weather, rough terrain, and snakes. Though common, these reptiles probably instill more fear in more people than any other animal. Fortunately, not many of them can actually hurt you. If you’re going to camp in Texas, you should know there are only a handful of venomous snakes in the whole state, which makes them easy to avoid.

  1. One species of coral snake does live in Texas, but it’s very rare. They have small mouths, are rarely aggressive, but pose a danger if encountered. They’re identifiable by the macabre little rhyme: “red and yellow kill a fellow,” because of their red, yellow, and black bands.
  1. Copperheads look like military personnel out in combat: their color patterning serves as perfect camouflage for blending into leaves. They rest in foliage, so care should be taken when rummaging through leaves or picking up old logs.
  1. Black, aggressive, and large, the cottonmouth is a water dweller, which can terrorize swimmers. Thankfully, they’re generally contained to areas around ponds, lakes, and rivers, but people should be on guard when swimming or hiking around marshes and bodies of water.
  1. So infamous that just about everyone can identify them, nine rattlesnakes are native to Texas, so they’re probably the most common venomous snakes to come across at a camp in Texas. Generally nocturnal, they’re most often encountered sunbathing and lethargic. Like all snakes, they avoid conflict if at all possible, so if you hear the characteristic “rattle,” consider it a fair warning and get away as fast as possible.

It’s not uncommon for kids to leave Christian summer camp on a bit of a spiritual “high,” which is great, but it doesn’t always last. For those few days every summer, all energies are devoted to exploring God’s creation, hearing His word, and worshipping Him with other Christians. That experience can really open anyone’s eyes to the majesty of God, but it’s difficult to encounter that and then return to the normal humdrum routine of life. God is evident in the wilderness, evident in fellowship with other Christians, but He doesn’t seem to be so present in school and watching TV every afternoon with friends.

That’s a hard thing to confront: a true closeness with God at Christian summer camp and then almost nothing. Missionaries returning from fieldwork feel it all the time, and many suffer from depression as a result. It’s certainly caused doubts in faith, but there are ways to process the experience, difficult though that may be. Some people find consolation in the Scriptures. Time and time again, David and the prophets asked God where He was, because they couldn’t feel Him at all; that’s encouraging, because it reveals that the distance felt isn’t due to lack of faith. The spiritual life is a journey, full of mountains and valleys. We’re not promised absolute connection with God until Heaven, so we should expect that in this life we’ll feel closer to and more distant from Him at various times.

Obviously, the natural response is to try to get that spiritual “high” back.  The joy and peace felt so comforting that people would do anything to retrieve them, but that’s not always possible, which has been the cause for those cases of depression. Really, the healthiest response kids can have is learning acceptance: that God allowed them to feel Him completely at Christian summer camp, which is an experience not everyone has. That’s something to be thankful for—and to hold on to, even in other periods of doubt. If you’re a parent confronting this in your kids, you may not be able to recreate camp for them, but you can remind them it happens every year.

Your kids might have loved their experience at summer camp in Texas, but that doesn’t mean the cost was any easier for your household. With today’s economy still recovering (slowly) from the recession, budgets remain tight, and vacations, even positive Christian ones, have been cut by a lot of parents. If prospects for next year are already looking a little dire for summer camp expenses, you don’t have to completely rule it out. No matter how old your children are, it’s not impractical or cruel to make them responsible for raising the money. They’ve got a lot of months before applications are due again. Even without jobs, most kids can probably save enough to cover all of the expenses—but a better idea is to teach them the value of fundraising.

Fundraising is actually a pretty critical life skill these days. In high school and college, if they ever have the opportunity to go on a mission trip, often participants are expected to pay their whole way, and that’s often done through fundraising. Professionally, it’s a growing industry, though it’s usually called “development.” Colleges, non-profits, and school boards are all expected to conjure up fundraising ideas and then implement them. If kids have the experience of raising money to attend summer camp in Texas, those more significant fundraising opportunities (or responsibilities) will seem much less daunting.

Like “encouraging” them to do chores, the biggest hurdle to overcome is motivation. Telling your kids that fundraising for a summer camp in Texas will ready them for a job in development probably won’t work as a selling point. If they’re teenagers, they have a social life, extracurricular activities, and possibly a part-time job. If that’s the case, encouraging saving might be your best approach. If they’re very young and simply financially unmotivated, though, most kids respond well to immediate goals and rewards: not just the faraway promise of camp again.

The best fundraising ideas for summer camp in Texas are fun activities that don’t require a lot of obvious work. Traditional things like bake sales and car washes can sometimes be effective, but they’re a bit overused and require a lot more planning on the parents’ part. Scheme up with your kids to think of some practical means to raise money—usually things they can do independently. Offering neighborhood dog washes is a creative and easy opportunity to make a few dollars; just about every pet owner needs it, and no one likes doing it. Create a seasonal strategy for yard work; advertise general services in case friends or neighbors need help with a random chore; just think outside the box! It’s probably fine to cheat a bit too: telling grandparents and other relatives to give a check towards camp instead of a Christmas present.

As a parent, you can help encourage their progress with some rewards. Set benchmarks, goals for them to reach gradually, and offer them larger and larger prizes for raising the money. Camp supplies are an obvious and fun choice: a new Bible for their first $50 raised, a headlamp or sleeping bag for the final goal. You might not be able to afford to pay their whole way through summer camp in Texas, but small, incremental prizes can get them to pay for everything themselves.