Camp scholarships make disciples

Shout Out! Please tell us what your congregation is doing to encourage Christian camping.



‘Tis the season to focus on finance. Stewardship Committees and Church Councils across West Michigan are working hard to determine how each congregation’s dollars can make a difference. One excellent way to invest in disciple-making is to include camp scholarships in your church’s budget for 2013.

Jeremy Williams is the chairperson of West Michigan’s Board of Christian Camping. He reminds us that an approach to camp scholarships should be multi-dimensional. Begin by committing money to send kids that you know to camp. “Set aside $1,000 and give $100 to help each of ten young people your church is sending to camp,” Jeremy suggests.
Another possibility is to identify young people whose families can't afford camp, and focus on helping them with most of the cost. Jeremy reminds us that, “Some families will be challenged just to get together the registration fee.” (Note: registration fee is $75 of a full cost of around $400.)
What if no kids in your congregation are able to go to camp? While it is good to provide camp scholarships for familiar faces, Jeremy suggests a broader scope. He encourages churches to make planned contributions to the Conference Camp Scholarship Fund. “Help young people from anywhere in West Michigan get to camp, with a special emphasis on minorities,” he says. It’s a life-changing investment to “make sure that kids get to go to camp, whether you know who they are or not!” Jeremy knows of one congregation that created such a special fund for kids. “And that motivated them to go looking for those kids. What a great idea!”
Camp changes lives
Why are camp scholarships so important? Jeremy notes: “Camp gets much deeper than most churches can ever get in Sunday School. It's an experience of Christian community that young people carry with them all their lives.” He goes on to stress, “They then recreate that experience of community at home and in their churches.” Mark Doyal, West Michigan Director of Communications and a dad, adds his own emphasis. “For $400 you can send a kid to camp. For $1,200 you can start a youth program in your local church!”
One example of a life transformed at camp is the Rev. Benton Heisler who says, “Person after person who has been to a Christian camp bears witness to those moments as turning points in their life-long journey of faith.” Benton recounts how, “At church camp,” is the answer to a number of his most significant life questions: When did you give your life to Christ? Where did you form some of your most lasting friendships? When have you had moments of feeling closest to God?
Why raise funds?
The Camping Cap is one of the many hats worn by Ministry Consultant Naomi Garcia. Does the Finance Committee need reasons to include camp scholarships among the line items in your budget?  Here’s Naomi’s Top 20 List of Reasons to Provide Camperships:
1.     Camping is one of the most direct ways for your church to impact the life of someone who may not have another chance to meet the Life-Giver;
2.     Conference Camp Scholarship funds run out every year by April; way before those least able to pay their own way have even considered Christian camping as a real option for themselves;
3.     Every single person making monetary contributions to your congregation’s ministries gets to invest in the eternal life of one of God’s own;
4.     Where one’s money is spent speaks of one’s priorities;
5.     Giving parents of campers a break is life-giving for both the children going to camp and the parents risking to send their children;
6.     Every child is worthy of the chance to make life-long friends who know God loves them no matter what;
7.     Now that in your heart of hearts you want every child to know an adult who cares about them;
8.     Learning Christian songs to sing to yourself all year are a big part of Christian camping;
9.     Christian camp songs are scriptures set to music;
10. Praying is all over Christian camping—how to do it, for whom to do it, when to do it, practicing it;
11. Most habits learned at camp can make the difference between tolerating life and living it;
12. The people of your congregation are fortunate to be blessed;
13. Your spirit’s happiness depends on the happiness of others;
14. Arranging for others to tell you about their experience of camp is priceless;
15. A small gesture of kindness to another can change your life;
16. There are thousands of children and youth in your Michigan neighborhood alone who have not heard the gospel;
17. There are hundreds of thousands of children and youth who long for a safe, kind, loving, fun place to go in the summer;
18. Because it feels so good to know that you’ve helped a young one smile and feel warm inside for a whole week;
19. Concentrated Christian education happens at camp. Its potent! Its real! It’s for life!
20. How else can your gift keep giving for a lifetime?
To this list Jeremy Williams adds another reason to send young people to West Michigan Camps. “Because we have great, Christ-centered, positive programs, that reflect the same faith tradition as our United Methodist Churches!” To learn more about West Michigan’s Christian camping ministries, visit their website.
~reported by Kay DeMoss, Weekly News Senior Writer


1. Douglas Thompson wrote on 11/7/2012 8:12:32 AM
I've helped out with 4 different West Ohio Conference camps for 24 years now, and I cannot think of a better way to invest money in a child's life than to help pay their way to church camp. I firmly believe every child should attend church camp at least once, for it will change their lives. I've talked w/ senior citizens who went to church camp decades earlier, and who can still remember their positive spiritual experiences (like meeting God!) from church camp. So send your child, grandchild, neighbor child to church camp, have them meet and esxperience God there, and watch them come back a changed believer!
2. Rev. David Gladstone wrote on 11/8/2012 8:40:47 AM
The United Methodist Church faces many challenges. Many believe that we no longer have the resources to meet the difficulties we face. Christian camping faces challenges as well, but the truth is that we still have excellent camps and dedicated leaders who know what it takes to move young hearts toward God. Our goal at Lake Louise is that no one be denied the life changing experience of camp because they lack money. One week at Christian camp equals nearly three YEARS of perfect weekly Sunday school attendance. That is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
3. Pamela Stewart wrote on 11/19/2012 8:57:22 AM
As Camp Registrar for the West Michigan Conference, I speak with many delighted parents who tell me how much their children look forward to camp as the highlight of their summer. I also talk with many parents who want desperately to send their children to camp, but they must struggle to come up with the fee, especially if there is more than one child in the family. Let's not let money be the dealbreaker. The generosity of our West Michigan congregations could enable me to assist these families by granting more than just a token amount in scholarship funds. Camping is an important mission that begins right here at home, in our own congregations and communities. May we have eyes to see the amazing power of God to change lives for His glory through the ministry of Christian Camping.
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