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When it comes time to choose a summer camp for your child, the decision is often influenced by whether or not there is a church camp to attend. Since all Christians are called to belong to a local church, it only makes sense that you would want to participate in whatever it is putting together. Then your kid comes home from school to let you know that there is some super amazing camp 1000 miles away that all of his friends are going to this summer. We’ll call these “private Christian camps.” All that title really means is that these camps may not belong to any church or denomination, but they do focus on a Christian message at camp. An example of these might be Kanakuk or any of the other biggest Christian camps out there. Is there anything wrong with picking a camp like this over your local church camp? We won’t make any judgments on that just yet, but let’s talk about some of the differences between these camps.
Familiarity of Local Church Camp
Just like people, camps come in all shapes and sizes. Even when we narrow it down to Christian summer camps, you’re going to find a lot of diversity. There’s something familiar about taking part in the same camp every year, especially when it’s put on by your home church. For many churches these camps are routine enough that they might take place on the same grounds for a decade or longer.
If your church is one to revisit the same campgrounds each summer, then you know what to expect when it comes to facilities and the people who are going. One of the great joys of the local church is that you get to do life with like-minded people who are there for you through thick and thin. This kind of stability is also great for kids who are coming up in the youth ministry. We know from many health professionals, sports figures, and biblical leaders that routine is important for healthy habits, so why not try it out with summer camp?
Resources of Private Christian Camps
Depending on the size of your church, the resources available to your summer camp may be somewhat lacking. While quality isn’t everything, you can definitely tell the difference between a camp that is thrown together in a rush and one that has both years of experience and an established routine. Most of these private Christian camps have planned out every moment of the day to a science. These camps often provide the best activities, creativity, and facilities that you could hope for your child to enjoy while away from home. Again we’re speaking in a general sense as your local church camp may have wonderful resources that top even the nation’s most beloved summer getaways.
Personal Preferences for Your Family’s Camp Experience
Each family is unique in what they are hoping to get out of camp. There are also many unique circumstances that determine what the camp experience can look like. We know that money plays a big role in what kind of camp you’ll be sending your child to this summer. With private Christian camps you’ll likely be traveling to Texas, California, North Carolina or somewhere similar to drop your child off. This might mean hotel arrangements, flights, or an afternoon car ride that wouldn’t be part of your plan if your child simply went to the local church camp instead.
Beyond cost, there are other areas you may want to consider when it comes to choosing a summer camp. Do you want your child to study a specific subject at camp? Drama, music, and survival skills are not all taught at the same camps with the same level of expertise. In this way summer camps are like college. You probably wouldn’t send your child to study medicine at a school that’s ranked last in that subject, right?
You might also be considering going to camp as a family. Some private Christian camps actually offer family camps where you can experience a week away without having to worry about separate travel arrangements or homesickness. If that’s something that interests you, you’re likely not going to find it at the local level.
Cost Differences Between Local Church Camp & Private Christian Camps
As much as we personally don’t like to talk about it, money can play a big factor in camp decisions. For some people, being able to afford to go to summer camp is right up there with flying pigs. Generally speaking, local church camps will be substantially cheaper than Christian camps at the private level. There are several reasons for this, but it mostly boils down to better facilities, activities, and more employees. Many church camps have minimal paid staff being supported by volunteers that serve as counselors, etc. whereas these bigger camps pay everyone.
Costs range pretty wildly, but a fair example would be the local church camp costing between $200 and $400 while the private Christian camps start around $500 with some easily surpassing the $1,000 mark. For some private camps that higher price tag is due to your child staying longer than a week on top of everything else. Like we’ve said before, each camp is a little different.
Number of Activities Each Camp Provides
Have you ever gone to a camp or on a retreat and quickly discovered that there wasn’t much to do there? Kids have great imaginations, but they need unique, fun activities during a week of camp to tell their parents about when they get home. A pool, open field, and a ping pong table aren’t enough activities to make for a fun week away from home. One of the noticeable differences between private Christian camps and a local church camp is that bigger camps tend to have more things to do. Archery, paintball, inflatables, ropes courses, and horseback riding are just a few of the fun choices that bigger camps facilitate. Some local church camps offer more than others, but private Christian camps tend to win this point.
As we’ve said before in each of the categories above, the structure of private Christian camps is just a little different from your traditional local church camp. Let’s start with the people. Both campers and counselors are made up of individuals who may come from several states away. Some of the most prestigious camps bring people in from across the country. The hiring process for most private Christian camps involves a tour of a dozen or more colleges looking for the best young people to staff their summer camps. Compare that with the local church camp that is attended by kids from the church (obviously), made up of counselors who volunteer from that same community, and often takes place on a campus that has a few full time staff. We’re not saying that’s better or worse, but it is a difference.
As far as the event schedule, private Christian camps often have things scheduled far in advance with multiple backup plans in case of weather or other circumstances. Since these camps own their facilities, instead of renting them out like most church camps, it’s easier for them to plan contingencies and make the best use of the space. Talking about facilities also takes us back to the number of activities available at these camps.
When you look at the differences between private Christian camps and local church camp, it boils down to a few highlights: local church camps are typically cheaper, have easier travel arrangements and foster a community of growth and friendship within an existing body of believers, while private Christian camps often have bigger and better facilities, invite your child to make new friends from strangers, and can focus on unique areas where your child’s interests lie. There's really no wrong way to go because only you know what's best for your family's situation. As long as it's a Christian camp that you trust and your child has fun, that's a win in our book!
At Camp Electric we want to help your child grow spiritually while also learning how to use the musical skills God has given him/her at a professional level. Your child will learn from real Christian artists whose music is already making an impact in the community today. Find out how your son or daughter can be the next student at Camp Electric by clicking on the link below.