The Magic of ARTS Camp

By: Deborah Voss

I am writing this as registration for ARTS Camp 2019 officially opens. This is a poignant year for me as the last camper from our very first ARTS camp in 2012—Lucy Tatterson—graduates and moves on after this year to High School and the Mission Trip. It will be hard to say goodbye to Lucy and our other 8th graders at our final vespers and on the Saturday of the performance on June 8th! Guaranteed I’ll cry!

What I hear from ARTS Camp parents is how important ARTS Camp has been to their kids. If you ask those kids what they like most, they’ll tell you it’s the rock climbing or archery or hiking. They might gush over their counselors who they love. And they’ll definitely complain about rehearsals and FOB (rest time).

We always have the kids fill out camp evaluations and they always, without exception, rate the week overall as “AWESOME!” What they don’t know is that what really makes camp AWESOME is the building of and being a part of a community. And that results from intentionality in planning: recruiting counselors, training counselors, picking the right musical, planning a schedule that is structured but allows for lots of activities, adventures, free play, cabin time, evening vespers, and focused work building something together that they can all be proud of at the end of the week—The Musical.

I know that there is some hesitation by elementary parents about sending their kids to a camp with middle schoolers. Quite honestly, when I first decided to try it, I wasn’t sure how it would work. But it has turned out to be amazing! Having the two groups in separate areas allows for evening cabin time and bed time to be age appropriate. And being together during the day allows the middle schoolers to actually mentor the younger children—and they do! This works to benefit both groups, and I believe strengthens our community in ways I could never have foreseen. It is so great to see an elementary kid say “Hi” to one of the middle schoolers they were at camp with and see the middle schooler respond in a warm and even loving way! And it makes that 6th grade transition into middle school so much easier when they already have relationships with some of the middle school youth!

I’ve been directing camps for over 20 years, and I truly believe it is the highlight of my work, both in terms of the joy it brings, and in terms of building faith. And that faith building isn’t just for the kids, but for the counselors and the directors as well. What we learn by living in intentional community 24/7 for a week is difficult to explain, but vital to what we all take away from camp. The presence of Spirit is palpable. All of us feel it throughout camp—even the kids! And better yet—we give safe space to TALK ABOUT GOD! Oh, I could write a book about the ways that Spirit works for all of us at camp!

And, with lots of planning, intentionality, hard work, and plenty of time to play and laugh and sing together, we develop a community that recognizes God within one another and in the world around us. And guess what—we yearn for more! That is what brings both our counselors and our kids back to camp, whether they know it or not—Being in relationship with God and with one another is powerful! It’s LOVE! And it feels RIGHT!

AND we’ll do it all again in just 19 weeks! Camp fills up fast so register now!

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