Growing Faith Camp Talk

Technology at Camp

By Camp Bear Creek October 11, 2013

If you’ve spent a lot of time at camp, or even any time at all, you might think that the words technology and camping don’t really go together.  Camp is a place to get away from the distractions offered by television screens, smart phone apps, laptops, and tablets.  Camp is a place to retreat, to find God away from the clutter and noise and virtual conversations that are happening all around us. Camp is a place to come and connect with others in a Christian community, where you can be safe to ask questions, explore together, learn, laugh, and grow.  Yes, we often have “community” on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Pintrest, but these virtual communities pale in comparison to gathering around the campfire or meeting at an outdoor chapel for worship.

Why then, if technology and camp seem to be so opposite, does the title of this blog imply that the two can belong together, that technology should be considered as an element of camp?  First, even though camp is a place to retreat and to rest, it is still a place, a business, and a community that exists within the 21st Century.  Media and technology are a huge part of the culture of today.  The world is more connected, more collaborative, more informed, and moving faster than it ever has before.  Yes, there are negative aspects to technology (like how it makes us busier, lonelier, and distracted), but it would be irresponsible for us to pretend that technology was not an important part of the world today.

So, at Camp Bear Creek, there are two major ways that we try to engage with technology, not to allow the culture to dictate to us what our camp and ministry should look like, but in order that we can reach out through today’s avenues of communications and lead by example how to use technology in ways that are healthy, redemptive, and inspiring.

First, we use technology as a relationship bridge.  Maybe you are a summer camper or a retreat attendee or a rental group member.  Whatever your relationship is to the camp, we know that you can’t be here year round.  At some point, the time comes for you to leave and return home.  As a ministry, however, we want to be able to stay connected with you, to guide you, to listen to you, and to share with you even after your time at camp is ended.  Technology allows us to build and maintain relationships with all who come to camp.  Our website, our summer camp videos, even this blog that you are reading, all of these are forms of technology.  Now, when the summer ends or when your retreat is over, you can go home knowing that you can still have a little bit of the “camp experience” even when you are not here.  Technology allows us to do that.

Second, we use technology in ways that promote healthy living, creative worship, and stewardship.  For example, as we begin the process of building a brand new website and new online registration systems, we will be able to reduce the amount of paper required for summer camp registration, rental contracts, and applications.  This is good stewardship of our resources and our environment.  We use technology to teach kids that whatever their gifts are, they can use them for the glory of God.  Maybe we turn on disco lights and have a dance party to celebrate God.  Maybe we play a video and ask campers to respond to the message in their own creative ways.  Maybe we set up a sound system and projector outside so that everyone can read the words to the songs in the dark and hear the person leading them as they worship under the stars.  We use video and photos to capture memories and moments so that when you leave camp, you can share what you’ve learned and experienced with all of your friends and family.

There will always be a time and a place for setting aside the smart phone and the social media and seeking Sabbath—taking time to pause all of the virtual commotion and allowing ourselves to just be.  Camp will always be a place where that can happen.  However, we can’t afford to let the world pass us by as we sit, unwilling to change, to adapt, and to grow.  This is why we engage with technology.  Who, if not the Church, if not ministries like Camp Bear Creek, if not Christians throughout the world, will teach this coming generation, a generation saturated by technology, how to use it in ways that are good, that are God-honoring, and that are redemptive?