We’re just about to wrap up our time here at Bay Shore Camp in Sebewaing, MI. Summer is officially underway and what we like to call “the chaos” has begun. We’ve been hearing from friends around the country who are getting their camp season started to, and it gets us so pumped about this ministry. Camp families are growing, burdens are being lifted, and people are experiencing the excellent joy that comes from God. This is the good stuff, y’all.
We are firm believers that a little bit of crazy is what makes the camp world turn. After all, what camp session is complete without a roll in the mud and something involving a rubber chicken? That chaos factor, the tendency for camp to be just one notch louder/sillier/bigger, is what sets the stage for kids to get PUMPED. How will we be different that the everyday? How will camp be a true experience instead of a week of babysitting? One huge thing you can add to your camp program to “amp it up” is music.
I know. You’re giving up on me here. “Music? No kidding. Of course we have music at camp.” Hang in there. We know music is already an integral part of most camp programs, but the types of music and the ways they are used can make a huge difference in how they alter your camp experience.
Having a good, eclectic playlist of “pump up music” at camp is like having a first aid kit on field game day. It’s a good idea. You are ready for any situation. Use it in the dining hall as a low backdrop to conversations. (Yes, it’s noisy. It’s fine.) Blast it while campers are coming into session and encourage dancing to get the moving before they have to sit still and pay attention. On the bus for an hour? Turn it up! Put every single game to music. Minute to win it games, capture the flag, I don’t care – put some Family Force 5 on that. I can’t explain what a huge difference this makes in the energy for both participants and spectators.
Have a “camp sanctioned playlist” that your counselors have access to and put on current Christian music whenever there is a dull moment. You’re not only psychologically bringing up the energy – you’re introducing your campers to music that they will (hopefully) enjoy enough to listen to at home. As much as we love “Rock, Sword, Shield,” – no one is jamming to that on the weekends with their friends, and at camp we are trying to offer tools that campers can use to lead a Christian life when they go home. Introducing a wide variety of artists and genres (and sweet dance moves) at camp is an excellent way to show them that Christian music isn’t always lame. (You don't have to use exclusively Christian artists, but base decisions on the artist, not the song. If you wouldn't play all of Shakira's music at camp, don't play one of her songs. Kids have the internet.)
The second way you can use music to “amp up” your program is a little less about energy and more about focus. We can (and should) use music as part of our daily programming at camp, but it is also an integral part of the spiritual development we teach.
Lyrics are powerful. The songs we choose to use during times of study, prayer, and worship at camp are significant far beyond how popular or catchy they are. This is where we as camp staff have to choose wisely and prayerfully the words that will be on our campers’ lips. What an amazing, yet daunting, task.
It’s my personal belief that not all Christian songs are worship songs. Let me be clear that this isn’t about “cultivating an experience” or manipulating our campers into a certain state of mind. However, I believe that songs from the first-person, which cry out to God or proclaim His glory to Him, are those that bring about the most intentional space of worship. We teach our campers that prayer and worship are about talking to God and offering Him praise. Songs that allow campers to say “I love you, God” and “God, I need you” out loud give them the chance to see how those words feel in their mouths. Sam and I purposefully choose songs like this for worship, and then always instruct our campers to ask themselves questions about what they are singing. Do I believe these words? What do I have to say to God? What do I need to cry out to God or praise Him for today?
This has been amazing for our camp worship experiences and for the transformation of our campers. We may not always sing the super popular song of the moment or have extremely high energy sessions, but we can help our campers truly understand the meaning of worship. Then we will have a dance party.
We’ve put together two Spotify playlists for you; the pumped up playlist is your go-to high energy mix, and the intentional worship playlist has some great songs for a transformational worship session. What songs do you think should be added to these lists?