Church camping is what started me on the road to ministry. And it will always have a special place in heart and memory for me. Camping is, in my opinion, one of the best outreach ministries to childrena nd their families that the church has ever had.
The vast majority of campers I have met at camps (I have worked at three different church camps over the last 16 years, with many many different sets of campers) have little-to-no regular connection with a local congregation. For some the week they spend at camp may be their first time out of a metropolitan area, the first time they are in a place where they can look up and see real stars at night, the first time they can swim in a lake, the first time they can watch the sun set or the moon rise sending beams of light across the surface of a still lake.
Camp is also a time when we can model and practice a different type of community. In a world where fewer and fewer families are able to sit down and eat meals together camp is a place where everyone stops what they are doing to eat at the same time. In a world where video screens of varying types have become ubiquitous camp is a place where, hopefully, days can pass without a TV or a computer screen being watched. In a world where "God Talk" is often either missing or done from a very definite, sometimes scary, perspective camp is a place where we take time to talk about faith, to ask questions, to pray even. In a world obsessed with doing camp can provide children and youth with a place to be (even if the leaders continue to be obsessed with doing to provide that opportunity).
Camp is a whole pile of work (at least an 80 hour week while there plus all the needed prep). Camp is short nights and long days, with less sleep than we might like. Camp is exhausting, much moreso at 36 with two toddlers than it ever was at 19. Camps are expensive to run and maintain (I was on the board of Camp MAskepetoon in Edmonton Presbytery so can attest to that). BUt most of all camp is worth all of these things. Every year I wait with anticipation for the week of camp. Every year I need 24 hours of sleep to recover. And every year, despite whatever problems may arise (and there are always problems big or little) I am somehow refreshed by camp. I need camp, I only hope that camp continues to need me.