In addition to providing for the emotional and social growth of our campers, we also encourage them in their faith development. Cedarkirk is a faith-based camp affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Every summer, Cedarkirk hosts campers from a variety of denominational backgrounds, and often campers from other faith backgrounds.
Worship: Each day, all the small groups within a given age range will come together for worship (in the era of COVID, these will be distanced, masked gatherings). Worship is led by a volunteer pastor, youth director, or educator from one of the churches that support us, or one of Cedarkirk’s unit coordinators or directors. Besides lots of singing, each worship highlights the day’s theme from our curriculum and usually includes some creative or energetic way of relating to that theme. We recognize that some campers have grown up in a church, while others have never been to church, so worship is presented in a way that all campers and staff can take something from it. Regardless of a camper’s background, worship at camp looks a lot different from what most kids think “church” is, and we encourage them to explore that feeling: that connecting to God can happen anywhere, whether inside a sanctuary or under a tree.
Bible Study: Each small group also does a daily Bible study. These are led by the group’s counselors and follow a more conversational and discussion-oriented format. Doing these studies in small groups allows counselors to tailor them to a style that best fits their group. Bible studies follow the daily curriculum theme and involve craft projects, scavenger hunts, and outdoor activities: it’s not uncommon to see a Bible study group traveling down a trail, in dialogue as they go. These times provide for lots of open-ended questions and discussion around the daily theme and scripture. Campers are encouraged to share their thoughts and discuss their own opinions in a way that is respectful and fruitful.
Philosophy: In terms of theology at camp, we see our job as helping kids figure out where they fit into God’s story. We are privileged to meet campers at a time when many of them are wrestling with who they are, what their place is in the world, and what faith means to them as they transition from child to youth to young adult. Our job is simply to encourage them in that journey, to provide love and support, and to challenge them to do the difficult work of loving and serving others.
Foremost, we want every camper to understand that they are created by a God who loves them unconditionally, exactly as they are; by a God who will never stop pursuing them, no matter what they do or where they go. With that foundation in place, campers are free to explore an idea or Bible verse, wrestle with it as individuals and as a group, and figure out what it means for them. Our goal is for campers to leave with a greater understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God, and the knowledge that they can continue to cultivate that relationship – and some of the practices they learned at camp – when they go home.
We also understand that campers bond deeply with their counselors and look up to them in a way that differs from the relationship a camper has with a parent or teacher. By virtue of that bond, what a counselor says and does holds a lot of influence in the minds and hearts of their campers, and that is a privilege that must be wielded with respect and thoughtfulness. To that end, counselors model the lessons they teach in Bible study so campers can see what those things look like in practice.
Curriculum: We use a prepared curriculum from a cross-denominational partnership. The week-long and daily themes are tailored to a variety of developmental stages so that younger elementary campers and high school campers can all engage with the content in a way that is appropriate for them. This summer’s theme is “What’s In a Name?” We’ll look at how the people of the Bible confronted expectations, confounded others’ assumptions, and forged new identities. Campers will use the sacred ground of camp to reflect on who they are as individuals, and how they are connected to others. Together, we will be assured that the grace of Christ meets us when we make mistakes and his love greets us when we open our hearts. As we grow, learn, and discover our true selves, we define our own names and find our places as children of God.
Learn more about our summer curriculum with this infographic!