The Case for Camping

Andrew Ginn October 9, 2020

I believe in the power of a night spent camping in the woods.

At Rockmont, we believe in camping’s ability to give children the chance to get tangled up in the beauty and mystery of God through interaction with the wildness around them.

Leaving for a campout is one of the more mysterious moments that campers at Rockmont experience. As a former director of our 6-10 year-old age group, I have seen hundreds of kids leave for this real adventure, many of them setting out to spend a night in the woods for the first time in their lives.

Amidst the head counting, water-bottle filling (and refilling), and pre-dark flashlight tag, there’s this wonderful barrier that everyone is preparing to break through: taking the first step into the unknown.

 

They know, from the beginning, that something new is ahead of them. When they set foot onto the trail towards their campsite, they are encouraged to look for the extraordinary things around them: different trees, animals, and plants. It might not feel like they’re breaking through a barrier, because it’s a lot of fun. But the very fact that they are setting off for the woods is an extraordinary accomplishment. And they are not alone in it! Counselors and other mentors are also there to celebrate the journey ahead.

They are being guided into what feels like a vast wilderness and at this age, and every age at Rockmont, our hope is to help boys learn to embrace wildness.


There are two benefits that I believe boys come away with after camping at Rockmont:

  • Encountering discomfort and coming home having overcome it. Camping does not need to be “for everyone.” However, at Rockmont we camp in solidarity, navigating the natural and wild world together and realizing that we can grapple with the discomfort that life can bring. There is no bed, no indoor bathroom, and no refrigerator. We learn to start a fire and how to make do with what we have. This is good news because it’s getting boys used to “threshold space.” This is when things aren’t easy. And that’s life!

 

  • “The world is bigger than just me.” This is an ancient hope. In the creation stories in Genesis, we read of wild imagery that comes before us humans: vastness, darkness, deepness, light, and life. Our origins are wild and they are big. When we venture into the woods to camp out in the natural world, we learn about who God is and where our wildness comes from. We help campers become aware of our responsibility to care for the world, and our responsibility to bless and keep it safe and wild.

 

Going on a campout means engaging in mystery.

Which is an uncomfortable feeling for most of us, no matter our age! We know much of what’s around us when we’re home, in our constructed world.

For well over a century, camping at summer camps has been a vehicle of helping children overcome nervousness, learn new skills, and see what the land looks like out beyond the groomed and manicured. We are committed to growing this legacy.

At Rockmont, our hope is not to turn every camper into a rugged outdoors person or a survivalist. That’s not why we go camping. Rather, our hope is that when campers find themselves tangled up in the beautiful mystery of God in the natural world, that they will feel a sense of responsibility to protect it and celebrate it, and God’s people in it, in all of its forms.

 

Andrew Ginn

Assistant Director

 

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