Four Things Adults Can Learn From Youth Camp

by Matt Sapp

by Matt Sapp

I spent last week with our students at PASSPORT youth camp in Danville, VA. It’s one of my favorite things to do each year—and one of the most tiring. Kids have A LOT of energy!

I’ve been attending PASSPORT as a minister and chaperone for seven years now, and PASSPORT does a wonderful job of incorporating worship, Bible study, service and prayer into a meaningful and fun-filled week for teenagers.

But as I’ve attended camp over the years, I’ve noticed there’s a lot adults can learn from PASSPORT, too, and it goes far beyond religious instruction.

Here are four things adults can learn from the PASSPORT experience.

PASSPORT offers our teenagers a break. Everyone needs a break every once in a while. PASSPORT is a focused retreat for teenagers that intentionally removes them from the cares of their worlds. They disconnect from TV and social media. They leave family and wider circles of friends at home.

Camp is a chance for kids to hit reset—or at least the pause button. And as much as kids need a break from the cares and stresses of their lives—and they do—adults might need breaks like this even more.

PASSPORT is not a vacation, it’s a retreat. In a way that vacations are not, PASSPORT is constructed as an intentional, healthy retreat from our everyday realities. Kids need that. Healthy adults need occasional retreats from reality, too!

PASSPORT offers our teenagers a time to let loose and be themselves in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Whether it’s at a rec party, a themed dance night, a variety show, a volleyball tournament, or it’s a chance to do a silly dance together, kids are constantly encouraged to express themselves in creative ways and just have fun.

It can be hard for us to find times and places where we feel fully comfortable being ourselves—when we can just let loose and have fun.

PASSPORT provides time and space for teenagers to do just that. Adults need time and space for that, too.

The HERITAGE crew at PASSPORT in Danville, VA.

The HERITAGE crew at PASSPORT in Danville, VA.

PASSPORT puts teenagers in new environments and encourages them to try new things and meet new friends. I’ve noticed over the years that kids are remarkably comfortable and excited about doing this. Kids try new things and experience new environments all the time. Adults don’t.

I’m not sure exactly when and how it happens, but I know at some point, to one degree or another, we all stop being as open to the new, exciting and different as we once were. We can even become fearful of it.

PASSPORT is a reminder that we should actively work against our tendency to become closed off to new ideas, new people and new experiences.

And PASSPORT provides a dedicated time to focus on God. At PASSPORT kids ask questions about their faith. They reflect on past experiences. They focus on the future. They take stock of their spiritual lives and their relationships with God.

When did you last take the time to do those things? When’s the last time you took a few days to figure out what you’re doing, where you’re going, even who you are—a few days to dream about the future and make decisions about how you’ll get there—a few days to take those dreams and plans and give them faithfully to God?

Our kids get to do that at PASSPORT each year. Adults need time for that, too.

At HERITAGE we talk about becoming more holy, healthy and whole—and about building holy, healthy and whole communities together. If that’s our goal, then these aren’t optional things.

Healthy living and healthy spiritual development require regular breaks from routine; safe places for fun, creative self-expression; an openness to new environments, people and ideas; and intentional spaces to assess, plan and dream with God.

Each year, PASSPORT reminds me to make time in my own life to do these things. I hope you will, too.

See you Sunday.