Bridging faith and fun: the ministry of holiday camps

Bridging faith and fun: the ministry of holiday camps

Caitlin Clementson

Caitlin is the Holiday Programme Coordinator at Bridge Valley Camp.

Bridging faith and fun: the ministry of holiday camps

a group of kids in a playground
During the recent school holidays, 17 kids and 8 young leaders from across the diocese went to Bridge Valley for a 5-day camp. They explored their faith and challenged themselves mentally, physically and spiritually alongside kids from the wider community.

I’ve been a part of the Christian camp ministry for a long time, and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it. From arriving as a camper, to being a leader, then an intern and now on staff, Bridge Valley has been a key part of my life and I have learned so much from the variety of things you get to do in the camping industry! 

I love Bridge Valley because of its strong focus on developing people spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically. It encourages young people to take on challenges with a growth mindset, and it gives them a really safe place to learn to step outside of their comfort zones.  

"I learned that God loves us all and when you think he's not working he is, but it might not be in the way you hoped it would be. I think he was telling me to become an L.I.T. (Leader in Training) and to also improve on myself. I also learned that I always have the option of following what God has told me to do and not to follow my peers when they are doing wrong."

Camp ministry is so important for young people today. For the kids who come as campers, it’s a place where they can learn to be away from home for a week, meet new people, have older role models outside of their family circles, and learn about Jesus in a fun and different way.

There’s something special about the community that develops over a week of camp, but it can also be a great gateway for kids to get involved in more regular church groups and communities. 

Camp ministry is just as just as valuable for leaders for those same reasons, but also because it’s a place for them to outwork their faith. It is a great stepping stone for them to practice being open about their faith with different types of people, before doing the same in their school, work, and family life. We see such diversity in different leaders from different churches, and it’s great to see them all work together to achieve the same goal. 

“My granddaughter came home from camp tonight. She left okay, stressed and bored beyond words. She returned as a total transformation - happy, alive, a light in her eyes. The highlights, she hasn’t stopped talking! The leaders, the words people said about their beliefs about God, the new friends, the routine, the activities, so many she hasn’t stopped talking."
Grandmother of a camper

I have seen the journeys of so many campers and leaders through working at Bridge Valley. Often, they will come to camp hoping to have a fun week of activities, but they leave with an inspired faith, a fresh outlook on what following Jesus can look like, improved confidence, new skills, lifelong friends, and another positive Christian community to be a part of.  

Our leadership development is one of the best things to see at camp. When I was a young leader, I was shy and under confident and would never have imagined myself doing the things I can do today. Bridge Valley made me confident in talking to kids, being assertive, speaking publicly and just being myself.

It’s so good seeing young teenagers go through the journey I went through. They are given real responsibility, and they rise to the challenge.

We get to see people accomplish things they thought they would never do, like hosting our mainstage sessions, running the camp programme, leading cabins, making camp magazines, conducting camp wide games, and more. Even just staying at camp away from home for the week is a huge accomplish for a lot of kids, and we love seeing people achieve that. 

"Bridge Valley has improved my confidence, my love for children, my relationship with God, and my everyday actions. It made me feel connected and a part of a family."
Volunteer leader

My hope for camp ministry is that it can continue strong and remain relevant to young people’s needs, both for the campers and the leaders. We want to work with local churches to develop our young people and give them opportunities now to grow, practically and spiritually, instead of waiting until they are older. We hope that by providing opportunities and positive communities for young people in Nelson – and New Zealand – there will a strong support for young people of all ages and stages of faith.

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We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.