by: Clayton King
My life has been filled with undeserved blessings. While the past decade has been filled with watching family members grow old and sick and pass from this world into the next, overall I am overwhelmed; not at the "bad" of my life but at the "good" that I have experienced.
One of the countless blessings I've experienced goes back to my adoption as an infant. My parents raised me to enjoy being outside. Without the distraction of cable TV (we didn't even have a remote control until I was a teenager), my friends and I created our own entertainment in the woods; we built forts and dug foxholes. We went fishing and climbed trees. We played army and pretended we were fighting for independence against the Redcoats. Our imaginations were almost always engaged. To this day I can remember the disappointment when my mom would yell from the back porch that supper was ready and it was time to come inside. That meant the day was almost over, it was getting dark, and I would have to wait until school was over the next day to enjoy being outside again.
For me, this is more than nostalgia. I believe that God created humans with a need to be outside. Fresh air fills the lungs, sunlight hits the skin and releases Vitamin D, and in some mysterious way we are reconnected to the "dust of the ground" which is the single element God chose to use when He breathed the breath of life into humanity's first prototype, Adam.
This is one of our core convictions at Crossroads Summer Camps. We want teenagers to get outside. In June and July when school is out, we host thousands of students from all over the country at Anderson University in SC. We preach to them and teach them. We enjoy worshiping together and playing games, watching funny videos, and laughing at the skits and morning dramas.
But one big element of our summer camp experience at Crossroads is getting teenagers outside. We provide something for everyone; for the more athletic students, we have soccer, sand volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and a game we invented called Epic Word Domination (think football meets freeze tag meets capture the flag meets Marco Polo). For the more laid back teenagers, we offer arts and crafts, cornhole, creative activities and facepainting. These activities get kids off their phones and face to face with each other. They interact. They talk. They laugh and have fun and build relationships. Simply put, they connect.
Getting kids outside for a few hours a day seems to put an accent on everything we do at Crossroads Camps. A sense of community begins to form among youth groups. Youth pastors and leaders find it easier to connect with their teenagers when they're not distracted by screens on the smartphones checking Facebook or Instagram. We are deliberate in how we plan out the camp experience. We get them out of doors and into each other. It's beautiful to watch them connect with each other and with God.
So take time to go outside and enjoy God's creation. Turn off anything with a power button and you'll find it easier to turn on the ability to relax and connect with God.