Post Camp Distress

by:  Taylor Steen, 2015 Summer Camp Staff

The other day my little sister went to her first concert to see her favorite band. Upon return home she lamented her sorrows that the experience was over and dramatically explained that she had PCD, “That’s post concert distress, Taylor.”

I hate to break it to everybody, but I have my own type of PCD, and it’s post camp distress. I’ve seen some others feel similarly, sometimes describing it as "post-camp blues.” I think it might come as a surprise to some campers that the PCD y’all feel is just as real for those of us who worked staff! We cherish the bonds that have been made and desire to do big things with the lessons the Lord has taught us that summer.

But it’s that time of year again, where the excitement of getting new school supplies collides with the nerves of actually going back to a school building. When I was a student, around this time of year I’d jot down the things I’d learned over the summer (especially at camp) and vow to nurture the friendships in my youth group that I’d cultivated. My friends and I would describe camp as a “spiritual high” because we saw God work in such an encouraging environment and a short time. As the school year would progress my dedication would slowly subside as the weight of the world pressed on my shoulders and my heart ached for the Lord’s presence like I’d experienced over the summer. So, for me, my PCD is a combination of grieving for the love and community experienced over the summer, while also feeling anxious that with the return of school comes a poor shift in priorities. But, I’ve seen how we can extend the fruit grown at camp into our daily lives.

I was a camper for five years, and staffed for the first time this summer. These are my tips for transitioning out of camp while not losing the lessons God teaches.

1.    Accountability

One of the things I love about my best friend is that she consistently asks me, “What is God teaching you?” She’ll inquire about what I’m reading in the Bible and faithfully responds when I ask for prayer. Find someone who has a hunger for the Lord that matches yours, and keep up with one another. It can be a simple as a text with an encouraging verse, or a reminder of something specific that you learned at camp. Look for brothers and sisters who will build you up and keep you accountable in your faith.

2.    Environment

Spoiler alert: Camp is not the normal. Unfortunately, we have to go back to school and work after camp and the summer, or a rough home life. These stressors can sometimes make us feel like camp never happened, or that God didn’t do an amazing work in our lives. This is a downright lie! Look for an encouraging environment that you can plug into to continue your path with the Lord, whether that’s a youth group, campus ministry, church group, or even just a handful of strong, uplifting friends who love the Lord. The purpose of camp is to encounter the Lord in a safe, loving environment and to have lives changed by the Gospel. But without another environment for you to grow and learn, your faith may not deepen. Plug in, get intimate, build community. In the words of Shia Lebouf, “JUST DO IT!”

3.    Relationships

Much like the environment aspect, nurture the relationships that you built at camp, especially within your youth group. Camp was always a great place for the girls in my Sunday school class to share what we were struggling with and be authentic with one another. Use the moments where you got real at 2 a.m. with one another to grow your friendships. Be real. Be transparent with you worries, your fears. Be stronger through one another.

4.    Prayer

Whenever I would jot down what I had learned at camp, I would also pray about what goals I should make for myself during the year. They ranged from being more consistent with reading my Bible to leading my youth group in unique ways to even taking a step back and saying no more often. I also found it helpful to journal, even if it wasn’t every day, to look back and see the state of my soul and how God has shaped it over the years through prayer and obedience. Pray for big things, such as not forgetting what you learned at camp but taking it into your schools and other environments where people need to hear the Lord.

Camp is a radical, life-changing experience, but it’s only the beginning of continuing your walk with the Lord. As we like to say here at CKM, “We’re just getting started.” 

About the Author: Taylor Steen is a junior at Mercer University, studying to teach high school English. She was a camper for five years, served on Crossroads Summer Camp staff this past summer. She's even traveled to Guatemala with CKM! Taylor loves ministry, queso, and hiking!