We have two kids in public school. One of the things I love about public school is that it gives our family a chance to interact with families who may not share our faith and way of life. Since I work at a ministry full time, meeting people outside the “Christian bubble” can take a little effort. So our family is always seeking ways to be a light and a blessing to our kids’ classmates and their families.

One way we do this is by inviting their friends to camp. We do this for two reasons.

1. We want our kids’ friends to know and follow Jesus.

We believe that nothing is more important than trusting Jesus to save you from sin and transform your life. We want to share this good news with anyone we can. But let’s be honest, sharing our faith can be difficult. It’s hard to talk about faith in a culture where religion is something of an “off limits” topic. But talking about camp is easy. Everybody likes camp. And we know that at Pine Cove, the gospel will be taught and modeled in a way that kids can really get their heads around. It also sort of breaks the ice for my kids to talk with their friends about their faith. Because when you were both in Cotton-headed Ninny Muffins’ cabin, did Bible study, sang worship songs at Club, and heard Get Smart present the gospel, the topic is kind of on the table already.

2. We want our kids to have friends who know and follow Jesus.

More than anything, my wife and I want our kids to love Jesus and follow him throughout their lives. We also know that their friends have significant influence on them. As my kids approach their teenage years, I know that influence will only increase. So I want my kids’ friends to come to camp. I know they will hear about Jesus at Pine Cove. I know they will see godly young college students who love Jesus, serve others, and have a lot of fun doing it. If my kid’s friend is already a Christian, chances are camp will help them grow stronger in their faith. If my kid’s friend is not a Christian, they may take that first step at camp. At the very least, they will have a better idea of where my kid is coming from.

We’ve seen the fruit of this already. My son, Davis, has a close friend named Jalen. Their friendship is rooted in a deep love of Nerf guns, Minecraft, and rubber band bracelet-weaving. A few years ago, we invited Jalen to come with Davis to the Towers. While there, Jalen heard and believed the gospel and prayed to accept Christ with the help of his counselor (I believe it was Double-O Donut). When Jalen got home he was excited to share his faith with his parents. At Jalen’s prompting, their family started attending a local church and after a few weeks, Jalen and his father both decided they wanted to be baptized. Jalen has come to camp with Davis a couple more times and his mom raves about the huge blessing Pine Cove has been to their family. How cool is that!

Campers Smiling Together

Inviting friends to camp happens pretty naturally. My kids tell their friends about the horses, zip lines, theme nights, and counselors, and their friends are ready to start rolling up their sleeping bags and packing their tooth brushes. Then we call their parents and invite them to send their kid to camp with our kid. We have the chance to answer any questions they have about Pine Cove. The families we’ve invited have all seemed to appreciate it.

Here are some things we’ve learned:

  • Explain Friend Requests: Tell them how friend requests work at Pine Cove. Here’s the gist: after March 15, if both campers are registered, have their forms done, and have paid in full (or are on a payment plan), you’ll be able to fill out a cabin mate request online. You can request up to four friends to be together in a cabin. Check out this blog post for more on the why and how of Pine Cove friend requests.
  • Tell them about scholarships: If the cost of camp is a problem for your friend, make sure they know about our scholarship program. Last year, Pine Cove gave away over 1 million dollars to help kids and families come to camp. We don’t want finances to prevent kids from coming to camp.
  • Pitch in: If you have the means, you might even consider offering to help with the cost of camp. We’ve done this a couple of times, and even offering just a little bit of help shows how much we value camp and want their kid to experience it too.
  • Consider day camp: One year, in addition to sending our kids to the Towers, we also sent them to Castle Rock day camp for a week. Because the cost of day camp is lower, we were able to invite more friends and help them with the cost. Once our friends had experienced a bit of the Pine Cove awesomeness, they really wanted to do overnight camp the next year. They were totally up for the process of applying for a scholarship and setting aside some money for camp. In addition to Castle Rock day camp in Tyler, Pine Cove partners with churches all over the country to put on Camp in the City day camps. A benefit of inviting your friends to one of these is that it might help them get plugged into a local church as well.

Tell us what you think

Have you invited friends to camp? Did you come to camp because someone invited you? Tell us your story in the comments below.