Let’s talk about Jesus camp

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Despite being home in the summer every year I sign the kids up for two summer camps run in our community. They are inexpensive at $15 and $72 per kid, per week and the kids love it because every year their friends all go. The catch? They are religious camps run out of local churches.

While Mr. Tucker is a die-hard atheist and I fall somewhere in the agnostic category we both think the camps are great. We were both raised in Christian environments but we don’t actually discuss religion with our kids. So in the summer they get a little bit of religious education that we get to turn into a discussion at the dinner table. Because these camps are designed for children, the parables and morality are easy to digest for them and allows them to discuss right and wrong in a simple manner for their ages.

In the same vein that we almost sent our kids to a daycare run in the Jewish Community Centre, we have no issue sending our kids to religious camps. There was no requirement for us to be Jewish to send our kids to daycare at the JCC just like there is no requirement for us to join the church in order to send our kids to camp there. In fact, the numbers for the camp are usually low so they welcome kids from the neighbourhood.

Since these churches are active in our community, I can also see the good work they do. For example, one of the schools nearby was desperate to put up a new play structure (not covered by the school board) but since their demographic included a lot of low-income families, I had reached out to the community to solicit donations on our neighbourhood facebook page. Almost immediately, the Youth Pastor from the church down the street contacted me privately and said, “We would like to help. How can we help?” I sent him to the organizers and the church made a donation to help the school.

As someone who is a huge believer in bettering ones community, churches have an active part to play in that work. Regardless of ones personal beliefs, learning to all live together respectfully is a real world life skill not often taught. In an age where we can purposely avoid people online who are different than we are, getting out and interacting with our neighbours teaches us patience and respect. So even though I don’t have any plans to introduce our children to full-time religion, I am glad they are learning about faith and meeting neighbours they otherwise may not interact with. I feel they will be better people because if it.

In the end, I had originally sent my kids to these camps because all their friends were going and the price was right for a little free time to myself. However, I have been lucky to meet new friends in the community and be able to discuss faith with my kids in an open and honest way. Given that I believe that the big morality issues are universal to all people of all faiths (or lack thereof) where the kids get it is of small importance to me. Having different experience outside their normal realm of life encourages them to see the world through different eyes. Whether they get that experience through travel or friends or faith doesn’t matter. What matters is that they keep an open mind and a respectful manner.