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The Importance of (Camp) Relationships in Apologetics

Campfire with Marshmallows: Photo 320356381 © Tatsiana Barysava |

[Originally published as Key to a successful Christian camp: Truth & Relationships]

One huge reason I think a thoroughly robust biblical worldview student summer camp is so important: godly relationships shape worldviews.

Gen Z is highly relational, and their worldview is influenced by their connections. Thus, a week at camp (or longer) gives students a focused opportunity to build relationships with Godly adults and peers that end up influencing their entire worldview and life.

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A student’s entire life can be changed in one week through the faithful proclamation of God’s Word and a demonstration of love in the body of Christ. Yes, one should base their worldview on the truth and God’s ultimate authority, not on what others think, however, we should not discount the effective ‘apologetic’ of Godly and loving relationships in the body of Christ. Paul demonstrated this in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Godly community is one of our greatest apologetics.

There are MANY great Christian camps out there that strike a balance of truth in love well, but many more Christian summer gatherings emphasize the ‘community’ part while downplaying the importance of giving students the meat of sound teaching. Thus, their programming becomes watered-down “Christian TED Talks” with high-energy games.

Why not have a camp that does both?

When only 4% of those in Gen Z that profess Christ have a biblical worldview, we can’t let pragmatism drive what we do, i.e. saying that “what kids want is more important to us than what they need.” Instead, our thinking should be to provide students with what they need biblically, whether that is what they say they want or not.

Sometimes unregenerate students or parents want less Bible and more fluff. Even believing students and parents may express a desire for less meat, but they need to be discipled in the priority of seeking the kingdom and God’s priorities above all (Matt. 6:33).

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Ultimately, pursuing what honors God will be what the believer wants, because God has implanted in him a new heart (Ezekiel 36), and he will want to grow in what God wants (Psalm 37:4)! Furthermore, why would a believer want less biblical truth in our chaotic age?

What grows a believer in Christ? By knowing and obeying the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17; 2 Tim 3:15–16).

(For more on this point, check out this article on “Gen Z & the Draw to Serious Faith” by Trevin Wax)

Yes, it’s good to have fun at camps! We have a BLAST at our camp! Kangaroo court, ropes course, paintballing, climbing wall, and more! This year we have included more free time and opportunities for students to sign up for team sports. Games can be an important ministry opportunity to get kids to open up, laugh, and trust others more!

However, games should just be icing on the cake, not the main attraction.

The church can’t merely offer a Christian-flavored social club and then act surprised when students disengage and “deconstruct” after a few years.

The church is the “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15), not the pillar of games and self-help Jesus talks.

The Engage camp is about both biblical truth and relationships. No one should pit those against each other. We have a blast together while we are focused on the truth of God’s Word.

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We are in a war for the next generation and can’t afford to play games with their souls. Build relationships through prayer, games, and conversations, and give them the truth of God’s Word!

We changed our ministry name from “Engage Apologetics’ to “Engage Truth” because I keep encountering the false assumption that apologetics is what some Christians do, but not all believers need to understand (contra 1 Peter 3:15). If we are truth people, according to 1 Cor 13:6–7 and 2 Cor. 10:3–5, then we are just being basic Christians. If we defend, clarify, and apply the total truth of God’s Word to all areas of life, we are just being consistent Christians. Plus, what Christian wants to honestly argue, “Oh, I’m not called to focus on truth. I’m just a feelings Christian”?

The World Understands the Importance of Shaping Hearts Through Relationships

Being close with ungodly friends and family is highly influential in shaping one’s worldview. This is not hard to recognize as many people become gay affirming or change their view on the Bible in large part due to their relationships with others.

Scripture affirms this principle:

  • “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Cor. 15:33
  • “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers…” Psalm 1:1
  • “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
  • “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24–25
  • “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26
  • “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
  • “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Caleb Harrelson

Written by Caleb Harrelson

Engage Apologetics was founded in the summer of 2018 and is led by Caleb and Kendra Harrelson. They were missionaries in Ukraine and served in full-time youth ministry for 6 years. Their involvement in ministry has given them firsthand experience with the vast number of questions that people have about Jesus, science, and the Bible, so they decided to devote themselves full-time to help believers understand why the Christian worldview is true and how they can fully engage their whole life to know God and make His Gospel known.

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