“Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on” – Lyrics from Lean On Me by Bill Withers
One of my dear friendships started with a simple invitation. When my friend moved to the area, she simply and straight forwardly said to me, “I need a friend. You seem nice. Do you want to be friends?” From there we met for tea and walks, exchanged books, and got to know each other. I appreciate Shawn’s friendship. I also appreciate her continued willingness to be vulnerable about her life and her needs, as well as her concern for me. Her openness has made it easier for me to share more deeply about my life. The more we spend time together and open ourselves up to each other, the richer our friendship becomes. I’m thankful for her kind and brave invitation.
Friendships enrich our lives. True friends celebrate with us, support us through tough times, and can also be a positive influence in making healthy changes. Relationships take time to develop and require trust to grow.
Have you ever thought about how you learned to be a good friend; or where, in today’s digital culture, children and youth get to focus on their social skills? There are things that we do at camp to help children and youth in these areas:
“Get to know you games” on the first day of camp, team building activities on the challenge course, small group discussions, and conversations at meals all help foster connection and relationships. Counselors take their role in facilitating friendships and positive experiences seriously. A 2014 study conducted by the American Camp Association surveyed 176 campers (ages 6-15) from six different residential camping programs, along with their parents, to better identify the specific impact camp has in developing social skills and happiness. This study found that camp increased campers’ social ability in practicing skills like “getting to know people I might like to become friends with”, “trusting my friends”, “understanding my friends feelings”, or “being trusted by my friends” while there was no improvement or change in skills like “getting dressed by myself” or “spelling words accurately”.
Camp provides a safe place to develop friendships and practice social skills. As a Christian camp, our commitment to helping campers develop friendship has an impact beyond camper’s social lives. It facilitates their spiritual growth as they experience what it means to be a part of a Christian community. Such communities provide accountability, resources, and a safe place to deepen their faith.
Christ’s presence is tangible when we participate in Christian community. Through our ministry at Suttle Lake, we learn how to trust others and be trustworthy. Because of these blessings, we also learn what it means to trust God.