As a pastor in student ministries, camps and mission trips comprise part of my yearly calendar. I love these opportunities, and in any given year, some of my favorite memories come from these concentrated times away.
But as fun and helpful as these trips are, I find they can be a source of confusion and even consternation. Let me explain.
People tend to approach these trips in one of two ways. They either believe there’s something extra magical about these trips, or they are skeptical of these trips and worry about the “camp high” they seem to produce.
I think both perspectives err.
Magical Mission Trips
Church trips rock. Don’t get me wrong. But we must be careful to avoid assigning so much significance to these trips and retreats that we overlook God’s presence in everyday life. I see students get so excited about trips to exotic countries and large cities in the United States, but they forget God can work just as wonderfully and powerfully in their local schools. God is as much at work in Tennessee as He is in Timbuktu. We must anticipate His presence as much at home as we do abroad.
Now, that being said, we must not be too skeptical of trips and retreats either.
If some people are overly romantic about trips, others are overly skeptical. Many church folks have seen the effect (or lack of effect) of the notorious “camp high.” A “camp high” is when someone gets so caught up in the emotion and excitement of a religious trip that he gets saved again or recommits his life or swears off a certain sin, but as soon as camp ends, so does his commitment. Thus, the “camp high” is thought of as a kind of spiritual mirage, an illusion.
But not all “camp highs” are false. I am convinced that when someone removes distractions and heads to a camp or mission trip, when someone commits to daily devotions, when someone takes spiritual, God-honoring risks, when someone surrounds himself with other believers (notice these are all things that happen on trips), what that person finds is the joy of Kingdom living. For many people, that “high” they feel isn’t a mirage; it’s real. It’s simply the fruit of concentrated, consistent Christian living, albeit only for a few days.
So how do we navigate these two perspectives? I think it’s simple. Expect more.
Regardless of which perspective you hold, the solution is to expect more. If you are enamored with trips. Good. But expect more from your daily walk with the Lord. The same opportunities you anticipate and relish on trips are available to you daily. Look for those opportunities at home, at school, at work.
If you are a trip skeptic, expect more. Trips aren’t all fluff. They are concentrated times of spiritual discipline and gospel-centered, Kingdom living. They are not always mere emotion. It is reasonable for you to expect God to meet you as you faithfully follow Him on a trip.
So may God bless your next trip with all that is good and glorious and real.