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The Great Outdoors

Laycie Costigan

Take your kids on a camping adventure this summer with these 8 great ideas adapted for your classroom.

Late-night mess hall raids, cabin wars, zip lines, campfires, climbing walls, sleeping under the stars, and not showering for a week -- anyone who's experienced summer camp knows how great it is. Summer camp experiences are, after all, the stuff of legends for kids. Your kids look forward to summer camp all year long because they're surrounded by excitement, adventure, and tangible lessons about God. And camp counselors enhance their experience by teaching as Jesus did, using modern-day parables that embrace the landscape and camp experiences.

Throw on your hiking gear and an adventurous mind-set; these ideas will bring the fun of summer camp home to your ministry -- minus the personal hygiene issues and the bug spray.


The Path

This experience helps kids understand how difficult life can be without God.

Best for: Ages 6 to 12

Gear: A large indoor or outdoor area; blindfolds; and various obstacle course items such as chairs, boxes, or tables

Scripture Compass: Psalm 121

Camp Challenge: Create an obstacle course using large objects to form various twists, turns, and challenges. Read aloud the Scripture. Then have kids form pairs, with one partner wearing a blindfold. Instruct the other partner to help the blindfolded partner through the obstacle course using only simple, nonverbal cues, such as tapping on the person's left shoulder to signal a left turn or tapping on his or her knees to signal crawling. (Kids can't simply physically lead one another through the course). Once through the course, have partners switch roles. Then reconfigure the obstacle course and play again.

Buddy Up: Have kids form pairs to discuss the experience. Ask: What was it like for you to go through the obstacle course? Read aloud the Scripture again. Ask: What does this Scripture tell us about God? Find something in this passage that helps explain walking through the maze blindfolded. What's a past or present "maze" in your life? How has God helped you find your way in a difficult situation?

Close in prayer, asking God to help kids see more clearly and rely on him in difficult situations.


Shine Like Stars

A look at the night sky reminds kids what it means to follow Jesus.

Best for: Ages 6 to 12

Gear: A plastic glow-in-the-dark star (available at craft stores) and a downloadable constellation sheet for each child (available at childrensministry.com)

Scripture Compass: Matthew 5:14-16

Camp Challenge: Give each child a copy of the constellation sheet. Have kids stare at the large dot in the center for 30 seconds. Then have them close their eyes and tilt their heads back. Ask kids to describe what they see. With their eyes still closed, say: When we look at an amazing nighttime sky, we don't say, "Wow! Look at that big, black nothingness! That's incredible; just look at all that darkness!" No, our eyes are drawn to the stars, to the points of light set apart from darkness.

Have kids open their eyes. Ask: Why do you think God made stars? Read aloud the Scripture. Say: As followers of Jesus, we're supposed to shine so that others see his light through us. What do you think it means to shine out for others to see? Why do you think it's important to God that we shine? What does this Scripture tells us about what God wants?

Buddy Up: Tell kids God put a picture in the sky of what we're supposed to be like as followers of Jesus-a brilliant light in the darkness that draws everyone's attention toward God. Then give kids a glow-in-the-dark star as a reminder to shine every day for Jesus.


Sin Stones

Kids experience how the guilt of sin is wiped away with God's forgiveness.

Best for: Ages 9 to 12

Gear: A medium-size bead and a 6-inch piece of yarn for each child

Scripture Compass: Psalm 32:1-5

Camp Challenge: At the beginning of class, give kids each a bead to place inside one of their shoes. Have kids think of a sin they've committed within the past week, such as fighting with parents, stealing, lying, or gossiping. The bead represents that sin. Have kids keep the bead in their shoe for the duration of class, and encourage activities where they have to get up and move around so they'll constantly feel the discomfort of the bead. Toward the end of class, let kids remove the beads from their shoes.

Buddy Up: Ask: How do you feel when you sin? How are these feelings like the bead in your shoe? Read aloud the Scripture. What does this passage tell us about confessing our sins to God? How was taking out the bead like or unlike receiving God's forgiveness?

Have kids attach their beads with yarn onto their shoes as a reminder of God's forgiveness. Close with silent prayer, giving kids the opportunity to ask God for forgiveness.

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