Have you ever had one of those weekends that you have said, “That’s just about the best time I’ve ever had in my life?” It could have been a time during a honeymoon, a vacation, or possibly a weekend around the house without outside responsibilities. Well, on one particular weekend this summer, I can definitely say, “That’s just about the best time I’ve ever had in my life!”
My husband Ben and I strongly feel that grandparents are an integral ingredient in helping to pass on the faith to grandchildren. We feel that grandparents are often the key, the generation connector, the tool that can aid the parents and the Holy Spirit in passing on the faith. With this conviction, we decided to have a camp for our grandchildren this summer. We called it Camp GBJ (Grandpa/Grandma Ben and Jennifer).
Prior to becoming a professor and Director of the Concordia Center of the Family Life, my husband, Ben, was a Director of Christian Education and Director of Family Ministry where he designed, created, and carried out fantastically fun camps every summer for children in the parish. We chose one of his themes, and decided we’d conduct a camp for our own children’s children this year, called “Jesus is the Light.”
We wrote our purpose, goals, ordered embroidered t-shirts and caps, and set our camp up. We were even able to obtain a Thrivent Action Team grant to help us defray the cost of supplies. There were rules, responsibilities, awards, and loads of fun and laughter. We had devotions, sang, and did activities around the theme at each meal, conducted a servant event, read the lessons in church on Sunday and helped with a children’s message. We did so many fun activities that the grandchildren asked if we could please do this again next year!
Over the weekend, we stayed up late every night and woke up early every morning. Our night activities included sharing Jesus as the light that exposes darkness and our sins. We hunted “sins” that were hidden all over the house and used our UV light pens to read what they were because they were written in invisible ink. We each wrote out and confessed our sins, then burned them in the bar-b-que pit. We went on a night bike ride with glow in the dark necklaces, spoke lights, and strobe lights on the bikes and lights attached to our caps. We played soccer with a light-up LED soccer ball, Christmas tree lights that outlined a field and wrapped around cones as goals (the light shows us the way). We made cross necklaces with glow-in-the-dark beads (and gave packets of necklaces out at the children’s message for them to make their own.)
We had lots of snacks and all meals were designed using their suggestions. We played games that had us rolling with laughter. We turned in cans and, with the proceeds, bought many boxes of cereal for children who go hungry in the summer. We spent a number of hours at an indoor waterpark. Throughout it all, we did activities that reminded us that Jesus, the Light, is our guide, takes away darkness and exposes our sins, and that we were to be light reflectors.
At the close of camp, their parents viewed a video from the “go pro” camera that the grandchildren took throughout the event (even at night and underwater) that recapped our experiences. Each child received a specific award for something that “fit” their personality while at camp.
It was a weekend of extreme laughter, jokes, excitement, creativity, and best of all, getting to share our faith in Jesus, the Light of the World, with our grandchildren!
In the next months, we will write up all the devotions and activities, where we bought all the supplies, how we obtained the grant, and post it on our website, concordiacenterforthefamily.org, so other grandparents can duplicate the event and make it their own. We really think that grandparents can be wonderful “faith shapers!” Next year’s theme for camp: How about … “Jesus is the Salt of the Earth?”
Please leave a comment on ways you are incorporating Grandparent’s Day (September 13, 2015) in your family, congregation, or school.