Michael Staires: Hello, my name is Michael Staires. I’m director of one of the great Tulsa camps, Camp Loughridge, in south Tulsa on West 71st Street. I’m here to talk to you today about, what is it about a camp experience? Why should I send my kid to camp? What is it about camp that makes it such a great place for kids to learn more about the Lord?

There’s a lot of great Tulsa camps, but I want to talk to you specifically about why Camp Loughridge is on that list of where you should send your kids during the summer. I believe that God loves to communicate with his kids in very unique and different ways. If you’ll look in scripture, one of the ways that God really wraps his arms around his kids is to send them to the wilderness. It happens time and time again when God wants to get something across to his kids, he sends them away to the country.

You might not think that you could get too much country on West 71st Street, but you’d be surprised. Camp Loughridge is a beautiful spot up on the hill. Like I said, there’s a lot of great Tulsa camps, but Camp Loughridge is, in my opinion, the best solution, especially for Christian parents that are interested and concerned about the spiritual formation of their children. What is it that happens at camp that may not happen at other places?

Camp is a magical place. You take a look at a lot of statistics and you interview any group of people in full-time ministry, like missionaries, or pastors, or Christian school teachers, you ask them, “Where did they make their decision for full-time ministry?” Time, and time, and time again, they will say that it happened at camp, it happened at a camp experience. I think that Camp Loughridge provides a place like that that you can trust to send your kids for an experience with the Lord. It’s much more than just day care. Day care does a great job of babysitting, of taking kids and maybe filling the day with activities, and keeping kids having fun, and energetic, and off the couch, and out from in front of the TV. All of that is good.

What Camp Loughridge will do is interweave a message of love, and of hope, and of the Lord’s love and hope throughout their day. We pair kids with caring college age and high school age counselors. These kids are doing a lot more than just spending their summer like just a summer job. They had their choice of a lot of different Tulsa camps to work at but they chose to work at Camp Loughridge because of the things that we believe in and because of the way that we wanted to do camp with them.

We happen to believe that the spiritual part of camp isn’t a segmented part of the day, like a special chapel service. Obviously, we are going to do that with kids at least a couple of times a day. What makes Camp Loughridge maybe different from other Tulsa camps is the fact that at Camp Loughridge, we believe that God doesn’t segment himself into just a certain part of the day like a chapel service. Everything that we do at camp is sacred. Everything we do at camp points to the Lord. Everything we do at camp awakens that spiritual side of a kid and really encourages them on their journey of discovery to their own spirituality.

Whether a kid is in the pool or whether they’re doing arts and crafts or whether they’re on a hike or going down the zip line, not only do we believe that God by his mercy and grace is whispering to them all day long, they’re also with a staff person who understands that and will be there to ask the right questions at the right time. To be there to be able to capitalize on teachable moments when the questions bubble up inside a young person, and someone’s wondering why did this happen, or why is that happening, or what is it about this? The counselor and the specialist, ropes core specialist or nature specialist is right there to talk with them and then to engage in them.

Our goal is to do much more than just fill time with activities, our goal is to open up opportunities for kids to learn. I don’t know, but I think that that’s different from other Tulsa camps. I think that our goal is to really drive that and create opportunities for God to work. We don’t jam every single minute of the day with activities just in an effort to try to keep kids busy and out of trouble, we try to create space for kids to actually think about their life and think about stuff going on maybe even in their family or in their world. We build times into the schedule every day where kids can create those moments within themselves, so that they can articulate the things that are going on in their heart. There’s a counselor there to talk about.

Let’s face it, I’m a parent, I have seven kids of my own, I know for a fact that there are things that my kids talk about to other adults and other people who serve as mentors in their life that, for whatever reason, they don’t talk to me about. I know when I can put my kids in front of another adult that will listen to them, like a teacher or a coach or a mentor, that is a good thing. I’m not insecure about that at all. I think that providing that as someone that my kids can talk to is a most excellent way of parenting, of recognizing the fact that we all learn from a lot of different sources and a lot of different people. As our kids get older, they will learn that there are other people that they can count on other than just their parents.

One of the things about Camp Loughridge is that we’re there to build relationships. I think that that’s another differentiator possibly between Camp Loughridge and other Tulsa camps. We are there to really build relationships. We’re doing much more than just monitoring activity and keeping kids from getting hurt. That is our top priority but we are also there to build relationships. We have things built into the schedule during the day that create spaces and places for counselors and kids to talk, and counselors and kids to play, and for them to work on a project together. To do these kinds of things together. We find that when we do that, God is quick to rush in and not only does the camper have a wonderful experience, the counselor does too. We’re told time and time again, as I’m sure you can imagine, that the counselor has just as beneficial an experience during the summer as those kids that come to camp.

Is camp worth the cost? It’s going to cost close to $250 or so to send your kid to Camp Loughridge for the week and that probably is going to be in the ballpark of about what you’d pay for almost any Tulsa camp but it’s worth it, because you’re pairing your child with a concerned and caring counselor. You’re doing a lot more than just paying for someone to fill time with your kids maybe while you’re at work. You are actually investing in the spiritual formation of your child.

I happen to believe, of course I’m a lifetime camp guy. I’ve grown up in camping, I’ve been doing this for probably about 30 years. I happen to believe that there is no stronger tool for a Christian parent or local church to use in the spiritual formation of their child than a camp experience because of what I said earlier. There’s something magical that happens when we get out and away to a quiet place and we learn how to hear the voice of the Lord. What a valuable lesson for a young person to learn what God’s voice actually sounds like.

When they get back in life and school starts up and soccer practice and piano lessons and all the other things that make our life so busy, we know what that still small voice sounds like because we recognize it from the times we spent in the quiet places like camp. That’s one of the things that makes Camp Loughridge so special, we’re mindful of that and we’re very comfortable with teaching those things.

You see, that’s what God’s voice sounds like. That’s God speaking to you. What’s he saying? We encourage and coach, and we nurture that relationship, and help nurture that relationship with the Lord. That’s the value of an experience at Camp Loughridge. That’s what Camp Loughridge’s

charter is all about.

For the length of its history coming up on a hundred years now in south Tulsa, of course, it started before Tulsa was that far south. Just think about it, for all these decades, Camp Loughridge has been committed to that ministry of introducing people to a loving God using creation to reveal His heart of love for them. That’s a powerful, powerful motivator and that’s something we’re very proud. We feel the weight of that heritage, that legacy, that all those who’ve gone before us have left us. That’s what our mandate has become, that we’re not just going to be a good place, a nice place to send kids in south Tulsa but we want to be a place that will influence lives, that will impact lives, and kids making decisions that will impact the rest of their life because of the relationship with the Lord that they built at camp. That’s what we’re there to do.