Families want to be closer. Even if your family is close it requires work and maintenance to keep it that way. It doesn't matter if you are a single parent or a stay at home parent it doesn't matter if they are your child or your grandchild or nephew, to have close relationships with your family an effort must be made. This is especially true now as it is easier than ever to be separate from one another. Due to traveling sports teams, competitive dance, and the ability to watch a TV show on seemingly any electronic device we have a need for intentional time together. That is why vacations, going to amusement parks, or any number of escapes from the daily routine are so good for families. That is also why Heartland Camp provides Family Camp.

Vacations with my family, like most people, were highlights of my childhood. We went to the beach to the mountains and to cities in between. I have great memories of seeing beautiful sights or visiting amazing museums. Looking back now it seems that for each memory of a museum or view, I have multiple stronger memories that have nothing to do with all the money my parents spent or the time they invested into planning. 

Research suggests that family camps — typically a residential multi-day camp experience designed for children and family members — can play a role in enhancing family functioning
— Agate & Covey, child and adolescent psychologists

I can remember going to Colorado Springs, going to the top of Pike's Peak and exploring the town. The funny thing is my favorite memory of that trip by far was running around the hotel with my sister giving chase. She was Bazooka Jane on a jet propelled horse, I was Buzz Lightyear, and I can proudly say I was never caught. I was in the presence of some of the most beautiful mountains in the U.S. but what ended up mattering was being with my family and doing something out of our routine.

This is exactly what Family Camp provides, an affordable escape from routine with the goal of relaxation, recharging, exploring the outdoors, spending time together, and growing as a family. Those who have participated in a Heartland Camp program know that there is something distinct about being at camp, equal parts restorative and exciting. I would like to tell one story from our Family Camp that really has touched my heart and shows why it is such a important ministry for us .

By escaping everyday distractions in their home environment, family members are better able to focus on and listen to each other, greatly improving their communication and interaction as a family
— Garst, Roggenbuck, & Williams, researchers in youth development and recreation

A couple years back there was a single mother who decided to come to Family Camp for the first time. She was a mother of a 4 year old boy and didn't know anyone going to Family Camp. She came for the weekend and almost never made it past the parking lot. Fears of being alone and judged for being a single mother and fears of having to try and sleep outside in a tent with a four year old almost made it so she didn't make it through the door. 

When she came to camp she found that she wasn't sleeping in tents or old cabins, but in an air conditioned lodge with her own room and private bathroom. She also found the other families to be more welcoming than she imagined. She was welcomed into a bigger family, one that could support her in the difficult task of being a parent. On Saturday, exhausted from the weekly routine of being a single mother along with keeping up with a 4 year old as he excitedly explored the camp, she was looking forward to a nap. Just then her son tells her how excited he is to play in the pool that afternoon, right in the middle of her possible nap time. Unsure of what to do she asked another family attending camp what they thought, they immediately offered to take her son swimming while she slept. She was able to nap while people that she had just met went out of their way to care for her son, what a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ is supposed to work.

60 percent indicated that the family camp experience reinforced good parenting. Furthermore, 85 percent of respondents indicated that they felt the experience reinforced positive family relationships.
— American Camping Association

She left that weekend feeling rejuvenated, closer to her son, and supported by the body of Christ. She has not missed a Family Camp since. This story is such a good example of why we believe this ministry to be so important. Through both structured activities and unplanned down time families have plenty of opportunities to focus on one another. Families and specifically parents leave camp rejuvenated from great facilities, meals that don't require any planning, preparation, or cleanup, and time in nature outside of the routine. Finally by going to camp with other families you can be a part of a supporting and encouraging group. This encounter with the body of Christ makes camp unique compared to other family escapes like vacations or amusement parks. Heartland is excited to offer this ministry to you and your family, however you choose to define it.