I recently came across some sobering and heartbreaking statistics you might have also seen.
They reveal that of kids who are raised in Christian homes, 60-70 percent say their faith no longer played a prominent role in their thinking and decision making after leaving home and into their young adult years. Those interviewed were in their 20’s and 30’s, many of whom are now raising their own young families.
This is remarkable. Barna Research Group and Lifeway Research, very credible research organizations, arrived at essentially the same conclusion:
The majority of today’s young adults (commonly known as “millennials” or “mosaics”) raised in Christian homes do not take those values with them when they get out on their own.
Of course, there is much to unpack to interpret these findings, but no matter how you look at it, this is a sharp and sobering departure from any previous generation of American Christians.
And to whatever extent it reflects reality, it is deeply saddening. What richness, what life, they and their children are missing! To know and experience the overwhelming power and love of God in their lives! This isn’t merely “data;” these are people—our loved ones.
Camp Solgohachia: A Christian Summer Camp in Arkansas that is changing the statistics
However, our experience on the mountain with those millennials, and the generation after them (known as generation Z—born since the mid-90s) has been very different—in fact, it has been quite the opposite.
Although there are many great Christian summer camps, we at Solgohachia
Summer Camp believe we have something very special.
We are partnering with families to inspire, equip and mentor Christ-followers in such a way that they embrace a vision of growing deep in God for a lifetime.
Since the early 90’s, thousands of young people have come here who are hungry to grow deep in God.
Just this past summer we had 900 campers come play and grow, as well as 100 high school and college students apply to work (some of the most demanding work I’ve seen young people do), to serve, to lead and to be discipled in following Christ.
Every new opportunity we give them to come to the mountain, they come.
Each year, we spend a week or weekend with well over 1,000 kids, students and adults in camps and retreats, playing, learning, worshiping and growing deep in God together.
We’re watching college students and post-graduates (former counselors) thrive in their walk with God.
What is it about Solgohachia Summer Camp that is bucking the statistics?
In addition to the fact that many of those who come to our mountain are in families that share these same values—the impact of which we cannot overstate—I believe it is our prayer-saturated Kingdom culture that offers a combination of things that come together to have big results in a small amount of time.
First, Solgohachia’s unique culture of mentorship offers every age exposure to, and therefore vision for, living for God through their next season of life, be it middle school, junior high, high school, college and adulthood. When you are surrounded by those just a little further down life’s road than you are, and see them loving God with all their heart, you never forget it. And you realize, “That’s what I want to be. I can do that too.” And for most people, kids especially, that experience over multiple years, creates an incredibly strong faith, especially if it is nurtured at home.
Second, our location inspires. We are on a mountaintop right in the middle of one of the most gorgeous areas of the state, tucked between the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges, overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. When people are removed from their normal routines and distractions, and get where they can focus, they are positioning themselves to hear and receive what God has for them. It’s something Jesus himself did. Getting away and getting UNPLUGGED is a big, big key to what happens here on the mountain.
Third, Solgohachia’s team of leaders and staff are intensively trained to do the work of the ministry. They are authentic Christ-followers, carefully chosen, deeply committed to our vision, full of enthusiasm, love kids and love God. No, they are not perfect, but they lean hard into excellence in all they do. Anyone who comes will say the best part of their experience on the mountain was the staff.
And finally, Solgohachia is a place where people can be free. You don’t have to pose. You don’t have to impress. You don’t have to worry about what others think. Encountering God brings freedom to be the person God made you to be. There’s no pressure to be anything you’re not. We hear it time after time when people are leaving our mountain, “I feel free.” That is a big, big deal.
And I speak from experience. Christian camping—and Jesus Christ—came into my life when I was a 12-year-old growing up in a non-Christian home. I have had decades to observe and experience the power of its impact in thousands and thousands of lives. Now in my fifties and having seen many ministry ideas come and go, camp remains one of the most transformational experiences I’ve witnessed.
The last seven years at Ozark Conference Center, affectionately known as Solgohachia, have continued to strengthen my conviction that the unique context that camp offers—a setting away from the usual distractions and routine, immersed mentorship with well-trained counselors, unplugged adventures (boy do we need that more than ever!), and the unconditional love of Christ—added to home values that support the same, helps create faith that does more than stick. It does more than expand. It reproduces.
Camp is powerful.
This year we’ve ministered to and served more kids, adults and families than ever before.
We’ve experienced seven straight years of growth, adding more weeks of summer camp, offering new programs throughout the year, and exploring more creative ways that we can come alongside kids, students, adults, parents and families, and together experience and encounter God in that unique way that camps and retreats offer.
More and more people of all ages are coming to our mountaintop, even as we are extending our reach beyond the mountain to partner with more families. Our board of directors has prayerfully responded to this growth with a bold, 10-year plan for ministry development. In addition to our current ministry offerings, that plan includes:
Doubling our campus and personnel capacity for ministry programs and rental groups.
Construction a new multi-purpose building for all-camp gatherings, dining, kitchen, meetings and lodging.
Supporting an “off-site” camp venue ministry team that will run off-site camp events.
Hosting a nine month “Gap Year” program for high school graduates, up to 40-50 students.
I hope you’re greatly encouraged that God is powerfully at work through this mountaintop ministry, bucking the statistics! And as you consider a summer Christian camp for your kids, we hope you’ll consider Camp Solgohachia!