Making the most of a church weekend away

  • David Phillips
  • 18 April 2016


The church weekend away: you’re in an unfamiliar environment, missing the comforts of home, and hanging out with people you generally only see for short stretches of time once—or maybe twice—per week. It sounds like too much hard work! But every now and then, it’s worth giving up some creature comforts in order to build up the church community.

Modern life has compressed church meetings to a couple of hours per week with, perhaps, an extra meeting for Bible study at some other time. This is a big contrast to the early church: in Acts 2, the early Christians were meeting together daily, eating and worshipping. Heaven will be a bit like this: the emphasis is on the gathering, not on individuals (Rev 7:9-10).

Going away for the weekend with a group of Christians provides a different sort of gathering to that of church, with different opportunities for ministry. During a standard church meeting, you worship together (hear a bible talk, sing some songs and pray together), and then you have a short period of time in which you might have a brief conversation with one or two people, and perhaps meet a new person. If you’re particularly gifted at hospitality, you might end up having lunch (or dinner) with someone after the service. But the scope of community is limited. However, on a church camp, you have far more opportunities for worship, for conversation and to share meals. If you want to make the most of these opportunities, it’s best to go about it mindfully.

Different people respond to the challenges of a church weekend away in different ways. Some seek extra opportunities to serve the people around them, avoiding conversations with others where possible along the way. Others seek their own comfort without thinking about anyone else. Neither approach is necessarily a godly one.

Here are some things to consider when thinking about how to make the most of your church camp:

  • When will you do your personal Bible reading? How could you encourage other people (who wouldn’t normally try) to engage in personal Bible reading themselves? (It helps if there is dedicated time for this in the program.)
  • Who at church have you never spoken to? Have a look through your church directory, pick some people and organize a time to have a meal with them over the course of the weekend.
  • Are you assigned to a particular small group for the weekend? Find out who is in your group ahead of time so that you know who they are and how you can best serve them.
  • Where do people gather during the camp and what opportunities could you create for conversation? Maybe you could bring some kind of food or drink to share (being mindful of allergies, of course).
  • How much rest will you need during the weekend? How will this affect when you go to bed and when you get up? This may mean encouraging people to turn in for the night, but it may also mean being prepared to sacrifice some sleep for a long, in-depth conversation.
  • Keep an eye out for people who might be feeling left out and look for ways to include them.
  • Remember that not everyone thrives on prolonged conversations with people. Give them space if needed. Camp organizers can facilitate this by providing quiet areas where people can be together, but not engaging one another. Perhaps this sort of thing could form one of the free time activities.

Organizing a church weekend away is a lot of work. Here are some tips on how to assist the people putting the camp together:

  • Block out the camp dates in your diary as soon as they’re announced. Register as soon as registrations are open and pay promptly in full.
  • Volunteer to help out as early as possible. Volunteer with specific ideas for what you can do. Be prepared: if you’re looking to be involved in the children’s ministry, you will need to comply with child protection guidelines for your denomination (e.g. you may need to undergo a background check).
  • Look for opportunities to encourage the people who are running the camp and its activities. It can be a long, thankless task.
  • Think about who you can travel up and back with: some of the best conversations you will have often happen during travel.
  • Arrange to have some free time after camp so that you can stay back and help with pack-up and transport. Or enjoy some recovery time before normal life starts up again. You might feel sad about the transition back to post-camp life (even if you didn’t particularly enjoy the camp), so it might be helpful to catch up with a friend who wasn’t away on the weekend with you.

There are too few chances to spend extended slabs of time with your church family, building community and sharing life. Just a bit of extra preparation can make a big difference to your experience of a church weekend away and help you make the most of the opportunities you have.