Camp Agape California Outcomes

Spiritual Outcomes of a Faith-Based Camp Program for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Submission to Journal of the Christian Society for Kinesiology, Leisure and Sports Studies...

Higlights from the study below... (Download the study)

  • Nearly all of camp attendees (96%) reported confessing salvation by accepting Jesus as their Savior during their time at camp.
  • The vast majority of camp attendees selected a response of “true” when responding to the statements that attending Camp Agape has have helped them to “feel closer to God” (91%), “forgive others” (85%), “know that God forgives” them (93%), and “know that God loves” them (96%).
  • About 88% of attendees selected a response of “true” when responding to the statement that after camp, they “plan to keep talking to and listening to God”.
  • Over half (63%) selected a response of “true” when responding to the statement that after camp, they “plan to continue with their daily devotion” activities of Bible reading and journaling as practiced at camp.

Given the positive spiritual outcomes of this study, Camp Agape California could serve as a model for faith-based camping programs for children of incarcerated parents. The program's emphasis on creating a family-type environment focused on building relationships with the volunteers and their peers, while introducing the biblical themes of trust, hope, love and forgiveness, appears to be valuable to this population. Children of incarcerated parents have experienced a significant disruption in their relationship with their parents. Creating a safe, familial environment for this population to learn principles that support healing and resilience is beneficial. It is important that these children leave camp with the spiritual resources necessary to continue in the healing process and ultimately, support positive long-term outcomes. The results of this study suggests that CAC should continue with this approach and that other camps should explore the use of similar camp practices to support this population.

This study highlights the spiritual benefits of faith-based camping programs for children of incarcerated parents. Given the relationship between spiritual development and resilience, these programs offer spiritual resources that could potentially support positive long-term outcomes for this vulnerable population. Camps seeking to benefit this population should consider following the program elements of CAC to support spiritual development.

2019 Camp Stats

  • 164 Overnight Angel Campers (216 Reservations were completed online, 52 did not attend)
  • Angels (Campers) ranged in age from 7 to 17
  • Approximately 97% of the Angels made a 1st time commitment/rededicated their lives to the Lord.
  • 100 Mentors (Males and Females representing over 86 different churches from OC, LA & the IE)
  • 155 Additional volunteers (Prayer Tent, Hospitality, Worship Team, Logistics, Activities at camp)
  • Departure & Arrival from Southlands Church, Brea on Lux Buses - Luxury buses
  • 10 baptisms post camp, held in August 2019 (1) mom of the children and attending Southlands Brea regularly
  • Approximately 100 children signed up for the 2019-2020 Junior Mentorship Academy, a discipleship program in leadership and spiritual growth

One of Camp Agape California's goals is to incorporate biblical truths, spiritual growth and character development into each of the Camp's daily themes (love, truth, forgiveness, hope and prayer). Every morning we had mentored the Angels (Campers) through a SOAP exercise. SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. We wanted to use this devotional exercise to teach the Angels how to study the Bible on their own at camp and prepare them to do the same when they went home. The scriptures selected supported the day's theme and each Angel was given a Bible, journal and pens.

Our evening services reinforced the daily themes through worship, skits, testimonies, videos and speakers. It was amazing to see the Angels respond. You could see God tearing down walls of hurt, pain, sadness, and anger and replacing it with love, acceptance, joy and peace. Every evening following each service was Cabin Time. This was a powerful time for the Angels and their Mentors to process what they learned that day and discuss out how it applies to their lives each day. Many Angels wrestled with issues that resulted from traumatic experiences in their lives at such a young age, Angels confessing unforgiveness.

This year at camp it snowed; it was the 1st snowfall in 20 years at Camp Cedar Crest. It was a beautiful surprise and a first time experience for many of the children and volunteers. Our leaders and volunteers prepared and adjusted the schedule for the weather change and made camp activities happen. All of our activities tie into the daily theme and are designed for maximum fun and smiles. We scheduled a rotation of six fun activities (3 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday) for the Angels to participate in. They were as follows:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Archery
  • Human foosball/Basketball and Volleyball
  • Hip Hop Dancing (Christian Music)
  • Team & Trust building
  • Swimming

A team from Cal Baptist University (CBU) of the Social work program joined in with trauma training for the Mentors and Volunteers. CBU also created a 10 question survey with emojis for the Angels to complete on the last day of camp on the bus ride home.

Upon return from Camp, we sent out a Camp Survey to all of the Parents/Guardians. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive.