Written by Bill and Ann Parkinson, Legacy Pastors Division
As our four children married and their families began to grow, Ann and I asked ourselves the question – How can we develop “forever” relationships with our next generation? How can we wed fun and faith together in a way that connects our grandkids to God, us, and one another?
We recognized the challenges: our age gap, long-distance relationships, and the six grandkids varying levels of spiritual interest.
Then Ann remembered an article about a couple who planned a yearly gathering with their grandchildren called Cousins Camp. In that moment, Cousins Camp was born in the Parkinson family.
For 10 years it has been a time to build relationships, develop faith, have fun together, and create memories for a lifetime. Additionally, it ministers to the parents by giving some time to renew their relationship with their only responsibility is to pray for you and their children. Thereby Cousins Camp ends up blessing two generations!
The key to Cousins Camp, to our relational bonding and spiritual influence in their lives, is the word “intentional”. We use our complimentary gifts of organization and spontaneity to bring this time to life. As we write this, we pray some of the components we share will encourage you to consider spending some extended time with your grandkids.
Ask yourself, as one couple did, “What is my vision for Cousins Camp? What do I hope the results will be? Our answer to those questions is the desire for our grandkids to develop a personal relationship with Christ, develop friendships with us and each other, and continue to love one another long after we are with the Lord.
It is a vision the Lord gives us in Ps.78:5-6: “He established a testimony in Jacob… which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God.” We see our desire becoming a reality, as one of the grandkids recently said, ”For my birthday, I want to have a party with all my cousins!”
Every year the grandkids ask, months ahead of time, “What is the Cousins Camp theme this year?” They anticipate it like Christmas morning, excited to unwrap our time together. Each year, we create an age-appropriate focus, combining a spiritual theme with fun activities and a little competition. For example:
- Cousins “Cowboy” Camp (ages 4 – 9) – that correlated the Ephesians 6 “Armor of God” with a cowboys outfit, from his hat down to his boots. The activities included a rodeo (where they received their first piece of armor – a cowboy hat), visiting with a real cowboy and riding his pony, and a fishing contest. (Picture)
- Hunger Games (ages 11 – 16) – with a focus on youth dystopia and how the grandkids could help create a spiritual counter culture with the Beatitudes (Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness). The activities included Water Balloon Catapults, Laser Tag, and a Cornucopia Battle.
The grandchildren look forward to forming teams for competition. They create a team name along with a posterboard using art to represent each group. There are T-Shirts that depict the theme each year, which they begin designing themselves as they get older.
Some of their favorite memories are of them working together to serve others. One year, we helped landscape a paraplegic’s trailer home. As we finished, he shared his testimony about God’s grace in his life including the more than 20 mission trips he had been able to take to serve others.
As the grandchildren grew older (ages 14 – 19), we decided to take them on a road trip. They loved traveling to northern Kentucky to visit Noah’s Ark and the Creation Museum. The car drive up and back was filled with sharing our spiritual journeys with them and preparing them for what they were about to see.
JUST FOR FUN!
Since they are children, having fun is always a big part of our time together. Whether it is making videos, putting on silly plays, or having a Barbarian Feast, where you can only eat a messy dinner with your hands followed by a food fight (outdoors, of course), we always make time for FUN!
While Cousins Camp creates relationships, faith, fun, and memories, one of the greatest benefits of it is the future payoff. It is a door to your relationship with them as adults. Because we have become friends over the last decade, we are now enjoying “movie nights”, dinners, fishing, football games, and Bible studies. We now have the opportunity to discuss marriage, social justice, and spiritual gifts. As one of our grandkids said to Ann last week, “Grandma, your spiritual gift is mentoring. You love to show us how the Scriptures apply to our lives every day.” We now have a voice in their lives during these big decision years because of Cousins Camp and what was forged in their formative years.
God wants to use you powerfully in your grandchildren’s lives. While we hope this has whetted your appetite, we want to recommend a book for you that is available through Legacy Coalition. It is written by a friend of ours, Susan Alexander Yates, and is titled Cousin Camp. It not only has great ideas for how to plan a time like this for your grandkids, but also a Family Camp and Family Reunions.
Whether you develop your own cousin camp or not, we challenge you to take creative steps towards connecting with your grandkids. Don’t put it off – they are growing up so fast!