The appeal of sending a troubled son or daughter to a Christian boot camp is obvious. Religious and people who are not religious tend to associate the Christian faith with proper behavior. So if the time comes that you must find a boot camp setting to help a troubled teenager turn his or her life around, it seems like a Christian setting has some advantages.
But its good to think twice about whether a Christian boot camp is the right choice. This is not a decision you will make often. If you send your troubled teenager to a boot camp environment, it is unlikely that you will do it again in the future. If the boot camp does it’s job, you should not need another try at it.
Is This A Good Idea for Non Christian Kids?
Christian boot camps for teens may not be the best idea if you are not already active in church life or if your family is not religious. By design, a Christian boot camp combines the normal boot camp experiences of plenty of structure and physical challenge with religious and spiritual discussions and encounters to try to help troubled Christian kids reach a new level of spiritual depth as they go through a life changing boot camp experience as well. Those sessions will be conducted using the full range of Christian history and culture which may be confusing to a young person who has not been raised in the church.
Any boot camp experience creates an intense experience of reorientation for troubled youth who are simultaneously coping with their inner issues and trying to deal with the tremendous stress the boot camp experience. Adding in an entirely new religious language to deal with along with learning how to interact with troubled Christian kids is more than should be thrown at a teenager who doesn’t have the background.
The addition of the religious and spiritual training to a tough boot camp experience has the potential for fostering resentment and anger toward the church and toward God. That resentment only complicates the process of helping a teenager who is in trouble turn around his or her life. And that is the goal of a boot camp experience in the first place.
Life in a Christian Boot Camp
For some people, the need for a Christian boot camp seems to not make sense. On the surface, Christian kids would not become problem teenagers and need the kinds of interventions that secular teenagers might require. One would think that a Christian youth would be raised to live free of drugs and the influences of youth culture that could cause religious youth to become “troubled.”
But in reality, Christian youth are still teenagers and they are just as susceptible to trouble at home, the temptations of culture and to become rebellious and defiant to parents. If the problem gets out of hand, a Christian kid can run afoul of the law and go down a dangerous path toward disaster. That is when a Christian boot camp is a good way to guide that youngster back to the teachings of the church and to the straight and right path.
Of course, youth who are raised in the Christian culture are often quite used to going to camps in the summer or retreats with their youth groups that have a spiritual emphasis. Going to a Christian boot camp will be a totally new experience in that the physical challenges and the ability of authority figures to enforce strict discipline will be much more rigorous. Unlike a Christian retreat, boot camp drill sergeants and other leadership figures are given the authority by parents or guardians of the youth who are enrolled to use whatever discipline is necessary to assure obedience and compliance by the youth enrolled in the camp.
There is no packing up and leaving in a boot camp setting. There is no saying, “No. I would rather not” in a Christian boot camp. From the moment your teenager wakes up until his or her head hits the pillow that night, the teenager’s schedule is full and none of the activities are optional. The physical demands will be rigorous and difficult and the discipline will be strict and sometimes harsh. Discipline is enforced by punishment because just as in a secular boot camp, the idea is to impose a new level of respect and to “break” troubled kids to open them up to training and teaching about how to turn their lives around.
In addition to that dominant layer of discipline and challenge, Christian boot camps also provide psychological counseling, group therapy sessions and religious training as well. When the day is done, a common shared experience is a worship service where the Chaplin of the camp uses the Bible to reinforce the dramatic lessons the youth are learning during the day. As the teenagers study religious writings, worship and pray with the same drill instructors that made them miserable during the day, they will begin to understand the relationship between authority and love and discipline and spiritual growth.
This transformation will not happen overnight. But as the attendees at a Christian boot camp begin to get used to a regimented lifestyle and they begin to realize the rewards of living in compliance with the system, those skills will serve them well when they leave the Christian boot camp and rejoin society. In addition, troubled youth will leave the camp with new friendships and strong bonds with fellow campers and their counselors as well.
Those will be relationships they will treasure for years. When parents receive home teenagers that have changed physically, mentally and spiritually, they will be amazed at what a relatively short time in a Christian boot camp can do. Religious boot camps are not for everybody. But if a Christian boot camp can bring about a change of life and heart and a spiritual revival at the same time, it will have been a great experience for the youth and for their family when they return home as well.
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