"The Zone” is the millennial atmosphere that the dedicated staff create each summer and winter in the United Youth Camps program. In applying God’s way of life in such an intense, determined way, it’s almost inevitable that glimpse of God’s coming Kingdom is created.
Fundamental to each camp is a supportive structure: administration and staff working together in unity and harmony. Support is a characteristic that is essential to the creation of the Zone, and it’s the purpose of this article to examine this fourth element of the Zone.
Support Creates a “Safe” Environment
Sadly we live in a world that is in all too many cases unsafe. Teens today are faced with bullying and other threats at school, in their neighborhoods and even online. The camp program seeks to provide a supportive atmosphere so that campers feel safe with the staff and with their peers. Instead of being on the lookout for threats, teens can relax and focus on more positive aspects of life. To feel safe is a blessing from God and is a product of His way of life. The prophet Ezekiel addresses the safe environment of the world to come, “And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:28-29 Ezekiel 34:28-29  And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.
 And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.
American King James Version×). While we look forward to what Ezekiel describes being a reality encompassing the entire earth, camp offers all in attendance the opportunity to be in a safe and supportive environment that week.
Support Builds Relationships
Campers who have come to camp year after year already know they are entering a positive atmosphere. They have experienced it firsthand.
However, not all campers arrive fully expecting such a safe environment. Some campers are wary and unsure of what is going to take place. Why? Because of the harsh conditions at home and school, they do not normally live in an environment that is safe and supportive. They have a “wait and see” attitude concerning what is going to take place at camp.
For example, some campers arrive with clothing and attitudes that do not meet with camp standards. As a camp director, you can see that these kids face challenges that have caused them to react by having something to prove to their peers. The challenge is that their behavior and attitudes can disrupt the entire camp if allowed to continue through the week ahead. However, in most cases, those who are uncertain about what is going to unfold at camp find a positive, supportive environment created by the staff. In a short period of time, they come to see that the staff is genuine in their concern and desire for them to have a memorable week. They find they are welcomed and valued as members of the camp community.
Over time this supportive approach opens the way for open communication and the building of positive relationships with other teens, and most importantly with our God, who is central to the program.
Support Teaches How to Respond to Another’s Needs
By being in a supportive atmosphere, teens can begin getting their minds off of themselves and begin to take on an outgoing concern toward others. Seeing the impact in their lives of a staff who has taken an interest in them, been patient with them, and encouraged them, it sets an example that can be followed. They can begin to support and encourage those campers who are still struggling to move in a more positive direction.
By being less focused upon themselves, they can listen to and observe what a struggling member of the dorm is going through. They cannot resolve all problems but they can express empathy and compassion toward those who are having a hard time at camp or in life in general.
In trying to build up others, it is sometimes trying. Not everyone responds immediately to people caring about them. It’s easy to be hardened in a wrong mindset or attitude. But once a camper comes to realize the impact of a supportive atmosphere on them, they can persist in seeking to help those in need. They may be rebuffed in their efforts, but by being patient with others it helps them to have a positive impact, building up another camper.
This result is achieved because a committed camp staff has put into practice an approach that is supportive. Jesus Christ set the perfect example of compassion and empathy toward those who were suffering in various ways (Matthew 14:14 Matthew 14:14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
American King James Version×). The apostle Peter speaks of an approach that responds to the needs of others: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9 1 Peter 3:8-9  Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
American King James Version×).
Campers, in essence, join the staff in being supportive to their fellow campers. They become a productive part of the Zone.
Support is essential because it not only helps to create the Zone at camp, but campers and staff take this attitude of care and support home with them, thus it spreads to others as well. As members of God’s Family, we would all do well to carefully maintain this support with all of God’s people throughout the year. Especially as campers return from camp and are energized by their experiences in the Zone, let’s all focus on supporting them and each other as an example to everyone.
• teaches how to respond to another’s needs
• creates a “safe” environment
• builds good listening skills
• builds empathy and compassion
• builds patience
• takes time and communication, thus building relationships
To learn more about the elements of the Zone please click on the following links: