Trend: Millennials Are Camping
The very first narrative in the Bible is that of Creation, of God speaking into order and existence the sky, seas, land, vegetation, animal life, and human beings. God declares it all “very good.”
Millennials appear to have discovered being outdoors is an enjoyable and affordable form of recreation, that the outdoors are indeed good. A recent study of interest in camping shows Millennials leading the way. It’s good to be outside.
According to the 2018 North American Camping Report, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America (KOA), camping is rising in popularity across the United States and Canada. The report shares a number of interesting statistics including the fact that, “77 million U.S. households have someone who camps at least occasionally.” Since 2014, more people are camping, with over six million new camping households. The majority are camping as often as three times per year, which has increased by 64%. In 2017 alone, there has been an increase of 2.6 million camper households with representation among all ethnicities. New campers are more diverse than the overall population, with a nearly even split between white and non-white campers. Also, Millennials and Gen Xers make up three-quarters of all campers, with Millennials alone accounting for 40%. While most campers have children at 52%, 48% of campers camp without kids. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy camping as 59% of campers stay within 100 miles of home. When searching for nearby campgrounds, 42% stay at national/state/municipal campgrounds and 25% stay at private campgrounds.
There is an opening to connect with Millennials through camping. Don’t only think of this as a means of outreach. Think of the creation as a setting that can foster a deeper faith, a greater appreciation of who God is. Millennials in your congregation might find the outdoors a place they can more easily pray, contemplate their faith, and pay attention to God.
Select studies have suggested a correlation between time in the natural world and the spiritual life. If you have experienced outdoor enthusiasts in your congregation, planning a retreat weekend or a camping trip might be a great way to connect generations and pass along wisdom on camping and life. The campfire might also be a wonderful spot for easy, relaxed conversations that can strengthen your fellowship or create space for discipleship.
I’m a Millennial, and I can attest that I’ve found myself drawn to state and national parks for hiking, for time away from the bustle of cities, and as a great setting to connect with family and have fun with my children.
Take a look at your congregational rhythms and see if there is time and space to leave the comforts of your building and get outdoors. Walk the trails. Encourage photography. Invite your people to share what they see and hear. Invoke a little wonder. Pray with and for your people. Ask God to speak, lead, and for your people to be present to God as God is present to us. Invite them to gather and hear what the psalmist proclaims about the world God has made.
Arched ceilings, stained glass, and beautiful choral music can lift the soul. But so can blue skies, colorful foliage, and the song of a western meadowlark. There is a place for both settings, for both ways of engaging God in worship. Invite your people to do both.