Christian Youth Camp History 101
Those who have read about the prophets of old realize that there’s really nothing new about Christian camping. Jesus himself taught us by example that we all need to occasionally withdraw to isolated, remote areas to seek God without distraction. The earliest records of modern Christian camping go back to the early 1800’s. Whole families would travel some distance to “brush arbor” style revival meetings. Due to the long journey back home, they would stay and “camp” for the duration of the event.
However, the concept of focusing a camping event on youth is much newer. As is recorded in a Baptist seminary church history textbook from 1936 (A Centennial History of Texas Baptists, Broadman Press, 1936), “It seems well established by the facts that the first fruition of the youth encampment idea came in west Texas; for on July 12-14, 1898, the BYPU (Baptist Young People’s Union) of Haskell, Albany, Anson, and Abilene met in a beautiful pecan grove on the Clear Fork for a season of physical and spiritual refreshing. During the days of this first meeting, it was voted to effect a permanent organization under the name of West Texas Baptist Union.” Later the name would change to Lueders Baptist Encampment, and in 1973 would again change to Big Country Baptist Assembly.
BCBA was founded by Christian youth for Christian youth. With 113 consecutive annual Christian Youth Camps documented with newspaper clippings, photos, and even a Baptist seminary history text book, many believe that BCBA is the oldest continuing Christian Youth Camp in the world. Some have speculated that the very phrase “Youth Camp” may have been coined here while the BYPU was promoting those earliest camps.
Today Big Country Baptist Assembly hosts over 17,000 campers a year with more than half being 18 years of age or younger. It could rightly be said that God has “reignited” the youth camp flame over the last few of decades. In fact, it was only 7 short years ago BCBA was hosting 6,000 total campers a year. So BCBA is not just the oldest Christian Youth Camp in the world. This growth from 6,000 to 17,000 campers a year ranks BCBA among the fastest growing camp in the world as well.