How Outdoor Activities Positively Affect Kids
Written by Will Zinke
Hi! My name is Will Zinke, from Camp Gilead, and I was asked to do a blog on the importance of outdoor activities for children and being outside. Well, let’s see, where should I start? Camp ministry is all about getting kids outside! After a year of shutdowns and quarantines when kids binged on TV and video games, turning them into couch potatoes [ugh!], we can offer them real adventure! We were meant to be outdoors in God’s creation, with the wind in our hair and sun on our faces! Being outside is beneficial for kids to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually,
As you probably already know, we NEED sunshine to help manufacture vitamin D. It has been estimated that 40% of adults in America are vitamin D deficient, which can directly lead to serious health problems like muscle weakness, osteoporosis, cancer, and depression. We can get vitamin D by eating lots of fish oil or liver, but God has designed our bodies to work properly by just being outside! Cholesterol in our skin is triggered by UVB rays of the sun to make vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium. UVB rays cannot penetrate through windows, so you need to be outside a minimum of 10 -30 minutes, three times a week–more in the northern latitudes or if you are darker skinned. One of the awful things about winter up North is having to be inside with little-to-no sunshine for weeks at a time. Winter blues is a clinically proven fact! Living in the “Sunshine State” is a blessing during those cold months…but I digress. Of course, too much sun leads to skin cancers,so be careful!
Summer camp has so many outdoor activities for children, whether sports, hiking, or our favorite here at Camp Gilead: swimming! Anytime kids get their heart rate up it’s so good for blood flow, and the brain produces endorphins and dopamine which improve your mood! Every time you take a walk outside, it’s like clearing the cobwebs in your body and mind! Statistically, 74% of kids in America do not get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day. Sports can help build a teamwork attitude that goes contrary to the “me first,” “believe in yourself,” “I am the one,” philosophy of the world. For those hooked on social media, they become the star of their own movie without even leaving their room. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity and clinical depression. It’s not hard to see the connections between mental and physical benefits from outdoor activities. The medical literature is chock full of studies and statistics that show conclusively that being active and being outside is healthy! Proverbs 17:22 says that “A merry heart doeth good like medicine…” and we can see the change in kids when they’re involved in fun outdoor games that build teamwork. Now, pop psychology doesn’t want to admit it, but I believe there is a deeper reason why kids should be outside. I Timothy 4:8 says it perfectly: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
Spiritually, getting away from man-made comforts [especially video games and social media] and into God’s creation helps kids see the bigger picture of reality and how their life has purpose. First things first, we need to present our campers with the truth that they are not animals, not accidents of evolution, adrift to live a life of selfish pleasure. When kids are outside, whether it be swimming in the lake or on a nature hike, we can always show them the beauty of creation! God’s creative designs are everywhere! The weather cycle shows us His care and forethought in keeping the land watered and how even scary lightning fixes nitrogen for fertilizing the plants. And those amazing plants! How awesome that God has designed them to be solar factories, making food from sunlight! And how they use our old breath and give us fresh oxygen! And the perfectly aligned cycles of the sun and moon, created and placed just the right distance from our planet! Or a bird flying by can be a wonderful example of how their unique and intricate feathers and hollow bones are perfectly designed for flight. Even a tiny ant working hard can be a lesson to fight laziness and learn teamwork! Proverbs 6 is a great example of God’s world agreeing with God’s Word! “Go to the ant you sluggard, and consider her ways….” [Yes, worker ants are all females!] Though not a science book, the Bible is scientifically accurate!
There is a problem though, if we only discuss the beauty and design in creation, without the truth of the Fall. We can give a false impression that what we see in creation has always been this way, without pointing out the corruption that came from our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were real people. Why are there terrible diseases like Covid? Why are there natural disasters? Why do animals kill and eat each other? Just why is there so much suffering and destruction in God’s supposedly wonderful creation? Ultimately, where did death come from? Nature can only show us what has taken place after the fall, with some exceptions, and, if we do not teach kids this truth, their worldview will be unbalanced. They will be prime targets to be carried away by the philosophies of this world [Romans 12:2, Colossians 2:8, II Peter 3:17]. One of the greatest lies of Satan is the philosophy of evolution, which is really a pagan religion developed to explain the wonder of creation without a Creator. Yes, creation points to the Creator, but we can only see the true history of our planet from the Bible. We must be able to connect the real natural world with God’s Word, otherwise kids will think so-called “science” has the upper hand with truth, and the “stories” in the Bible are just that: stories [aka allegorical myths]. Please, please, please don’t say “It doesn’t matter how God created, just as long as we believe that He did it.” That kind of thinking opens the door to all sorts of compromises. If the first few chapters of the Bible are allegorical, how can we trust the rest of it? We might as well say, “If the Bible disagrees with science, we MUST believe science,” as some teach [meaning God used Evolution]. God, in His wisdom, has revealed to us the true history of the world! And real, actual observable science fully supports the Bible! What they really mean by “science” is popular evolutionary dogma…beware of “science [knowledge] falsely so called.” [I Tim. 6:20]
God’s grand redemptive plan is THE greatest truth we can show our kids through His creation! If you come across a dead animal, or see a thorn bush, go through a scary storm, or someone gets poison ivy, use that as an opportunity to share the gospel! Most kids do not know WHY Jesus had to die on the cross for their sins. He wasn’t just an example for us to lay our lives down for our fellow man, as the social justice gospel teaches. Do they understand the bad news of sin? The justice of God? The sacrifice of Christ?
The message of the gospel is that, through Jesus our Creator [second person of the Triune Godhead], all things were made perfectly and instantly by His Word [Ps. 33:6, Heb. 11:3, Col. 1:16, John 1:1, John 1:3], not gradually over millions of years of death, disease, and bloodshed [Gen 1:1, II Peter 3:5]. Because of man’s disobedience, corruption and death entered God’s perfect creation [Romans 5:12]. The whole creation is groaning [Romans 8:22] until Christ’s triumphant return. The Fall is a real historical event which forever separated man from that perfect fellowship and relationship he had with God. There is NOTHING we can do to fix this! Sin is so awful, we are all guilty before the righteous justice of God and death is our payment [share the “mirror” of the 10 Commandments so kids can see and “own” that they really are sinners. All have sinned. [Rom. 3:23 and 6:23, Gal. 3:24] But in God’s MERCY, Christ came in the “fullness of time,” hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled and God became man to become our perfect sacrifice [Heb. 9:14, Phil. 2:8, Gal. 3:13, Is. 53, John 1:29]. This was the only way the justice of a Holy God could be satisfied. He was the perfect sacrifice Who redeemed us on the cross! [Heb. 9:22, Heb. 10:10, I Peter 1:19, Eph. 1:7, Rom. 3:25, Gal. 1:4] On the third day He really rose again, proving He was God! [I Cor. 15:4, Luke 24:46, Ps. 16:10, Acts 2:24] This is the power of the gospel! Those who trust in what Jesus did on the cross can have their sins washed away, for real! But that’s not all! We look forward to His REAL return [Rev. 1:7, Acts 1:11, Matthew 24] when He will “make all things right” like it was in the very beginning! Wow! No more mean animals, no more terrible storms, no more poisonous plants or disease and no more death and suffering! Eventually He will make a new heavens and a new earth where His light is all we need [Rev.21:23, Is.11:6, Is. 65:17, Rev. 21:1]. We will be with our Creator in a perfect relationship forever! Yes, there are millions of years in the Bible, just not at the beginning!
I then like to ask,“Which side do you want to be on…death or life? Do you see how terrible your sin is? Do you want to be part of His awesome plan?” and then let them know they can pray directly to the Lord anytime, thanking Jesus for all that He has done on the cross, and encourage them to turn to Him and trust Him only. “Will you trust Him?” [Roman 10:9, Acts 16:31, I John 1:9] And then grow in Him [II Peter 3:18, Col. 1:10, Rom. 12:1-2, Gal. 5:22]. Remember it’s the Holy Spirit, through His Word, that saves someone, not a prayer or set of rules. Our job is to clearly present The Gospel, through our words and actions, so that He can convict and draw their hearts and minds to Him.
So, enjoy getting outside and bringing God’s joy to the kids you are leading. One more thing, when you see a big, beautiful, full moon in the night sky, remember it’s only reflecting the power of the sun, it doesn’t give off its own light. That reminds us of how we should be reflecting God’s love and truth this summer at camp, or wherever He places us!
[Some great resources: Answers in Genesis “The 7 C’s of History,” check it out! Also, “Answers for Kids” web page. Other great Creation apologetics sites are the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Creation Ministries International (CMI) and a free awesome app to download that’s very visual and sums up things for older students [and adults!] is the “Genesis Apologetics” App! Download it before it gets cancelled!]
Written by Will Zinke is part of the Pre-Field ministry, his family and him are raising support to join Camp Gilead full time in overseeing the Creation Station. To learn more about the Zinke’s or to support them click HERE iDonate