Grandkids camp can help foster lifelong connections

Former Bay Presbyterian pastor Hu Auburn's new book offers tips for hosting a "grandkids camp," featuring illustrations by Beth See of Bay Village.

What is the best time for grandparents to influence their grandchildren as they consider life’s biggest decisions – those life-shaping decisions about college, careers, relationships and marriage? Hu Auburn, former pastor of Bay Presbyterian Church and author of a new book entitled "Grandkids Camp Guidebook," believes that window of opportunity opens when grandkids are three-years-old and potty-trained.

At least that’s an ideal time to begin planning and hosting an annual grandkids camp: a week (or less) when grandkids gather at their grandparents’ home to “do life” together in a way that phone calls, shorter visits and the presence of parents don’t allow. A week at the Auburns' grandkids camp includes daily flag-raising ceremonies, a camp pledge, hikes, outings, games and a daily excursion to local ice creameries to score and rank the product and experience.

During their seven years of hosting the camp, Hu and his wife, Jan, have fielded dozens of questions about the experience: “What do the kids eat? Where do you go on your outings? What are the rules?” And, their favorite, “Can we send our grandkids to your grandkids camp?” (The short answer is “no.”) 

To respond to those questions and assure other grandparents that planning and conducting an annual camp is not only possible, but also enjoyable and worthwhile, Auburn has organized practical grandkids camp how-to’s with related and thought-provoking “why’s” in his recently published book.

The impact of a grandkids camp extends beyond the fun of the week’s scheduled events. Hu and Jan Auburn have discovered a greater purpose to walks through the woods, afternoons playing “Minute-To Win-It” and visits to Chick-fil-A than they imagined in year one – a purpose that can play a role in a grandchild’s response to life’s greatest questions.

Auburn said, “Whether we recognize it or not (and many of us don’t), whether we can articulate it or not (and very few can), each of us has a worldview, or a set of beliefs about life and the universe. These are deeply rooted within us and impact every decision we make.  Inevitably, we live our lives in alignment with our worldview. And this worldview is largely set by the age of 12.”

The influence of a grandparent can be far-reaching, and the opportunity to love grandkids intentionally and earn a hearing with them begins early and possibly with something as unassuming as grandkids camp. “Is grandkids camp a big deal? Maybe not,” said Auburn. “It is not the cure-all for multi-generational relationship issues within families. But it is one vehicle that God, by His grace and power, is able to use for us to connect with and invest in the lives of our grandchildren – connections and investments that may not have happened otherwise.”

Auburn challenges other grandparents – particularly baby boomers like him – with the question, “Could our grandparenting be our last chance to bring a blessing for future generations?” Auburn believes that grandkids camp is an opportunity to offer that blessing. “Can we honor, celebrate and affirm those (our grandchildren and their generation) who are likely to have challenges and responsibilities far beyond any that we have faced? There is still plenty of time to say ‘yes.’” 

Grandkids Camp Guidebook will be available for sale at Bay Presbyterian Church, 25415 Lake Road, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24. Hu and Jan Auburn will sign copies and, if asked, recite the Grandkids Camp pledge. Visit for more information, or read an excerpt at

Stacy Windahl

Stacy Windahl resides in Bay Village.

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:13 AM, 11.12.2013