Free Is Bad

Posted on by Tacoma YFC

In our City Life ministries we have a phrase that we go by, “free is bad.”

There are many realities around taking kids to camp every year. Some of those include buses breaking down on the way, nights of little sleep, sunburns, and Jesus showing up to provide hope in the lives of students with the most trauma.

Another camp reality is that camp is not cheap.

The real cost for camp per kid is $400-$500. The reality is that most of our kids legitimately cannot afford to pay that. But, we’ve made an intentional decision that money will never be a reason for not bringing kids to camp who need to be there. We majorly subsidize the cost to make it affordable for our kids which making the deposit $50 or $75. Another reality is that most of our kids can’t even afford the deposit. But that’s not their fault.

In the last 10 years I've seen so many lives completely transformed, and in most of these cases, camp played a huge role. That is why we are very serious about bringing every kid to camp who wants to go.

We don’t pretend like camp is free. Just because some of our students qualify for scholarships that waive the dollar amount of a camp deposit, does not mean it is free. Somebody somewhere paid for it.

Nothing in life is free.  Even my eternal salvation—which was a free gift to me—was very costly, and paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.  And if we love our kids, we will teach them this, because that is the reality they will live in for the rest of their life.


Free is bad, and no one goes to camp for free. We have three City Life programs located in Tillicum, on Hilltop, and in the Lincoln neighborhood. It has been such a joy to see students from each of those ministries working hard to raise money for camp. They may not have any money and are too young to get hired for “real jobs”—so we’ve given them opportunities within their communities to work hard and earn it.

Our kids use our tools to mow lawns, do landscaping, clean and anything else that needs to be done. Our kids do not feel entitled—they don’t hesitate and want to feel like they are earning their way. They’re not just earning their way to camp, they’re having the opportunity to learn skills and build confidence in their ability to produce results. They’re becoming leaders, and part of the next generation who will give back to their community.

By Doug Jonson, City Life Director

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