Monday, May 03, 2010

The Future of Camping In Ministry

This is my take on a recent conversation about Camping Ministry in Cal-Pac, with implications for other Conferences as well. I think we need to tell the story of what camping is doing and can do for the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, I think we need to tell the story of what Jesus Christ is doing in our churches for the future of the church to become renewed.

Referring back to the Four Focus areas of Ministry of the UMC (General Conf. 2008), which are:
> Developing Principled Christian Leaders,
> Congregational Development,
> Global Health
> Ministries to the poor

I want to direct your attention to the 7 Foundations of Camp & Retreat Ministry, and then share a little about how Camping in Cal-Pac can and is working on the Four Focus areas.

Please take the time to read at least a little of the 7 Foundations.

Then, regarding Conference Camping in Cal-Pac, we can and are lifting up the Four Focus areas, and have been doing so for years.
Recently we have established Four Focus areas as well, which tie back to the Four Focus areas of GC 2008 Christ-Centered, Program-Driven, Relationally-Based and Culturally-Relevant.

I see Developing Principled Christian Leaders and Christ-Centered as the base link. John Wesley said "Offer them Christ". One of the great aspects of Camping, whether it is UM Churches and agencies using our Conference Campsites, or Schools, of any variety, is that we have an avenue to "offer them Christ". We maintain our Christian presence throughout the camps, with symbols, slogans, scriptures, and best of all those who offer Christian Hospitality. We have a unique opportunity when we work with the schools to proclaim and share Jesus Christ, without having to temper that message, which some feel they need to do in a normal school setting. For those who come to camp through the local church we have an excellent means of developing the faith in Jesus Christ, either through the initial conversation that sets someone on a lifetime path of Christian Discipleship, or challenging that faith to be lived out day in and day out, because we must live in Christian community. Living examples of faith in action are presented to those who come to camp each day. The staff, paid and volunteer, provide a witness that is unable to be matched in any other setting. For me, one of the most exciting pieces of those interactions is when someone does fall, and make a mistake, sin and fall short of the Glory of God, because in those moments we are able to come together, offer forgiveness and repentance, and find out how to live on God's path once again. Sometimes the leaders we are developing are the ones already in service, and some are those for whom we are showing an example to in that moment, that they have the opportunity to live into Christ's service and call for their lives.

Program-Driven camping speaks directly to Congregational Development. We have the tools and most especially the space to offer our congregations in our camp settings, which pulls us away from the normal and ordinary. We have a distance and perspective forced on us. It may be an awareness of that which God has established to nurture our attention to Him, in the buildings we have or do not have. It may be offered in an unusual use of space, which spurs our thoughts to reconstruct our ideas of space use in our own facility. I dare say it may even be through the sometimes occurrence where we find that we were taking our facility for granted when placed in someplace unfamiliar, and more difficult to navigate. But, the core of the Cal-Pac Camping Program-Driven Focus is that we can tailor the programs you need to develop your congregation. Rev. Sam Yun is an invaluable resource at the conference center to design the type of program to help focus your congregation on th ideas you need in the local church to develop and grow in faith. Our Camp Site Directors have seen an extensive variety of camping programs and are another amazing resource to tap for creating the Program which will serve your local congregation. Additionally, I have been certified in Camp and Retreat Ministry, and hold a certificate in Christian Education. If you have a need, there are ways to tailor our Campsites, and our Curriculum offerings to establish the kinds of results your congregation needs. You do not need to go at it alone. Let our camps help figure out how to program for your needs.

I pair the Ministries to the Poor and Relationally-Based focus points for The UMC and Cal-Pac Camps because I know how we live affects those who live elsewhere. Our Camp managers have been trained in how to live on less, and to maximize the most from what we have. This has been crafted by years of having to live in communities that are limited, in dollars, in resources, in waste. One of the greatest gifts our camps remind those who come is how to live on less. As we live on less we live into John Wesley's "Earn all you can, Save all you can, and Give all you can." From saving, we have more to give. From Giving we are better able to live into Wesley's Sanctifying Grace, which is where we live out our salvation with Fear and Trembling (with a nod to Kierkegaard). Additionally, the camps we have run so successfully have been serving many within our congregations who do not have as much. We have served our camps poorly by demanding they keep the cost of camp down, but we have served the people of our local churches faithfully as we have enabled countless youth and adults who would not otherwise be able to afford camp to go. We have made these connections without recognizing them, and in lifting these ministries as well as Strength for the Journey, and Urban Kids Camp I know we can establish stronger relationally-based camping. We have been serving the poor. I am also excited to say that we have had the chance to highlight, in the decade of camping I have done in Cal-Pac, the ways in which we can be in mission. We have looked at Nothing But Nets. We have sent our kids, and adults, out into the mission field with SSP, Burned Churches, and international missions, because we have taught them that they can survive those places that are uncomfortable. We have encouraged, and offered links to a network of support, which in several instance have provided a financial support base to do international missions. And we have reminded our leaders of "the least of these" whom we might not normally see in our local churches, but because we are a conglomeration of our churches have created spaces to see with new eyes, and make relationships with the least of these. Our work with the schools of LA and Orange Counties has provided ministry to the poor, in very real ways as we have created safe spaces, and offered Christ, in our language, our sharing, and our passive and active programs.

As we speak prophetically to Global Health issues, we must recognize the need to be culturally-relevant. We have a shrinking globe due to the amazing work of the Internet, ease of travel, and the transience of society. As such, there are still elements of life that are culturally unique. When speaking about intimate issues such as health, whether we are speaking about Obesity or HIV/AIDS, or the Health of the Globe, such as the movement, the letter from the Bishops re:"God's Renewed Creation"{db6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741}/PASTORAL%20LTR%20IN%20LITURGY_CE.PDF
the reality is that each context has a manner in which the message can best be heard. We know that Paul did not copy and paste the letter to the Corinthians to the Galatians, or to Timothy. We each live in a particular context and moment in time, which requires a measure of cultural-relevance when helping speak about Global Health issues. Camp provides a context that is both familiar and yet distant from our normal way of living. With the removal from one's local setting, the individual has a chance to hear and see things in a new way, and to practice some of the things we can only talk about in our daily settings. This means how we live with one another, to what happens when all the toilets are out of order at camp, or when we take an off site hike. What we learn in the unique context of camp, whether it is intentional, or a teachable moment, we set ourselves on a course to connect with health issues that the world over deals with daily. It is with concern that we are tackling Obesity in this country, for youth and adults. Camp living provides a means of practicing exercise, and living with limited food. We have a chance to live in an area with less pollution, and talk openly about the effects we are creating, or limiting, or changing because of our concern and awareness of nature.

I offer all this to say we need to talk. We need to share the story, of the local church, of our camps, of the people in our churches. I heard a Capital Campaign Guru share once that "people do not follow, or give to, ideas, but they will follow and give to people". If our camps don't know what the needs of the local church are, we cannot plan accordingly. We must go forward with what we know and what has worked, and is working for those of us in the field. Likewise, if our local churches do not know what camping can do to help live into the Four Focus areas, we will be stunted, because we will seek first for dollars, and then for people and finally for change. We must first seek change, people and money will follow, because they have seen the love that comes about from change in Jesus Christ, lived by individuals.