Archive for the ‘Summer Camp’ Tag

Group Hug

Higher Ground LodgeRecently I had the privilege of serving as Chaplain at Higher Ground Summer Camp in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Throughout the camp each dorm is given multiple opportunities to sit and chat about whatever is on their minds. I have attended many of these chats over the past decade and I have to say they are never boring and to my perpetual amazement young people seem to be far more tuned in to the world around them than we might think. Teens and preteens are concerned about many of the same things that matter to adults. What is so different is that teens and preteens often feel powerless to control their circumstances. They often feel unequipped and unprepared to handle the myriad of challenges that they face.

So there I was with boys’ dorm 3B fielding questions and facilitating discussion about everything from whether we should stomp on little beetles just for fun to why bad things happen to good people. Well, during the course of our time together a young man named Jared asked me a very serious question.  His demeanor in asking the question told me how important this was for him. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in nervous anticipation of how his question would be received. Clearing his throat he managed, “How do I get closer to God?”

Now the me in me tends to answer right away and the answers tend to be less than stellar when that happens but on this occasion I waited to hear from Holy Spirit. What she gave me was worth sharing with the readers of Trinity and Humanity.

As I waited for Holy Spirit she gave me two words and a picture. I looked at Jared and said the two words , “You can’t.” Fear overcame his expression so I asked him to stand up. Now we were going to build the picture. I then asked permission to give him a hug. He agreed and right in front of the whole dorm I embraced him. As I held him tight in my arms I said to him, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you. But this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned to a staff member named Linn. Linn came over and he wrapped Jared and I in his arms. I then repeated to Jared, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit but this is not a clear enough picture.” I motioned for one of the counselors to come over and Jonathan embraced the three of us. I repeated again, “Jared, Jesus has embraced you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace.” Then I whispered to him, “Now you tell me how you get closer to this?” Jared was over-joyed to the near point of tears.

You see, Jesus has embraced us in the Holy Spirit with the Father’s embrace. We are in Jesus and He is in us. (Jn 14:20) We may sense a separation we may sense an estrangement but we can never be any closer to Triune God and we can never escape this all-inclusive embrace.

Lord show us and help us feel the group hug that surrounds us all! In Jesus name! Amen.

~ Bill Winn

Camp Ministry – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I just got back from a week of Christian summer camp. Here are some thoughts in the light of who Jesus is as the union of humanity and the Trinity:

The Good: Camp Higher Ground, where I took eight kids from my church and served on staff, is definitely a camp that is focused on telling kids the good news of who they are in Jesus: children of the Father baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Camp is also a lot of fun – especially for those who love camp ministry. I often find when I talk to people who love camp ministry – the ones who come back to serve year after year – that they talk about the impact it has on kids’ lives. But when I watch them doing camp ministry I can see that they are having a blast. Camp ministry folks enjoy chapel, swimming, and crafts as much (or more!) than the campers do.

Sometimes I wish we could be more honest with ourselves about the fun of ministry. Yes, we serve others in the gospel because it helps them but we also do it because that it is what we want to do. Our Daddy in heaven is okay with that. He has given us the freedom in Jesus to choose the ministries we like and to do them because we enjoy them. Take this blog for instance. I hope what I write here helps others, but even if it doesn’t I would still do it because I enjoy it! I think camp ministry people would have camp even if no kids showed up – and that’s good.

The Bad: Camp is only a few days in the lives of the kids who participate.

As much as we focus on telling them the truth of who they are in Jesus, and as much fun as it is, it still takes incarnational ministry to really change lives and help people grow up in Jesus. By incarnational ministry I mean living in relationship with people day in and day out, week in and week out, for years – the way the Son of God lives forever with humanity through his incarnation as the human being Jesus Christ.

This is why the Church is infinitely more valuable and important than camp ministry – or any other event ministry. Camp ministry is the icing on the cake, but if there’s no cake then all you have is icing – which isn’t very substantive. If I really care about helping kids grow up to trust Jesus then I have to live in relationship with them, in the name and power of the Trinity, day in and day out for years.

The Church is also far more efficient than camp ministry. My congregation of 50 people spent $3,000 in tuition and transportation costs to get me and eight kids to camp. I personally drove 1100 miles and spent a week away from family, church, and my community. In contrast, the Monday night kids’ group that we do with these same eight kids costs us about $700 a year. I drive 1 mile from my house to the church building every Monday night.

And which of these two has the greater impact on the kids’ lives? It’s the time they spend together every Monday night, praying, reading the Bible, and playing with each other and the adults who are committed to them for the long term.

Sometimes I wish that more of the creativity, money, time, and energy of Christians was spent trying to strengthen Churches and not so much on trying to create intense spiritual experiences at once-a-year events like camp.

The Ugly: Anyway you slice it, camp ministry is never a neat, simple experience (but then again, no ministry is ever neat and simple.)

Maybe “ugly” is too strong a word, but I don’t think “messy” is too strong a word. People are complicated and life is not lived in black and white, it’s lived in color, with all the shades and colors of human experience overlapping, clashing, and (sometimes) harmonizing.

That’s another thing I like about Higher Ground. Most of the people who minister there aren’t trying to force people into boxes and categories and they’re not trying to wrap the week up in a package at the end with a nice little bow on top. Camp ministry helps us see that Jesus has included humanity in the life he shares with the Father and the Spirit and that is never going to change. As messy and difficult as life can get we know that we have all eternity – not just a week, a year, or a lifespan – to keep being baptized in the assurance of who we are in Jesus and to keep healing from the broken results of our fallenness.

~ Jonathan Stepp

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