We arrived home from church camp yesterday afternoon. Some reflections:
- Working camp is hard work. It’s terribly hot. You work long hours -“lights out” (which doesn’t mean the kids fall asleep then) tends to be around midnight, with breakfast at 8am you have to get up early to get kids moving. Many of the kids are really needy (more about that below). Your job is to keep order and help thing flow along, while many of the kids would be happy to just do their own thing. I do it because the kids are worth investing in. God gives us a chance to be part of his effort to bring them salvation, so we take them up on the offer. And that’s just the counselors. the camp leaders and staff do even more.
- The food at Lakeview was much better than the past few times I’ve been there (whether for pastor’s retreats or for summer camp). Sometimes in recent years it had been almost inedible. While they’ve mostly to pre-processed foods over the years, at least it tasted ok most of the time. No fried macaroni and cheese this year!
- The content of summer camp is a vast improvement over when I was a camper (thirty years ago). There is much more explicitly Christian content now. While Dr. Seuss & Peanuts provide useful illustrative material, they do not provide the substance of the faith.
- We have (though not universally) moved closer to the realization that not everyone who comes to camp is already a Christian. Camp can be a great place to make a first-time commitment to Christ – if you hear that doing so is possible. I’ve joked for years that the United Methodist mistake is to act like everyone is already saved, while the typical baptist mistake is to act like no one is. If we follow Wesley we get both evangelism and discipleship.
- My daughter said she really liked the speakers in her camp who shared from their own life experiences. Rev. Heidi Cain was her favorite. She admits that my life experiences are too boring and ordinary for me to have any hope, though.
- The Senior High camp leadership was very different than it has been in the past. Previously, pastors had served as coordinators. This year continued the trend of youth directors taking the lead. I think we’re wise to allow professionals in this area of specialization to take the lead. If we’re going to encourage specialized training, we might as well trust them to use it.
- Our main speaker for the week (Senior High again) was Scott Lathem, a UM pastor from Lubbock (NW Texas conference). An ordained Elder, he is also a trained counselor. The theme for the week was “Faith Forming Relationships,” though the actual content seemed like it might better be described as “Faith Formed Relationships.” Scott spoke from scripture and from his life experiences (much more interesting than most of mine). As a brief example, while speaking from Mark 2 on friendship, he taught that the youth needed four types of friends. They needed a Nathan to challenge them and hold them accountable, a Jonathan to help them “grow strong in God,” a Nehemiah to pick up the broken pieces and rebuild the walls, and an Elijah to mentor us (as he did Elisha). He mentioned four types, since the image he used of the cripple being carried on his mat by four friends. If we were allowed a fifth, I’d pick one from a text we’d looked at earlier in the day – Ruth. We need friends like Ruth who will stand by us even when we’re depressed, dejected, and try to push them away.
- Family relationships came up a lot in our camp (given the topic, not a surprise). Many of the kids are not living in intact families of origin. Many are alienated – emotionally, physically – from their parents. Some lack a stable home life or even a real place to live. Another counselor and I were talking about this at one point. She observed that most of the kids in her youth group were from intact families. I commented that this could be because their church or community was doing a really good job at helping families. Or it could be a sign that the church isn’t doing a great job at reaching the hurting broken families out there.