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Camp

IMG_1955For those of you that don’t know, I love camp.

I remember one of the first times I took a group of kids hiking for Mountain Camp at Christmount in 2007, a camper looked at me as we were doing some plant identification and said:  “I am never going to need to know the difference between a rhodedendron and a mountain laurel plant.”

And I think this is what parents feel when they are faced with the debate of sending their kid to summer camp.

What is my kid going to learn?

How is this going to help my kid get a college athletic or academic scholarship?

Well I am here to say:  IT WON’T!

However!

Summer camp is one of the best things we can provide our children in this ever changing world.

I have seen awesome things happen at camp.

I have seen kids who are completely dependent on their parents for everything become individuals who can actually handle daily tasks with ease, ON THEIR OWN!

I have seen kids who are shy beyond belief blossom into some of the most “popular” and well loved kids at camp.

I have seen kids who are afraid that their parents are going to find out how silly they act in a talent show skit, make me keel over in laughter.

I have seen kids who are the biggest pains in the neck become visions of the person that they are growing into.

I have seen kids who have such tortured home lives escape the hell, who, for just one week, get to live in  a community of people who actually love them.

I have seen kids who are so far below the poverty line that they didn’t have anything to pack away for a week, show up to the camp dance looking like they had parents who were loaded.

I have seen kids who are normally the bully-type, the cool kid, the all-star, or anything else in that category welcome and guide a child whose autism controls their ability to interact with others.

I have seen kids when that lightbulb hits on what it is they feel called to doing with their lives.

I have seen kids in that moment when they realize that they are, in fact, completely and totally normal.

I have seen adults with learning disabilities become the star of the week who at their group home is just another client who has to take medication.

I have had a child explain to me the true meaning of communion at a vespers service.

And so on and so on.

And yet.

And yet camping programs are struggling.

Year round schooling and the increasing intensity of childhood athletics and summer homework for classes in the fall have ripped children away from summer camps.

And not just sports day camps, but over night, stay away camps.

Camping programs struggle because year round schooling keeps the things the kids learned fresh in their minds, and keeps them out of trouble on the streets.

But all this really does is create more competition, create more dependency, and create kids who don’t know what its like to stay a week away from mom and dad until their first week of college.

Parents are sending their kids to more athletic practices, which only creates a person whose sense of the world is being better than the next.

It also creates memories, laughter, first-kisses, first time asking someone to dance, a place to not sit alone at meal times, relationships with other kids, relationships with adults who aren’t the child’s parents, and countless of other possibilities.

Camps are not just fun (although they are insanely fun), but camp is our largest and best educator in helping kids discover who they are, building self-esteem, building independence, and yes even learning a few educational things as well.

So why don’t we send our kids to camp?

And of course I have to ask this question:  what if the church was more like camp?

Regrets of Dying People

The other day I saw the picture above on the Facebook.

What I find really interesting in that these 5 regrets are not only true about human beings who are dying, but also of those of the church.

I want to work through these, but why don’t we go backwards:

5.) I wish that I had let myself be happier

What if the church was a happier place?

When people walk into a church for the first time, are the people happy?  And I mean genuinely happy.

What if the church focused on a mission that lead it’s congregation to be genuinely happier people?

People are getting angry at each other within the church, they get pissed at each other in board meetings, at how someone is dressed, at the music director (of which I am mega guilty), and so on.

The church is not a place of efficiency but a place where people are invited to live out what God calls them to!

4.)  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

According to a report by Mission Insite, the Quadrennium report: 35% of  people who are non-active in the church but who consider themselves to be a part of the church do not participate because they are not invited!

We spend so much time worried about the ever present “UNCHURCHED,” but we need to remember those who we have inside of our church that we are looking over!

Sooner or later you won’t see them any more!

3.)  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

The church lets other people express its feelings for them!

If I have one more non-Christian tell me what the church believes, I might go throw the roof!

I understand their pain from being hurt, or seeing through all the crap, but their experience isn’t THE SOLE CHRISTIAN FEELING!

If the church expressed itself honestly, by listening to the words and teachings of Jesus, and not the teachings of the consumerist culture, I think the church would be more vibrant!

Peter Rollins calls that “The Sell Church” in The Idolatry of God.

2.)  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

This one is tricky.

The church doesn’t work hard enough, so maybe it should be “I wish I had worked harder!”

Maybe the church could work harder at being the body of Christ, that performs miracles, that changes lives, that does charity, that does justice.

But the more I think about, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard might be accurate.

The church works really hard at being exclusive.

The church works really hard at discriminating.

The church works really hard at burning out its elders and deacons, and laity, and pastors.

The church structures and polity set us up for this!

So yeah, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

and finally:

1.) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

The church simply does not live a life that is true to itself, and allows others expectations to define it and rule it.

Churches feel the need to do the same thing that the church down the road is doing.

“We need to do a VBS by Group publishing, because the church down the street is.”

NO!  That is the worst reason!

Do something that is unique for your congregation!

What is it that your congregation does the best that no other congregation does?

What if instead of protesting abortion clinics, rock concerts, or whatever;  why won’t the church protest itself, for being a den of thieves!

Be true to yourself, not to what the baptist church is doing down the street, or the evangelical, or the presbyterian church is doing.

————–

The church needs to hear these five regrets and turn them into shameless, life giving “hallelujah’s!”

1.) A church that is unique and contextual, that is doing things because God is calling them to things not because the other churches are.

2.) A church that works hard at being compassionate, spreading unconditional love, and bringing about justice.

3.)  A church that was courageous enough to express its true feelings!

4.)  A church that concerns itself not only with the unchurched but with the members of the congregation!

5.)  And a church that was actually creating an energy and environment of rejoicing!

Then maybe the church wouldn’t have regrets, because then maybe the church wouldn’t be dying.

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