camps are the best!!


When I was 7 years old I made my own response to Jesus at a camp. Mum & Dad were Camp Parents at a teen camp which meant I got to tag along and I can still recall many details of the moment when I was touched by Jesus in a personal, powerful way. 

Camps were a significant part of my faith journey as a youth. I lived in a small country town where only a handful of teens were part of my church. It was incredibly important for me to connect with a broader network of Jesus followers to ground and inspire my faith as I navigated my teen years. 25 years later some of the people I met at those camps are some of my closest friends and key players in my continuing God-story. 

As a Youth Pastor I have seen and championed the value of camping to the discipleship of young people. There are many reasons for their value but I think among the most impactful is the intentional setting aside of time and attention to make oneself open to the plans and purposes of God. 

There’s a new environment – a beach, a mountain, a view – at the end of a physical trip that marks a disconnecting from the routine, familiarity and comfort of home. There’s the need to sign up, save up and plan towards it that builds expectancy for what might happen. There is a new community created for the set time – relationships started and built in that set apart environment. There’s the worship and teaching sessions on a Saturday or Tuesday morning – normal “Sunday” activities engaged in a new way at a new time. There’s a leadership team who have been gearing up for this and are prayerful and hopeful for real God encounters and transformation – giving of their time and money to create an opportunity for young people to experience all that God has for them. 

Research points to camps as being a major contributing factor for faith retention and development. 


Critics of camps will point to the concern that camps generate an artificial spiritual ‘high’. They might observe behaviour afterwards and question whether or not that experience was authentic. I have ridden that wave as both a camper and leader. My belief is that ANY encounter with God is used by Him to draw us closer to Him. We don’t ever return to the same kind of ‘normal’; what we learnt is not un-learnt. The discipleship journey for everyone – particularly young people – is a series of steps and missteps as our faith increases and our personal story of God expands. 

I can’t recommend camps highly enough. The research is in. The testimonies are strong. The investment of time and money is worth the reward it reaps. 

What about you? How have camps been part of your faith journey? What involvement have you had in seeing camps impact others? What resources have you found to make camps most effective? 

why people at church don’t talk to you


A friend and I have been known to run an experiment. When attending a different church, she leaves me alone in the foyer (to go to the bathroom or something) and we see if anyone will talk to me. It’s damaging to my pride, self-esteem and sense of confidence in my personal hygiene to report that – more often than not – when she returns, I’m standing where she left me feeling forlorn and having had no interactions with others.

As someone who leads in a church and desires that our environments be welcoming and inclusive for all – I run this experiment not just as a test of the church I’m visiting but to remember for myself what it feels like. To experience that awkwardness of trying to posture myself to look open to conversations or interactions without making a fool of myself. And as bad as it feels, I remember that my experiment is only partly accurate because I’m a visitor. Others coming into churches come because they are looking to find Jesus! Some come because they are desperately seeking a place of connection and belonging – of home. While I’m only there for one night. So much more is at stake for them.

Whilst I have received feedback from people who have felt a little ignored or adrift in our church, it’s more likely that those who feel this most poignantly haven’t stayed around to tell anyone – they’ve just left. You may relate to this experience in your own church environment. You look around and others are deeply engrossed in conversations and excited interactions and you wonder why you’re not included.

 

The reason people at church might not talk to you is because they are exactly like you!

They are uncomfortable talking to strangers. As an outgoing, verbal, extrovert I am uncomfortable talking to strangers! Most people are! People don’t talk to you because, just like you, they are unsettled about talking to people they don’t know. How awkward will this be? What if we have nothing in common? What if I inadvertently offend or upset them with what I say? What if they don’t want to talk to me!? EVERYONE is processing these same questions.

They are comforted by their own friends. There’s safety and security in the knowledge of their connection to their group of friends. And in fact, they may well be worried that if they don’t speak to these people no one else will speak to them and so they don’t leave the circle for fear of feeling that isolation. We are all creatures of comfort and security. Stepping away from the known and into the unknown requires a bravery that we don’t always manage to summon.

Someone once said to me “I never realised how cliquey people were until all my friends were away one week and no one spoke to me.” She didn’t even realise the irony of what she was saying. She only noticed that everyone else stuck to their friends when the friends that she stuck to weren’t around.

They wrongly assess their social position. Frequently, the socially insecure assume that everyone else is socially confident. The quiet and shy ones assume that the noisy ones are more bold and self-assured (when, often, it is just the same feelings manifesting in different coping strategies). Those unfamiliar in an environment assume that everyone else is quite familiar. Those who are more connected don’t trust their social connections enough to leave them temporarily to reach out to others.

Ultimately, the human condition is such, that we are all looking for a degree of connectedness and are all at the mercy of one another to find that place of belonging and welcome. New. Old. Loud. Quiet. No one is exempt from contributing to the social dynamic of a community.

*** A common cry. ***

“What if I go up to someone and say – Are you new here? – and they say – No, I’ve been coming for 3 years.

OR what if you start your conversation a different way!?! (Genius, I know!)

“How are you today?” (Revolutionary, but effective.) “Are those your kids? Have you had a busy week? What’s ahead for you this week? How will you be spending your afternoon? Have you done the winter pruning of your fruit trees yet?” (Read – there are lots of other ways to start a question that don’t need you to guess how long they’ve attended your church!)

Or just a simple, “I don’t think I’ve met you before, I’m Kim!” might be enough.

The reason people in MY church don’t talk to you is because people like ME (and you) need to get better at it. We can do this!