A blog post by Jesse Weiss
Each spring, I conduct about sixty interviews with young adults interested in serving on summer camp staff. Throughout the years, I have encountered many responses to interview questions that have brought me joy, as well as a fair amount of responses that have made me cringe.
For instance, when asking, “What does God’s grace mean to you,” I’ve gotten everything from “it means that I’ve been given a gift of undeserved love through Jesus Christ” to “um, it means that, we, uh, are supposed to be graceful to others.” While answers to questions like this can’t fully portray a person’s heart for Jesus and potential ministry with youth and families, they can give a glimpse into the experiences and into the people that have influenced that person’s life of faith, or lack thereof.
This is certainly true with the always standard question, “So why do you want to work at camp this summer?” The response to this question that makes me cringe like none other and that has, at times, brought me to near tears, is something along the lines of “because I need to be at camp to be close to God,” or “I need to be at camp to have a faith life.” For me, this response is just plain sad, and I’ve heard it way too many times.
Camp, by nature, is secluded. Outdoor ministry is distinct because of its goal to be “set apart” from our normal, everyday experience. Faith, however, is not secluded and does not just exist in a certain time and place. Our camps have done a pretty good job of creating a transformative and meaningful experience for so many, but we haven’t done a great job of connecting it to anything beyond the time and place of camp.
Thankfully, outdoor ministry leaders across the country are waking up to this fact and are starting to implement some innovative ideas to encourage faith growth in times and places beyond the standard week of camp. A way in which many camps have begun to do is by using the web to bring camp related activities into the homes and congregations of camp participants.
At Luther Point, we’ve created a webpage called LutherPoint365. Centered on our summer theme, we have put together five weeks of pre-camp activities that families can do together. There are also post-camp activities to help participants further reflect on their lives of faith. Based on our camp evaluations, our campers at Luther Point tell us their favorite thing about camp is the relationships they form with our summer staff. LutherPoint365 also gives our campers a chance to keep learning from our summer staff, as we post devotions and thoughts that they have written.
Other camps are partnering with Vibrant Faith Ministries to utilize Vibrant Faith@Camp (check it out at Luther Crest or Camp Wapo), which is a web based resource for individuals and families of all ages to continuing growing in faith after camp is over. They have put together great devotions, crafts, activities, and answers to tough questions that relate to the time spent at camp.
I believe we only go to camp so that we can leave. Yes, the experience in the time and place of camp is often so transformative and meaningful in a person’s life of faith, but what is the point if it doesn’t go beyond that specific time and place?
Check out your camp’s website to see if they are offering Vibrant Faith@Camp or doing something similar. As we begin to understand what it means to be the church in our post-Christendom society, I think it’s clear that creative ways of partnering for the sake of God’s mission in the world are essential.
Jesse Weiss is the Program Director at Luther Point Bible Camp in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. He graduated from Luther Seminary with a Master of Arts in Congregational Mission and Leadership in 2012. He is passionate about outdoor ministry and how this ministry can encourage people to be active in God’s mission in the world.