One of the best outcomes of the recent youth ministry conference I attended was affirmation from some of my colleagues about a question I've been thinking about for almost a year: "Is it time to rethink church camp?"
Is it time to critique the same sort of program-driven approach to church camp that many of us have been critiquing for some time now in our congregationally-based youth ministries? Is there another way to "be" church camp without the constant focus on activity, activity, activity? I'm happy to report that some folks started asking that question long before it ever popped into my head and they've already begun to make the shift to a more thoughtful approach to church camp.
I have to admit that the model of church camp that I primarily utilize is one I inherited from those who mentored me in the ways of "doing" camp. Having never gone myself as a youth, my only experience of church camp has been as an adult. And although there is much positive to be said about the model I inherited, it is inherently program-driven. Every moment of the day is scheduled with keynotes, family group, Bible study, arts and crafts, creek walks, sports, swimming, worship, campfire, and those big evening events that often result in half the camp covered in chocolate pudding! As they say on Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," but I knew in my gut that there could be more. And I felt strongly that one possible key to this "more" might be the contemplative approach to youth ministry that Mark Yaconelli promotes through his books and the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project (YMSP) and that youth ministry guru Randy Kuss promotes in his God @ Center retreats.
So coming in the next several days will be several suggestions for just what a contemplative approach to church camp might look like. But we would love to hear your thoughts on this, too. How do we slow down the "activity" at camp to make room for youth to hear the still small voice of God?