Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Rethinking Church Camp Pt. 3

    Lately, we’ve been rethinking church camp. Like many of us, I’ve developed a growing interest over the past few years in contemplative ministry and prayer. This weekend I read the book Be Still: Designing and Leading Contemplative Retreats, by Jane Vennard. Jane is an ordained minister in the U.C.C. She has led numerous retreats and teaches prayer and spirituality at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

    In her book, Jane offers several different retreat models. What if we had a weekend retreat for our youth that looked like this?

    Day 1
    7:30 Breakfast
    8:30 The Experience of Prayer
    10:00 Break
    10:15 Learning New Ways to Pray
    12:00 Lunch and personal prayer/relaxation
    3:30 Listening to God
    5:30 Dinner
    7:00 Praying with the Bible
    8:30 Evening prayers (concluding with silence until the following morning)

    Day 2
    7:00 Morning Prayers
    7:30 Breakfast
    8:30 A Theology of Prayer
    10:00 Break
    10:15 Intercessory Prayer
    11:30 Closing prayer

    This is just one of many examples. Of course, each retreat would need to be tailored to your group. I’m seriously thinking of doing this with some of my older youth.

    Has anyone tried anything similar?



    Jonny McCormick said...

    This looks like a really interesting weekend! One piece of advice I would give is to make sure that your youth group are interested in doing that before going. If they are not interested....really interested in prayer, then it could be a dive?

    just some thoughts...

    Randy said...

    could be a good thing - definitely worth a try with, yes, older youth - though i would suggest Day 2 start 30-60 minutes later on the theory that part of the contemplative experience is to slow down & thus why do we need to be up so early for morning prayers? :-)

    Brian said...

    Jonny, I think you are exactly right. This is not something you'd want to spring on the group as a surprise.

    Randy, Amen to the later start time! I've been working the last few summers to get our camp breakfast time later and later in the morning. Most teens are not "morning people" (neither and I, for that matter)!

    grahameknox1 said...

    Hello Jacob,

    Thanks for the post. Looks like a great outline for a weekend retreat. Can I come :-) Seriously, if you do go ahead with something like this, can you post on how it went. For one, I'd be interested to know. I haven't done anything like this for quite a while, but if I may hesitantly suggest a couple of things...I think posture can be very significant in times of meaningful prayer. Movement is important too. Perhaps encourage the young people to listen to God on a quiet woodland walk? Visuals and appropriate music can also help young people to engage in prayer and intercession. Oops, this is getting long for a comment. May this be a significant spiritual time for your young people.

    Joel Mayward said...

    Is this type of camp/retreat possible with younger youth--ie junior high, or 5th/6th graders? Has anyone ever tried that before with any success? What would a junior high contemplative retreat look like?

    katielflynn said...

    I actually run two-week long camps for teen students that focus on various aspects of spiritual formation and the contemplative spiritual life. We've found that students THRIVE in an atmosphere where they are given "structured freedom" for spiritual disciplines (including silence, solitude, journaling, prayer). I'd love to share our schedule/resources/etc if you are interested... kflynn@mhcamps.org

    JuggleDoug said...

    Wow, that's what most of our retreats have looked like. I'm Catholic so Contemplative Prayer is everywhere in our Church. What I find most interesting is that we are trying to break free from the contemplative format and imitate some of the mainline/protestant models of ministry.

    By the way, I saw on your About page that you are from Columbia MO. Are you still here? Or have you moved on?

    Jacob said...

    Thank you for all of the helpful responses. Everyone has provided some great feedback.

    I'm pleased to learn that others are already doing similar retreats. If you lead retreats like this, Katie and Doug, maybe you could write a guest post for our blog and share your experiences?

    I haven't done a lot of contemplative ministry with my younger youth. But, we spend about five or ten minutes each Sunday night in silence. I'm hoping that by starting at a younger age, it will seem natural as they progress through our youth ministry.

    Movement is a great idea. I also agree that we should start the day later and make sure everyone knows what to expect before they arrive.