This Sunday we will celebrate the ministry of Church Camping.
The Scripture Reading for the week is:
The Sermon Title is: Camping Ministry, God's Creation
Early Thoughts: This summer thousands of children will attend camps run under the name of the United Church of Canada. Why? Millions of dollars are poured into site maintenance, utilities, staffing, insurance, supplies. Good use?
I suppose I should name my bias up front. I spent a total of 6 summers on staff at church camps (5 in Alberta, 1 in Saskatchewan). There were also 3 summers when I spent most of my days off volunteering out at the lake. Church camping is responsible for my entering the ministry. So I have a fairly strong bias in favour of this ministry.
CAmp ministry is one of the UCCan's greatest outreach ministries. In my experience many of the children who come to camp are not "church kids". But at camp they get a chance to experience a different way of living as we tried to model a form of Christian community. Church camping is also a chance to introduce many urban kids to the outdoors. Working at Camp Maskepetoon, on Pigeon Lake, we would have some kids who had never been outside at night without streetlights, or had never had a chance to walk through the forest. And so part of our program was making use of our surroundings.
CHurch camping also provides a chance for people to explore who they are as leaders. Either as volunteers or as paid staff, many young people heve their first leadership experience in a camp setting. WE develop the leadership of the next generation by giving them chances to be leaders.
Camp is a life-changing event for many people. Camp can be a safe place for someone who needs it. Camp, when done well, can be a place where people of all ages feel free to be themselves (or to explore what it means to be themselves) instead of trying to be what others say they should be.
Camp is a very important part of our presence in this country. The camp program I worked with in Ontario was created precisely to provide a different theological perspective than any of the other church-based camps in that area (many of whom, including us, rented the same space -- a Kiwanis owned camp site). Our life as a church would be lessened if we didn't have camps.
FOr the record. Did you know that there are 70 United Church Camps across the country (well sort of -- some of those are rental only sites and some [like the one I just mentioned] don't appear on that list because they don't have a fixed site). This is in addition to all the VBS programs run by various churches. If each camp has an average of 50 campers and they have 7 camps a summer that would be 24 500 campers (plus paid and volunteer staff) touched by the United Church this year. Oh and of those 70 camps, 112 of them are in Alberta) You can find out more about United Church Camps on this page
Church camping--a good use of our resources.
And of course there is another way to look at camping in general: