And the youth said to me: “Why can’t church be more like camp?”
There you have it, the tension that often exists between congregational life and what happens at camp.
What’s really behind these two points of view? For the youth, camp feels relational, based in powerful communal experiences, immersed deep in nature, and wrapped in personal as well as Biblical stories that weave themselves throughout the day. In other words, camp looks a lot like Emergence Christianity as best described in Phyllis Tickles new book, EMERGENCE CHRISTIANITY.
But I’m sympathetic to the pastor’s comment as well. Congregational life is not suppose to be “six flags over Jesus.” Congregational life involves a broad audience and addresses life outside of the outdoor ministry bubble. Like life itself, it’s not always entertaining, fun and relatively carefree.
BUT, church does need to be more like camp in the sense that effective faith formation in the congregation is…
- Deeply relational and communal and less ethnic and tribal.
- Committed to sharing our stories while weaving in the Biblical and less doctrinal and orthodox, (or emphasizing the narrative of Christianity vs. the “right doctrine” of Christianity).
- Involving nature and the out of doors and less about God in the box.
- Experiencing the faith through doing faith practices and less talking ABOUT the faith. This is sometimes called emphasizing “orthopraxis” as opposed to “orthodoxy”.
Not surprisingly, because camp connects deeply in so many of the young it is the primary incubator for helping young people discover their sense of vocation and becoming leaders.
Now, whenever a pastor or church leader complains about the efficacy of camp, I say…”talk to those who went to camp and they’ll teach you a lot about how to be church in the congregation.” Camp is emergence, and that’s the direction we ought to be going. What do you think?