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Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.

Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.

These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.

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April 21, 2011

Slow Down? Speed up? Defining Relevance (For a Time Such as This – Part 4)

Clock Face
Is the ‘new normal’ that things will continue to change more and more rapidly?  Will we continue to feel out of breath running to stay in place?

About 5 years ago, when my children were 3 and 6, they said to me “Dad, let me see!” after I had taken a picture of them.   Before I knew it, I was turning the camera around to show them the digital photo I just took.  No shaking it like a Polariod picture as my grandfather used to when I was a kid to show us an “instant” picture.  I realized at that point that my children had no context for a world of waiting – a world of taking film to be developed and going back to get the finished pictures.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my first real glimpse at the rapidity of changes.  Because I was in the “flow” of the river as it twisted and turned, I didn’t reflect on what it was that was different.  I was enjoying the ride and the changing scenery.  Since that experience, I have developed the reality that our context of being, of interacting with others and the world around us is changing.

How do we keep pace?  Do we keep pace?  Is our ministry of retreat and space more or less relevant?  How do we seize the opportunities of change – such as partnering with other ministries, or cultivating a culture of retreat and reflection, or creating a home for those who want to experience their faith with integrity as a counter point within their changing culture?

Do we race to keep up by adding more and more programs, amenities (we all NEED WiFi, we all NEED projectors in each meeting space, we all NEED cell phone coverage) or can we become a place apart?

I think this answer is different for each of our ministries.  Some of our ministries will find our creative niche to thrive, others will continue to survive, and still others will fail to remain relevant or sustainable.

It is a challenge to know what to do.  I recommend being adaptive, frugal and ready to try new things, and abandon new and old things that just don’t work.  Remember, a batter has to hit just over .300 to get into the hall of fame (that means he fails to get on base 7 out of the 10 times he get up to bat – but he keeps getting up.)

I’m convinced our church and or world need retreat more and more and will be drawn to our space if we remain relevant.  I’m not sure I can articulate what relevant means in each of your ministries. 

Can you?



Tags: camp, conference, pcusa, presbyterian, retreat