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.
If you read my blog, you will find I am interested in a wide variety of subjects related to camp, conference and retreat ministry. I like to look at the ministry facilities we have as "Centers for Mission and Ministry" because they are one of the most flexible resources we have in our church. From facilities for education and retreat, to acres of God's creation, to skilled and multi-talented/flexible staff to help put any idea into action, to their reach into all aspects of church life, our centers are truly under-used and undervalued. I firmly believe that if we as a church/society could wake up to the promise for the future that was laid 50+ years ago at our camp/conference facilities we would be "blowing the doors" off our ministry - truly capturing "lighting in a jar."
So what should we focus on? How are we unique and relevant? Of course this answer is complicated and different for each center. However it doesn't have to be - know who and whose you are, and do what you know. Sounds simple but if you don't get your board and you leadership headed in the same direction - it's driving the bus around in circles in a parking lot wondering why no one is getting on. If you don't know where you are going, why would anyone get on your bus? Really.
I would love to invite theologians and camping professionals to comment on what they think are the essentials in camp and conference ministries and to dream the dream of what the centers they are related to can be doing.
The whole ministry starts with Jesus Christ. If we don't embody what Jesus came to us as (God on earth, Emmanuel, God with us), and what Jesus came to accomplish (salvation, re-connecting and mending our relationship with God, and teaching us how to live God's kingdom here on earth while we wait for the hearafter), we need to be in another line of work. So teaching and focusing on Jesus is a very important and valid aspect of our ministry. Both in eduation, curriculum, how we welcome and how we invite those who visit our sites into a life in Christ, is essential.
But Jesus came to change the world. To teach us to care for each other, and those served by no one. To give the coat off our back when needed, to feed the hungry and care for the poor. That makes mission trips, outreach, social training, and eco-stewardship that helps us care for our fellow humans and God's earth - all valid and important aspects of our ministry.
If we are only focused on teaching about Jesus and helping participants develop a personal relationship with Jesus, that is good and essential. I would argue that stopping there only goes halfway. If we are not using some of our focus to put into practice what Jesus is teaching, I think faith fades quickly.
"14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:14-17 NIV
So in upcoming articles, I will work to focus on some of the ministries we can be doing in our sites and invite conversation on why it matters, or doesn't in your context.