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.
Yes that's right, today I go back to school. But not for me, for the kids at my sons' school. I'm being a Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) which is an initiative started after the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shooting where two young boys (around the age of my 8 and 10 year old boys actually!) shot and killed some of their classmates.
Some father's got together to ask the obvious question - why did this happen? They decided they needed to do something and felt that having responsible, involved dads helping out in the school and being a support for students, would be one way they could help. Having men in the school, not so much to be heroes and stop an attack, but more to be a presence that troubled kids may be able to look up to and model.
It has spread across the country one school at a time and is the first time it has started at our school in Missouri. Yes, it's almost April and my first time being a participant but I've been wanting to do so since September. So I will give a report to let you know how it goes.
So that's what I'm doing to get involved in my community and with kids OUTSIDE of the normal setting of summer camp.
One thing being brought up again and again in Church research and what is successful and what leads to decline is getting out into communities. Old congregations in areas where the demographics have changed to not match the membership of the church have a choice - stay the same and die, or get involved in the neighborhood (that's why they were placed in the area they are now so many years ago - to serve their community). Those that get involved (see the Deep and Wide videos produced by the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) for tangible stories - and the What If? video that is a good start to seeking new ways to be church from the camp and conference ministry perspective) are growing and changing.
What are you doing to respond to your neighborhood? Who do you get on board when you take these "Faithful Risks" to change your model from a "if we build it they will come" mentality of camp, conference and retreat ministries, to a "Let's go out and meet the needs in our neighborhoods? How much do you believe this is the future of camp, conference and retreat ministry? If it is, what does that mean for our financing and the enrollment, success and viability of our traditional programs?
I could cite many examples from across our PC(USA) camp, conference, and retreat centers of places that are doing just that. I'm going to lift up Ferncliff again as they responded to the Jonesboro shootings by offering a retreat for coping and healing and that has grown to being a destination for such programs for tragedies across the country.
So let's share how we are getting involved in our communities and what has been successful and what "Faithful Risks" have not worked out as well as we had dreamed they would. We can learn together how to be a part of this New Christianity that is emerging and help our denomination move forward faithfully.