Camping and Retreat's Connection to Young People's Ministry
When I returned from the FX West Youth Event, fully energized by youth coming together in the midst of God’s creation to experience our God, the promise of salvation through Jesus, and the power of His Spirit. I come back to the office, and there are all the parts of what will be the Camping and Retreat packets that go out to the local churches providing further information on camps and retreats that young people and worker’s with young people can connect to other young people and adults of our Conference and have those experiences that gives us an intentional focus on God working in our lives. As well, I am preparing to attend the National Camping Ministries Gathering and Relevance X, other opportunities to learn, reflect, network, connect and re-energize for the days ahead in our ministry work. I am often asked why? Why is it necessary to go to another place for a Conference, Retreat or Camping experience when local churches are equipped to provide for those who are on their faith journey? I am reminded of the 7 Foundations that the Camping and Retreat Ministries division of GBOD, put together to answer the Why?
- Collaborating with UMC Churches and Agencies: Although independent sites, our mission is to partner with United Methodist local churches, conferences and agencies of the larger Church in a combined effort to nurture faith in God and to reach out to meet true needs in the world together.
- Developing Spiritual Christian Leaders: Leaders play a critical part in shaping the present and the future of our church. Within the plethora of perspectives and possibilities, our United Methodist camp and retreat ministries help persons grow in a very specific type of leadership. Through curriculum, training and local church application, we strive to help young people recognize and grow their potential as Christian Leaders.
- Equipping our Guests to Do Love and Justice: Camp and Retreat experiences provide fruitful opportunities for people to gather and to live together for a time. These times of gathering at our centers dedicated to growth in love has great potential to inspire all guests and guests groups to embrace more life giving practices and to act more justly and lovingly.
- Extending Genuine Christian Hospitality and Community: Welcoming people and doing all we can to engender a true experience of community touches people profoundly. We live in a time when people long for connections, but often hesitate to reach out to form new relationships. Families move from place to place more often today than in previous generations, thus displacing them from tight knit family and friends. Individuals frequently do not even know their own neighbors. Even members of the same congregation may know each other only on superficial levels. Moving from discomfort and at times general suspicion of strangers to friendship is a precious blessing prioritized within Christian camp or retreat settings.
- Nurturing Faith and Discipleship: Camp and retreat ministry has an enduring reputation for frequently inspiring people to new levels of Christian discipleship. The church establishes our centers and experiences as a powerful avenue for the fulfillment of this very purpose. Without a doubt, camps and retreats offer unparalleled dynamics that contribute immensely to this sacred aspect of what we are about. First, people enter an environment apart from daily distractions as a time to focus more attentively on God. Second, guest and participants actually live together as a community for an extended period of time. This creates a very real potential for moving learning beyond typical classroom conversation to applying Christian faith and principles in our interactions and priorities as a temporary but intentional community of faith while at camp or on retreat.
- Providing Intentional Places Apart: Sabbath, Silence, Solitude and Prayer: All of us in United Methodist Camp and Retreat ministries encourage guests and participants to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to advance through retreat, to act on God’s behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away.
- Teaching Creation Care and Appreciation: During a reading of the “The Sermon on the Mount”, a realization eased Wesley’s heart and mind. If Jesus often taught outdoors and trained his disciples there, then how could it be wrong? Christ himself, also, set the example of regular retreats into nature for prayer, discernment and renewal. On top of this Biblical recognition, there were the practical results. Masses of new people responded, and profound changes in their lives gave undeniable evidence that the Spirit was moving.