Friday, July 31, 2009

Remembering Why I Love Church Camp!

I have about 539 ideas for things about which I want to blog, but don't have much time to get it done. However, I'm taking the time to write about 1 of them quickly: high school leadership camp (called LDW for Leadership Development Workshop) put on by the Conference Council on Youth Ministry under the direction of Justin Lefto).

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a friend if I would be an "adult volunteer" at the camp which would be held in July. I waffled for a while, worried about a busy summer and being afraid to give up a whole week in close proximity to a new school year. I felt a sense of remorse about it and really wanted to work it, but just was afraid that I was too busy. First mistake.

The Wednesday before the camp started with Sunday training, I got a phone call from a student who is working at Camp Horizon and spoke with my friend. Between the two of them, they convinced me that I just HAD to spend the week at camp with the CCYM and the other high school kids who would be there. Man, I'm glad I said yes.

I haven't been to a week-long camp for a couple of years and I haven't spent an extended amount of time with the CCYM for, oh, about 10 years. During the week that I was there, I was the "adult volunteer" in a student led small group and stayed in a cabin. Those were great opportunities and I enjoyed the students I met there. The best part of it was some of the incredible opportunities that high school students had to fellowship with one another and to really be able to "soak" in what it means to live a life in relationship with God.

The theme for the camp was Connect4 and gave students a chance to connect with God, self, friends and world. Barry Dundas (pastor from Salina) and Ted Bannister (lay person aptly dubbed "Farmer Ted) challenged students to take deeper steps of faith in God. They were challenged in a ropes course (where they were joined by Bishop Jones for a morning), were instructed in LeaderShops taught by the CCYM and had fun in water and messy games. They even learned some of the hard truths of hunger around the world from the "surprise" Hunger Banquet on Thursday noon.

Nearly 90 people were a part of the camp. I had the sense during the week that we will continue to see leadership of the UMC from within this group of young people. I got to have 4 conversations with students who had experienced a call to ministry, some that week, some earlier. Of course I want to do my part in nurturing their faith and I'm praying that others will, too.

Despite my early objections, I had the best week of my summer (isn't that often how it is?). Now I'm praying that these students continue to see how God wants to connect with them in the other 51 weeks of their lives.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Would You Join Us in Prayer?

I am often asked, “What do you do in campus ministry in the summer time.” I understand the enigma that campus ministry may be to some, but I usually answer, “Plenty! I have time to plan, to read, to recover (!), and to prepare for a new year.” This summer, I’ve also been answering that I have time to pray…well, planning to pray may be more accurate. As far as I’m concerned, prayer isn’t really an option anytime during the year, but this summer I’ve been setting about an intentional way of praying for the coming school year.

Last spring, I participated in a 40 Days of Prayer effort that was headed up by Ben Simpson and some young clergy in the UMC. It was a blessing to me as I prayed the prayers written by others who want to see more vividly the work of God in the United Methodist Church. I got to write a prayer and join with a network of others who prayed for the UMC during the “season” of Annual Conferences.

In the context of the 40 Days of Prayer, I also had a conversation with a campus ministry friend of mine, Creighton Alexander, about a website for which we are co-editors. He was talking about his passion for campus ministry within the United Methodist Church and how much potential he sees within campus ministry in general. As we spoke, I tossed out the stories of some of the people I’ve met through the 40 Days of Prayer Initiative and other efforts of the UMC Young Clergy. At about the same time, we had the idea to issue a Call to Prayer for the UMC that would start in August, at about the time that school starts, and lead us through the first month of classes. The ideas emerged quickly and within a few short minutes, we decided to do several things:

1. Pray as we moved toward soliciting others for prayer.
2. Write a letter to be posted on the website of College Union.
3. Create a Facebook group of people who were called to ministry in the United Methodist Church through campus ministry.
4. Create a space on College Union to host prayers for the Prayer Movement to begin August 17 and last until September 25.
5. Invite some people that we knew to write prayers to be included in a prayer guide.

The Facebook group, “United Methodist Campus Ministry—Raising Up Christian Leaders,” exploded to over 200 members in the first 48 hours and has now settled in at about 500 in the first 3 weeks. We have now invited the members of that group, along with some other ministry leaders, to write 40 prayers to be included in the prayer guide. We have also heard the “call” stories of some of the group members and seen pictures of campus ministry across the country. We are more and more convinced and inspired to continue on in providing a challenge to the UMC to pray for our students, our colleges, our campus ministers, and our churches as they begin a new school year. We are also convinced that the there are future church and world leaders in campus ministries of UMC-related colleges, Wesley Foundations, and local churches right now who need to be lifted in prayer.

And so…I’ve been praying, as I usually do, but I’ve also been working toward prayer, especially in enlisting others to this important responsibility and call. If you would like to write a prayer to be included in the prayer guide that we’re building, drop me an email, If you were called to ministry, as a lay person or as clergy, through your campus ministry, join our Facebook group. If you are interested in joining in the prayer effort, visit the website. And above all else, would you join us in prayer?