Since my post on Friday, I've had a number of different people reply to me. And, I've seen a few other people voice their feelings and thoughts with most of them being helpful. So I'd like to share a few links to those, and then I'll say something that might bother some. Here we go...
Rev. David Israel was the President of the Camping & Retreat Ministries Board in the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church for a number of years prior to 2012 when he handed it over to the current regime. He shares some wonderful background and insight/response to the change that United Methodists in Missouri are experiencing about camping ministry.
His first post points out what David calls, "the idolatry of geography." Which is something pretty much all of us are guilty of at one time or another. You can read the full post here, but the gist of it is this: the campsites are just physical places; it's the relationships and spiritual formation that takes place that make them special. Basically, we should be more attached to God and people, than property. That makes sense to me, and it should to you too.
His second post points out a little bit about how we got to here. He gives background on some of the other changes that led up to this point. It is information that I really didn't know, but is helpful to understand. He will continue to post and update his blog with his insight, so you can check it out. I'm curious to see his next post.
The best post I've seen about the feelings that many have about this change to camping & retreat ministry in The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church is by my friend and colleague, Andy Bryan. You can read his post here. I know I identify with it, and I hope you do too. It's difficult to handle, but we will press on.
Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration because some people do care, but Nobody Is Watching Us and What We Are Doing About Camps. This is Missouri. We recently had a big event happen (and activity continues) in Ferguson, MO. Our Governor, Jay Nixon, said that the whole world was watching us and how we handle it. Well, here's some news, none of the rest of the world is watching how the Missouri Conference of the UMC does camping and retreat ministry.
I say this because some people have felt like the powers who made this decision are offending and neglecting the "Next Generation." The Next Generation is who we are supposed to be trying to reach; we all agree on that. No matter whether you're with this decision or against it, reaching young people is a top priority for the church. Here's the deal though, 90% or more of those people in Missouri who are age 8-18, do not know and do not care about this change. I haven't taken the time to look up the numbers, but I'm sure there are a HUGE number of children and teenagers who have never even heard of any of our four campsites. There may be a slightly larger number who have heard of Central Methodist University. But for the most part, we have only offended insiders. Somehow, we really need to focus on those children and teenagers who are not a part of our churches, but who are neighbors, and classmates with our kids. Most of these kids are playing sports and video games, going to school, arguing with their parents, reading books, eating candy, riding the bus, etc., the things that kids do. They and their parents are NOT offended by this because they don't have a clue. What's turning the current and next generation away from the church is their interactions with her (or lack of interaction with the church). We need to find ways to engage our communities and neighborhoods, and reach children and teens where they are. Don't fool yourself and think that this change has offended a generation and the UMC in MO has shot itself in the foot and all of the young people will go elsewhere. There is only a very tiny percentage of the next generation who know about this and care: the insider young United Methodists in Missouri. There's a HUGE number of children, teens, and college-age people near you who need to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you go?
I am a United Methodist Pastor, but I'm trying to re-define that as a Missionary sent to my corner of the USA. What would it look like for you to envision your life as a Christian more like a Missionary than a Church-goer?