“You can accomplish more with a kid in one week of camp than in a whole year of Sunday school.”
This statement, made by one of the more than 600 directors and leaders of Christian camps assembled recently at the fourth Christian Camping International Convention in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, reflects the mood of optimism and challenge that characterized the gathering. During the four days of workshops, demonstrations, and platform addresses, the delegates were confronted with the problems and opportunities that will face Christian camps in the seventies.
Throughout the convention, speakers and leaders emphasized that the basic and unchanging purpose of Christian camps is to lead campers into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and help them grow in it. This emphasis was balanced by a challenge to be alert to the radical changes in contemporary society, and to discover unique ways camps can respond to them.
More than 127 workshops dealt with subjects ranging from the very practical—and seemingly mundane—matters of administration and development to the unusual and stimulating areas of sensitivity training, stress camping, sex education, drama, and specialized ministries to retarded children, physically handicapped, minority groups, delinquent youth, the inner city, single adults, and families.
The Rev. L. Ted Johnson, director of children’s work and camping for the Baptist General Conference, and the convention’s opening speaker, called attention to some of the dramatic changes expected in the seventies and called on camp leaders to plan for them. He noted that in an age of increasing depersonalization, Christ-centered camping has a special opportunity to maintain a personal touch. Man’s search for “someone who cares,” he said, combined with increased leisure time and interest in recreation, calls for camp leaders to provide the “creative, imaginative, resourceful leadership the times demand.”
Another platform speaker, Dr. H. Wilbert Norton, professor of missions and evangelism at Wheaton College, called attention to the ministry of camping in world missions. He noted the necessity of adapting camping to the life-style of those in other cultures if it is to be effective. He also affirmed the need to sell mission executives on the potentially significant role of camping in world evangelism.
Other speakers included Dr. Torrey Johnson, director of Bibletown in Boca Raton, Florida; Dr. Grant Whipple, director of The Firs in Bellingham, Washington; and Vincent Craven of Canada’s Inter-Varsity camps. What was probably the most challenging address of the convention was delivered by William Gwinn of California’s Mt. Hermon Conference on the closing day, when, unfortunately, a number of the delegates had gone home.
Gwinn noted six probable characteristics of the seventies that will affect camping: (1) increased leisure; (2) twelve-month school years; (3) affluence, ease, and comfort; (4) “easy solutionism”; (5) revival of the family; and (6) revolution.
He then cited demands these characteristics will place upon camping: a return to biblical authority (away from non-biblical traditionalism); a biblical understanding of the Church; extension of camp ministry beyond the Church to take advantage of camping’s unique opportunity for evangelism; involvement of youth at all levels of camping; use of relevant language as opposed to an Elizabethan-style presentation of Christianity; quality in administration and facilities; and movement away from meeting-centered and speaker-centered camps to a more personal interaction between counselor and camper (“too many camps are doing what can be done in the basement of a church”).
Gwinn said camping must be plugged into the social revolution of our day and send people out into the world “or we’ll never make a dent” in the needs of our society. But he made it clear this ministry will be effective only if camp leaders are totally convinced that change must come from the inside out. We bring about change by calling men to Christ and by demonstrating the change he accomplishes, Gwinn added.
Several notes were sounded repeatedly throughout the convention: the importance of a strong relation between camping and the ministry of the local church; the particular opportunity for dialogue in the camping situation; the importance of ministry to families (“the most important camping there is, bar none, is camping for the family”); the vital role of “stress”The use of “stress” in education has been advanced by the world-wide Outward Bound movement, which has five schools in the United States. Outward Bound seeks to help young people discover their physical, intellectual, and spiritual potential by leading them through a variety of “impossible” situations and experiences. Working closely with other young people and a leader in a small group situation, participants learn the meaning of physical stress, self-discipline, problemsolving, teamwork, competition, dialogue, cooperation, and solitude. Christian camp leaders have seen in this program an effective means of reaching young people for Christ. in the future of camping; and a concern to expand the camping ministry around the world.
Christian Camping International, a fellowship association of Christian camp directors and leaders, was founded in 1959 as the Christian Camp and Conference Association and received its present name in 1968. Mr. Edward Ouland, CCI executive secretary, stated that the association includes approximately 1,700 members from thirty-two countries representing more than 900 camps.
Recently CCI has begun to serve the camping ministry through the publication of the Journal of Christian Camping, a magazine designed to explore in depth the principles and philosophy of Christian camping as well as to offer practical suggestions for camp programming and administration.
Although the primary function of CCI is to provide opportunity for sharing ideas and programs, the convention business meeting at Ridgecrest reflected a forward-looking program. CCI plans to develop special funds for publication, leadership training, consultation, and research and development in order to provide better service to member camps.
The newly elected president, the Rev. Lee Kingsley, outlined some goals for the future: increased development on a sectional level; improved communication, especially through the CCI Journal; and an upgrading of Christian camping.
In a day when many are accusing the Church of being irrelevant, leaders of Christian camping have shown an awareness of the real needs of people. They are endeavoring to meet those needs through a unique ministry that can be used to greater advantage by the Church.
RICHARD L. LOVE
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