In a little over a month, I will head back out to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the second residency of the Doctor of Ministry program where I am studying “Ministry to Emerging Generations.” Recently, we have been studying God and culture and it has been enlightening!
I have always been aware of the powerful influence of culture but I never realized the extent of our culture’s power in shaping our worldviews. Leslie Newbigin, in his book “Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture” opened my eyes to a worldview that many Christians embrace without question–the separation of the public and private faith of Christians. This isn’t about the separation of church and state; this is about the separation of a “private” faith from our public lives.
For the most part, our American culture is OK with those who have faith in Jesus as long as that faith doesn’t stray from our private lives. In this worldview, it is OK for God to be acknowledged behind closed doors, but once we bring Jesus into our public lives, we cross the line of what is acceptable and we are seen as violating the freedom and rights of others. As a result, many of us shrink back in fear and silence and then desperately fight to restrain God to our private lives. The problem is that God will not be restrained.
In this light, it becomes evident that a private faith is a deficient faith. Our faith cannot be limited to our private worlds. It must extend to our public lives if it is to be true faith. In fact, this faith must be extended to the whole of human history because the same Lord of our lives is the King over human history. It is possible for us to live, and speak, publicly as Christians but who also honor the freedom of religion that America grants its’ people. If the youth of today are going to lead the church, this worldview embracing the division of the public and the private must be cast aside.
In a million years, I never thought I would be working at a Christian camp doing youth ministry. Four years ago, I was convinced that Christian camps were dying. I honestly thought Christian camp ministry was outdated, irrelevant and clueless. I was sure that Christian camps didn’t understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry. This is one of the many reasons I stopped taking my high school group to a Christian camp when I was a youth pastor.
Now I am the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Mount Hermon, a Christian camp. I love my job and I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of camp ministry in the lives of students. In fact, it was Mount Hermon’s vision for three vital partnerships that enticed me into doing youth ministry in a camp setting. I now believe, more than ever, that youth ministry needs camping ministry. However, youth ministry needs camping ministries that understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry.
For camp ministry to maximize it’s impact in the lives of students and fit into the big picture of youth ministry, it has to foster and build three main partnerships throughout the year:
- Parent partnerships--Camps must realize that parents have the primary responsibility for discipling students. First and foremost, youth ministry is not a camp’s job and it’s not the church’s job, it’s the parent’s job. This means that camping ministry has the privilege of figuring out creative ways to communicate and partner with parents both before and after a student attends camp. The more parents know about their student’s camp experience, the better.
- Church partnerships–Christian youth camps must also realize that they exist to serve the church. Youth workers in the local church are the ones who will see, and minister to, these students the other 357 days of the year. That being said, we can’t expect that 1 week, or weekend, out of 51 is enough to sustain students in their faith. Any decision made at camp needs to be reinforced and worked out in the community of the local church. This has to be kept at the forefront of our minds as we plan out and execute camp programming.
- Student partnerships–It’s great for camps to follow up with students if they understand the importance of the first two partnerships. However, all of our work with students should strive to connect them with two main things: the Word of God and the People of God. For camp to be more than just a mountaintop experience for students, they must get connected to God’s Word and God’s people. If we can help them take steps towards doing this, we can help them draw closer to the God who loves them more than we could ever imagine.
This is a guest post by Sydney Boral, a senior in high school who has attended numerous youth camps at Mount Hermon.
Mount Hermon will always be near and dear to my heart because it is where Christ pursued me to be His disciple. This past summer, I experienced Ponderosa Lodge from an entirely new perspective; I was a CILT. CILT, or Campers in Leadership Training, is a two week program in which high school students are trained to share the love of God with junior highers. As amazing as being a leader for younger girls was for me, CILT also provided me with the opportunity to dive deeper into my own faith, and to create bonds with other Christians in high school who truly love Jesus. When you’re a CILT, the entire Ponderosa staff pours their love into you constantly. Then, you are blessed with the chance to pour your own love into campers. CILT taught me a lot about what it looks like to not just be a follower, but a disciple. Serving God and others is so fulfilling, and at the same time you’re having so much FUN!
One of the most noticeable characteristics about being in a leadership role is the challenges you face. I’ve been a camper for seven summers now, and have always been terrified of the leap of faith. One day when I was with my campers at the ropes course, one asked me to be her partner for the jump, and without hesitation I accepted. I’m not sure why her request was so easy to answer, but I know that God was working through me. God really gave me countless ways to be a leader during CILT, and every boundary I grew past brought me closer to being a true disciple.
Another challenge brought on by CILT was knocking down your walls. The entire first week of CILT is spent training to be a leader, and bonding with your fellow CILTs because they are your family. We all had to open up about the tough stuff, but being able to admit your struggles brings you so much closer to God and shows you how much your “family” cares about you.
CILT was undoubtedly the best adventure I’ve ever experienced.
This is a guest post by Angela Mannino, a student who has attended numerous children and youth camps at Mount Hermon.
Christianity has been defined as many things. Some say hypocrites. Some say extremists. Some say goodie-two shoes. For me, Christianity has been defined as a relationship with the Creator of the universe and the God that “the waves and wind obey,” not a religion with a list of rules and regulations that I have to follow in order to please a deity that may or may not punish me.
It is because of Mount Hermon programs, mostly Ponderosa Lodge, that I have developed this definition. I have learned in my eleven years attending Mount Hermon camps that God is not about making us do things or punishing us when we are wrong—which is quite often. God is loving while powerful. God is compassionate while jealous. God is giving while just.
I wasn’t living a godly life. I didn’t really accept all the things that God commanded and said. I didn’t understand that the Bible is the Truth and that is final. There’s nothing I can do about that. Before last summer, I was much more liberal and less in tune with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t read the Bible very often (in fact, I resented the Bible), nor did I pray (at all, almost). I watched things I shouldn’t have watched and read things I shouldn’t have. I indulged in the devil’s delights more than I care to remember.
All the while, I was attending church, leading worship for elementary and high school-aged kids on Sundays and Wednesdays. I participated in church functions and invited people to youth group. I guess you could say I was a stereotypical Christian for a while; my hypocrisy and defiance was so insane, it’s scary just thinking about it.
This place is life-changing. I came to camp last year expecting to be let down by people and not be included, which is exactly what happened. I had thoughts that people didn’t want me around and were annoyed by me. I let that get the better of me and it showed. People avoided me because I was completely shut off and unwilling to be moved. It wasn’t until Wednesday night, D.O.S. night (discipline of silence) that things turned around. After ten years of lying and crying, complaining and hating, God washed over me in one small motion, but a huge movement occurred within me.
This place is safe. My heart is secure in the Lord because of the people He surrounded me with there. Those people have helped me keep my camp high moving and getting better. Through them, I see God’s grace and God’s love. Thank you, Ponderosa Lodge.
Two weekends ago, Mount Hermon hosted a weekend gathering for youth workers called “Recess.” Youth workers came together from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to play, rest, connect and learn. I love learning and this weekend did not disappoint. Here are 5 simple lessons I learned from Recess:
- Youth workers are some of the most amazing people in the world--Youth workers give up their time, energy & resources to hang out with students who don’t often thank them or even realize the sacrifice that’s being made. Regardless, youth workers continue to be present with these students while modeling the love and grace of Jesus. Not only that, but each youth worker who attended Recess gave up a weekend of their free time to learn how to be a more effective minister of the gospel.
- We need each other–I have a tendency to think that I can do things on my own. Sometimes I am even so arrogant to think that I know better than any one else. The older I get, the more I realize how stupid that kind of thinking is. I was encouraged by spending the weekend with like-minded people who have similar passions and who are reaching and discipling youth with creativity.
- We all need seasoned mentors speaking into our lives and ministries--Our Recess speakers this year were Brian Berry and Duffy Robbins. For me, it was a blessing just to spend time with men who have been doing youth ministry for years and who have learned from their failures and successes. I could’ve spent many more hours with both of these guys just asking questions.
- You can never have too much training–The longer I am involved in youth ministry, the more I’m tempted to think that I’ve learned everything I need to learn. Yet, I always learn something new when I read, go to conferences or spend time with mentors and other youth workers. The old saying, “leaders are learners” is true. I want to continue to learn as long as I’m alive.
- Volunteer youth workers are my heroes–I get paid to do youth ministry; it’s my full-time job and that job pays my bills. Volunteer youth workers, on the other hand, have full-time jobs (or they are full-time students) yet they spend their precious free time ministering to students because they believe that they can make a difference for Jesus. That blows my mind!
Because Recess was such an amazing weekend, Mount Hermon will be hosting it again in 2012 on September 28-30. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details!
Ponderosa Lodge CILT Campers 2012
This is a guest post written by Evan, a high school student who attended Mount Hermon’s CILT camp this past summer. CILT is a 2-week program for juniors, seniors and graduated seniors that focuses on leadership development.
Whenever I am asked to put my experience of CILT in a few words I honestly don’t know how to do it. But in general CILT did the unimaginable for me and my walk with Christ. A quick way I’ve been able to explain the experience for others back home is telling them how, for basically forever, I have had NO idea what I wanted to become or do with my life after high school; what college I wanted, what job, any of it. No clue. But I can honestly and full heartedly say, after the blessing of the two weeks at Mount Hermon’s CILT, it was the very first time something felt RIGHT. It felt like it was exactly where I needed to be.
I have been going to Mt.Hermon since primary week at Redwood Camp, and that place has been like a second home to me. Something that I realized is that I have always been provided FOR there. And the most beautifully amazing thing CILT gave me was the opportunity to provide for others and not myself…and honestly, building people up in Christ is the most beautiful and incredible thing to ever be apart of, at least to me. And I got to do that for TWO WEEKS!!!
I became so vulnerable and open with people I had only known for 3 days and then God stepped right in and made those into friendships that I’m still in touch with literally everyday to this day and I still care for them SO much. I’ve seen God work through that in such ridiculous ways by bringing us together and it has been so so extremely cool. What was all the more rad was then going our separate ways into cabins of our own but still having each other as we put all our effort and strength pouring into these kids to bring them one step closer to Jesus.
Meanwhile, God himself was bringing us so much closer to him as well whether we knew it then or not. It’s that indescribable!
Summer is coming to an end and the school year is beginning. We only have 1 week of youth camps left at Mount Hermon so we thought it would be good time to begin our “Beyond the 28 Day Challenge” Bible reading plan. This plan is a way for us to make camp more than just a mountain-top experience and continue in the decisions that we made during our week of camp. Join us in the challenge by reading the assigned daily passages and, if you want, work through the following 4 steps to help you process and pray through what you’ve read. One of the best ways to do this is to write out your response to the steps.
Step #1 :: Read
Read the assigned chapter(s) for the day. As you read, focus on what you do understand and don’t worry about what you don’t understand. Underline any verses that surprise, challenge, encourage, teach or move you.
Step #2 :: Write
Pick 1 of the verses that surprised, challenged, encouraged, taught or moved you and write it out. You can even write it out using different words (make sure you keep God’s original meaning though!). The goal is to think deeply about this one verse and answer the question, “What is God saying to me in this passage?”
Step #3 :: Pray
Respond to God’s Word by writing out 1 prayer. Based on the verse or verses you’ve focused on, how is God asking you to respond to Him? Do you need to confess a sin, ask Him for wisdom, praise Him for who He is or thank Him for His gifts? This is a time to write out a simple prayer to God.
Step #4 :: Share
Choose 1 friend to share 1 truth about God that you learned today, how you feel about what you learned and what you will do differently today as a result.
Feel free to share what God is teaching you here on the blog (in the comment section) or on our Facebook page.
The Bible plan we are reading through can be downloaded by clicking here. In this plan, we read through the Old Testament every 2 years and the New Testament every year.
Listen up ladies! We have a few questions for you: Do you enjoy babysitting? Do you enjoy sleepovers with a large group of friends? Do you want to learn more about God’s incredible love for you? If you answered one or all of these questions with a heartfelt “YES” then continue reading…
Mount Hermon offers a two-week camp that is specifically just for you! Amata (which means “Beloved” in Italian) is one of the youth intensive programs for young women in 8th-10th grade. During your two weeks at Amata you’ll receive professional Babysitting experience as well as CPR/First Aid certification! You’ll use these skills as a way to serve the hundreds of families that come to Mount Hermon’s Family Camp each week. You’ll also spend your time living in a two-story house with other campers your age and the Amata staff. Talk about fun…sharing a house together, late-night talks and sleepovers, and exciting activities! There are four college-aged women who have chosen to spend a summer JUST WITH YOU; spending time with you, listening to you, and sharing life with you.
But most importantly, these two-weeks will give you the opportunity to know God in a deeper way. He loves you so much that He has chosen to call you His BELOVED. We want to journey this incredible truth with you, so that you’ll carry this with you when you return home to your family and friends. Amata is not just a mountain-top experience! It’s an opportunity to prepare, shape, and equip you to be the woman God has called you to be, His beloved.
Click here to learn more! We look forward to meeting you!
This summer Mount Hermon Youth invites you to take a step into the unknown–to try something a little different; to serve like Jesus; to live in a small community of friends; to discover what a true life of joy is all about; to ask questions and find answers; to examine the road you’ve been on and explore the one ahead of you.
Echo is a 2-week camp experience that will stretch you in all aspects and present you with opportunities to encounter Jesus in ways you never have before. We will explore the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Our pursuit isn’t to become more dutiful and religious, rather to become joy-filled and free people who live a bold life of loving Jesus together!
7 guys, 7 girls, 5 staff for 2 weeks on 1 mission–to encounter Jesus and be changed.
Don’t miss it! Click here to learn more.