10 Ways Camp and Retreat Ministry Contributes to the Missional Vitality of the Church – Reason One

By Kevin Witt

Reason One: A Living Immersion in Christian Community and Practice

Consider how uncommon the opportunity really is in our society for people to disengage from routines, responsibilities and daily distractions in order to intentionally live with other people beyond their immediate family (strangers as well as friends). Add to this dynamic an abiding focus on caring for one another and growing together in the love of Christ, despite how different our backgrounds and personalities may be. Faith based camp and retreat centers offer both a sacred place “apart” dedicated to God and a community of Christian practice.

Guests and campers often experience transformation in their self-understanding, relationship with others, their connection with God. Away from distractions they gain greater awareness of the deeper meaning of their lives. This happens through a process of receiving and sharing grace (not just talking about concepts) that flow through the rhythms and intentionality of effective Christian Camps and Retreats.

Without a doubt, camps and retreats can be quite fun and sometimes challenging because of this “creative disorientation” from one’s norm into a different environment. God uses a change of place, activities and relationships to “re-orient” us to the beauty and vibrancy of the Christian path and way of being. “Dislocating” experiences heighten a person’s attentiveness and awareness because the situation is different from the routine. It often engages emotions too.

These factors frequently make the experiences memorable and memories continue to shape the person as they move beyond the camp retreat experience. Milestones become markers and moments that continue to provide meaning and direction in life, which is just one powerful aspect of Christian camps and retreats. Abiding focus by resident staff at the camp and retreat center working in concert with leaders of the experiences themselves plays a key role. This is not the kind of milieu that will be easily found simply by renting a hotel, site, or public space where none of this is part of the core purpose or deemed important by those at the facility.

As a denomination with one of the largest and strongest networks of faith based Camp and Retreat Centers, it is truly important to recognize and cherish the gift we have been given not only for our own denomination but to share with others who do not have their own centers.

Brian McLaren, author and “emergent church” leader, speaks passionately about the importance of Christian camps and retreats and some unique dimensions that God uses to impact adults and children in profound ways. After you have viewed the video clip of Brian speaking below, I encourage you to go deeper by reading Biblical and theological reflections from one of the 7 Foundations of UM Camp and Retreat Ministry documents entitled “Extend Christian Hospitality and Community”.