7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry
The 7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry began with a prayerful discernment centered on two specific questions. What must we do well in order to be truly effective now and into the future? What is absolutely vital for us to focus on in fulfilling the church’s mission within the unique camp and retreat setting? These questions sparked two national summits attended by many United Methodist camp and retreat leaders who gathered to listen and come to a shared vision.
The 7 foundations below are the fruit of those important gatherings. Each describes the nature of an essential aspect of Christian camp and retreat ministry and provide biblical and theological grounding. The 7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry provide valuable guidance and a sense of shared direction among the many camp and retreat centers across the denomination.
The mission of Camp Tanako is to welcome children, youth, and adults to a place set apart where they can grow in their faith by experiencing God through nature and spending time in community and respond to the call of the Holy Spirit.
Partner with United Methodist Churches and Agencies
One of the most fruitful and vital dimensions of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries is our participation in a tremendous covenant connection. United Methodists deliberately choose to link together and join forces in a common mission together. Some camp and retreat centers are private, independent operations, but United Methodist camp and retreat ministries are not. Even when our camp, retreat, and conference centers are separately incorporated for legal, operational purposes, this in no way diminishes our promise to partner with United Methodist local churches, conferences, and agencies of the larger Church in a combined effort to nurture faith in God and to reach out to meet true needs in the world together. Read more.
Provide Sacred Places Apart
Camp and Retreat Center beckons people to pause from the journey of their lives – to find renewal in an embrace with God. The seeming contradiction of temporary separation as a spiritual path toward greater connection rests at the heart of the unparalleled power of these experiences. This invitation to a place apart includes some often unexpected rhythms and understandings. All of us in United Methodist Camp and Retreat ministries encourage guests and participants to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to advance through retreat, to act on God’s behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away. Jesus’ teaching invites people to let go of grasping to their customary patterns to find deeper dimensions of life. This is part of the meaning of his promise – “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Read more.
Extend Christian Hospitality and Community
Welcoming people and doing all we can to engender a true experience of community touches people profoundly. We live in a time when people long for connections, but often hesitate to reach out to form new relationships. Individuals frequently do not even know their own neighbors. Even members of the same congregation may know each other only on superficial levels. Moving from discomfort and at times general suspicion of strangers to friendship is a precious blessing prioritized within Christian camp or retreat settings. What is commonly referred to as “community” in general parlance falls far short of what people yearn for. Definitions of community run the spectrum from simply being in a homogenous group who thinks like me to a collection of homes in the same housing development. Genuine love, however, expands the meaning of community by drawing people together despite their differences. The movement from mere politeness and tolerance to a greater level of care and recognition emerges when a group opens themselves to the Spirit of God. Christ models a wide embrace, including those shunned by others. Read more.
Nurture Christian Faith and Discipleship
The word disciple means someone who seeks and incorporates the guidance of a teacher. Christian discipleship, then, refers specifically to a growing trust in Christ while learning to integrate Christian faith teachings as a way of life. Camp and retreat ministry has an enduring reputation for frequently inspiring people to new levels of Christian discipleship. Without a doubt, camps and retreats offer unparalleled dynamics that contribute immensely to this sacred aspect of what we are about. First, people enter an environment apart from daily distractions as a time to focus more attentively on God. Second, guest and participants actually live together as a community for an extended period of time. This creates a very real potential for moving learning beyond typical classroom conversation to applying Christian faith and principles in our interactions and priorities as a temporary but intentional community of faith while at camp or on retreat. Experiential learning or active learning draws people to move from concepts to practice, from Spiritual thought to decision, from passiveness to action. Here people can explore what is possible if we commit to loving interdependence as a people of faith. A close partnership with local churches enables local leaders to understand what participants are learning about Christian Discipleship and community, so it can be reinforced and incorporated in a participant’s return to an ongoing faith community where their growth in discipleship continues. True discipleship continues in other settings, and we never want to give the impression that camp or retreats are the only place discipleship happens. We don’t want people living for a single week of camp or for the next retreat, we want them living for God. Read more.
Develop Principled Spiritual Leaders
Leaders play a critical part in shaping the present and the future for good or for ill. The number of books and resources about the nature of leadership and how to lead are innumerable. Within the plethora of perspectives and possibilities, our United Methodist camp and retreat ministries help persons grow in a very specific type of leadership. A summary of dictionary references elicits this description – “To guide others in a way to be followed, especially by going first.” First, all leadership assumes that others will be involved. Leadership training has aspects of personal development for the leader. Second, leaders take the journey, too. They walk with individuals or groups. It is active, experiential learning and guiding. In drawing people to discern and move out in a shared direction that has great potential to lead to a more beneficial future, the leader’s willingness to go first to demonstrate the way is a significant spark to ignite the passion of others. Finally, one cannot be considered a true leader for long, if no one trusts and chooses to follow. From the perspective of Stephen Covey, who has authored numerous books on personal effectiveness and leadership effectiveness, being trust worthy is essential. Read more.
Teach Creation Care and Appreciation
The waters nourishing modern camp and retreat ministry run deep within United Methodist heritage. They sprang forth unexpectedly in the 1730’s when John Wesley made a fundamental decision that would launch the Methodist movement into the mainstream of an historic “spiritual awakening” flowing from Europe into North America. With colleagues, he boldly chose to move preaching and faith formation into the “open air” where the people would have new access and new opportunities to hear and respond to the Good News. At first, even Wesley wrestled internally about the appropriateness of what he was doing. He writes in his journal, Saturday, March 31, 1731: “In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.” During a reading of the “The Sermon on the Mount”, a realization eased Wesley’s heart and mind. If Jesus often taught outdoors and trained his disciples there, then how could it be wrong? Christ himself, also, set the example of regular retreats into nature for prayer, discernment and renewal. Nature renews, stirs a sense of awe, and reveals insights into the meaning of life. Faith communities have discovered time and time again that the natural world is a powerful avenue of God’s self-revelation. The natural world speaks of the Creator. Read more.
Inspire and Equip Lives for Love and Justice
Camp and Retreat experiences provide fruitful opportunities for people to gather and to live together for a time. These times of gathering at our centers dedicated to growth in love has great potential to inspire all guests and guests groups to embrace more life giving practices and to act more justly and lovingly. Our United Methodist Social Principles state the following about community experiences provided by the Church:
The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals.
Paragraph 161, The Book of Discipline
Support for those seeking to become more responsive and loving people is enhanced greatly by a community who truly appreciates ways in which people open themselves to growth and service. This dynamic is what makes camp & retreat settings and times so significant and memorable for thousand upon thousands of participants and guests. Read more.
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