Our 6 weeks of summer camps are over. Labor Day Family camp it still to come. As I reflect on our summer experiences, I am reminded that “Outdoor Ministries” can happen anywhere. Physical places do become sacred spaces for us, and we certainly do experience them as “thin places” where we experience God in ways that just don’t seem to happen elsewhere. Templed Hills is one of those places! I am convinced, however, that this quite often happens, not simply because of a physical location, but rather because we intentionally create atmospheres and experiences of unconditional acceptance, safety in allowing people to express themselves and present themselves in ways that are true to their created being, and by simply reminding participants that they are created in God’s image and are loved by God. Can these outcomes be achieved in other ways, in other places? Of course, they can. But the experience that comes from removing oneself from the normal surroundings, immersing oneself in a natural setting with people and programs that focus on providing nurture and space to discover God around us and God in us often cannot be duplicated in other settings.
The experience offered by camps and retreats sets the stage for conversation and exploration in safe surroundings. Participants often allow themselves to ask questions they may not be comfortable exploring elsewhere. With intentional leadership and openness to the Spirit, camps and retreats provide space for growth, discovery, discernment, and faith-enriching moments.
A challenge for Outdoor Ministries leaders is creating pathways for participants to return to their primary settings not only refreshed and renewed, but with tools to take what they have experienced and introduce it into the rest of their lives. When the camp and retreat experience is successful to its fullest capacity, the discoveries and growth experienced will be carried back to home, school, church, and neighborhood, and those aspects of our participants’ lives will be infused with the same nurture, love, and care that has been evidenced at camp.
This, along with fun, swimming, hikes, and crafts, are what you can find at Labor Day Family camp. Register now for the last summer fling at camp!
Joyce Wealand Oyler