By Cailey Morgan
Last time, I wrote about the how being citizens of God’s Kingdom means growing in our understanding of our heavenly Father’s economy of abundance and how exclusion from the Canada summer grants program provides an opportunity to disciple our folk in this Kingdom way.
Another opportunity that this shift in summer grant funding provides is the excuse to stop and reflect on why we do the summer day camps or other outreach programs that these government grants often pay for, and how, with whom, and what we do this summer now that Canada’s taxpayers aren’t footing bill for our the interns’ wages. And this leads me to the second aspect of Jesus’ life on earth that we need to pay attention to: Jesus used every moment as an opportunity for discipleship and leadership development.
Sometimes, Jesus had planned times of teaching where He would cast the vision of God’s Kingdom to His closest followers. Other times, a woman would interrupt by touching His robe, or children would run up, or the Pharisees would come looking for trouble. In all these situations, Jesus took the opportunity as a teaching moment: a chance for discipleship of the crowd and for leadership development of His core team.
So for us, I’m asking a simple “why” question: Why do we do day camps? Why do we do programs?
This isn’t a rhetorical question. What’s your answer?
Day camps are obviously a great way to show hospitality to kids in our neighbourhood. But we need to ask the bigger questions of what the long-term purpose is? I’ve personally been guilty of helping run camps in order to feel like I’m busy doing “God’s work” and to check off my “evangelism” box on my to do list. There is so much more potential.
Let’s think seriously about what excuses we can come up with to disciple our people into the next level of growth in their love of God, each other and neighbour this summer. Maybe day camps aren’t the right connection point for those in your neighbourhood who don’t know Christ yet–and the lack of internship funding this summer will help force your congregation’s hand towards a different plough. If so, that’s awesome. But before you throw summer day camps out the window, I want you to consider the revelation I had on the other side of the world a few weeks ago.
I was in Albania in preparation for a summer youth leadership development program in which teens from the Canadian and Albanian congregations of our church will be learning about and practicing Christian leadership. Between church leadership meetings, visits to the elementary school we hope to engage throughout the summer, and scoping out accomodations for the summer team, I sat down with the neighbourhood pastor of our Sauk village congregation to talk about the potential of running some day camps for neighbourhood kids as part of the LTD program.
My initial bent was that the Albanian congregation is perfectly capable of running day camps–why should we wait until the Canadian youth arrive to do this ministry? Every time we visit from Canada we help run camps, and it can seem like just a program to keep the Canadian team busy and feel like we’ve accomplished something. But as the conversation continued, we were both struck with a deeper vision: the discipleship pathway.
Every person in the world is on a discipleship journey. Some are running the path as fast and hard as they can. Others do not recognize that God is at work in their lives and are wandering in other directions. Summer day camps are an excuse for discipleship all along the spectrum. At one end is the wide-open door of invitation for kids who’ve never known the love and peace of Christ to draw near to Him through these camps. Super important.
Eexcuses for discipleship–camps not for the sake of camps but for the twofold sake of evangelism and a chance to develop leaders out of our wiling and energetic young people. We’re taking the leadership development angle of camps very seriously this summer, using the excuse to have youth and adults train in leadership skills and practice those skills in our neighbourhoods.
I share this example of camp leadership because the levels of discipleship are easily defined and you can see a clear path of growth into leadership over time. But this path is true for discipling anyone–adults, church leaders, we’re all on a path of growth and all need to be simultaneously being discipled by someone further along in the journey and discipling those newer on the path. Any excuse for people being together can be an excuse for discipleship.
What excuses for discipleship are taking place in your congregation?