It's been a couple weeks since I've had access to a computer. Since then, I've been to a camp that absolutely incredible. I've also been to a camp that was...very interesting. So I have many things that I want to write about, and will get to that shortly. Right now I'm at Kaylene's house near Portland, and we leave for CIY at Oregon State in just a couple hours. CIY was always my favorite week of the year, so I am stoked to get to go back this week. This is our last week of camp, so next Saturday we'll begin the three-day trek back to Joplin, and I'll get back to Topeka August 5th.
So about our camps. Two weeks ago we were at Camp Berachah in Auburn, WA. Which we soon discovered is a very pentecostal camp. I am not pentecostal. So that was quite the shift for all of us. There's a lot of things that I could say about why I disagree with a lot of pentecostal theology and interpretation, but I don't really want to do that now. Maybe I will someday. But I do have some thoughts just on the entire structure of the week, so I guess that's what I'm going to focus on now.
And here's my primary thought on the structure/method of Camp Berachah: I very much disliked it. Basically, each day of camp would begin with a morning praise service, then some group activities, lunch, more group activities (random things like go-karts or biking or archery or climbing wall. There were a lot), dinner, and then big worship session at night. So the day pretty much consisted of two worship sessions and a whole lot of random recreational activities. Problem with this? Very little opportunity for discussion, teaching, and discipleship. No classes. No small groups. Just canoeing and a dunk tank.
Also, the worship times were very emotionally charged. They very much had a concert-feel to them. When the worship band started, they invited all the students to form a mosh pit in front of the stage, and then those who didn't go up often just did there own thing throughout the room. And I'm all about getting in front of the stage and jumping around and dancing in worship. It just seemed somewhat forced here. Then the speaker would deliver an impassioned sermon, and there would be a big altar call, and all the kids would go back up to the front and cry some. Then some people would stay behind and pray, and everyone else went to bed.
And this creates a problem in my book. And it's not just something in pentecostal youth ministry, but in youth ministry in general. Far too often, youth ministries rely on pure emotionalism to impact students, and this was especially evident at Berachah. The camp was all about the big event, and it thrived on emotions. But it's not difficult to get a bunch of hormone-driven teenagers hopped up on energy drinks to come up to the stage and cry. It's another thing to help them turn that raw emotion into a decision for change.
God works on the heart. I won't deny that, and I'm glad for it. It usually takes the Holy Spirit breaking us so that we can see the hurt in our lives and the ways we've fallen short of what God wants us to be. But it can't just be left at that. Emotion needs to be turned into a conscious choice. Emotion is temporary. If our faith is based just times of emotion, it's not firm at all. I might as well base my faith on the weather in Missouri.
I've heard students say things like, "I raised my hands in worship today, and it was such a spiritual experience." Or "I cried after the sermon today; it was such a spiritual experience." And maybe they're right. But I really hope spirituality isn't reduced to that. When kids say that kind of stuff to me, what I want to reply is, "I think it would be a pretty good spiritual experience if you told your best friend about Jesus. If you showed love to that loner at school that everyone ignores. If you stopped looking at porn online all the time. If you started showing respect to your parents. Yeah, those sound like some good spiritual experiences."
So that's probably my problem with that camp, and with the way a lot of youth ministries and student events are run. Students needs a chance to discuss and download the things they hear in a sermon. I worry about those who were stirred by the Holy Spirit, but never had an opportunity to talk to others about what was going on and to figure out how to take that "spiritual moment" and make it last past the week.
I don't want it to sound like Camp Berachah was an all-bad experience. It made me think about a lot of things, and I learned a lot. There were a ton of people there who really loved Jesus, and a lot of students were confronted with God's Word. I just was not much in favor with the whole method of the camp. I have several other thoughts from the week, as well as from our last week, which at Wi-Ne-Ma in Oregon.
The Northwest is awesome. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time last week, which was incredible. Please be praying for my teammates and I as we're at CIY this week, and Joni, Sy, and I will be driving home. I'm getting really excited to see all of you who are in Topeka or will be in Joplin. And I'm even excited to see Jayne, who gets back from Africa the same day I get back from here. Check out her blog; she's having an incredible summer.