This year’s Highland Banquet theme was “Relevant? Future ministry at Highland.” Micah Hurst, youth pastor at Weavers Mennonite Church, (pictured, far right) drew on his extensive experience in Christian camping – including time as Highland’s staff pastor this past summer – as he addressed the first part of that theme.
Micah noted that the question of whether camp will continue to be relevant rises from an underlying anxiety about the future of the church itself. However, as he reminded us, the church does not belong to us, and it is not up to us to shape and create it. In Matthew 16, Jesus says to his disciples, “on this rock I will build my church.” We get to be co-laborers with Christ, but the church – and Christian camp as an extension of church – is ultimately God’s project. Jesus is eternally relevant, and a camp that follows Jesus will be, too.
Micah then went on to list five aspects of camp that also contribute to its enduring relevance.
- Camp is a significant place for the young people on staff. While serving campers, summer staff are also changed in powerful ways, especially as they are trusted with leadership roles that they may not be given in other church settings. Camp becomes a training ground for our next generation of leaders.
- Camp builds in opportunities for play. Rather than the intensity of sports or the passive entertainment of TV or video games, camp allows room for activities that are as much about silliness as skill.
- Camp does community well. At camp, people make connections in person and have the time for in-depth conversations. This is equally true for church retreats; church families benefit from time together at camp as much as summer campers do.
- Camp draws people nearer to God. The habits of daily worship, intentional devotional times, and the natural surroundings combine to create a deep sense of closeness to God.
- Camp provides a sense of purpose and belonging that is often missing in the world. No matter your role at camp, everyone contributes to the ministry and can enjoy being on mission together.
Micah concluded by saying that Jesus will continue to build on us the Kingdom of God, and as we allow this and rejoice in it, camp will indeed remain relevant.
Executive Director Kent Kauffman presented the other half of the program; see the part 2 summary here.