I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days at Merge camp with a bunch of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students from Embrace. I've been fortunate to be a part of this trip for several years now, and I continue to be impressed by a number of things.
- We have some really great kids in this church. They are, for the most part, respectful, kind, and thoughtful toward each other and toward their leaders. They want to learn and grow. They love Christ.
- We have some really good parents in this church. If you have a child that went to Merge Camp this year, congratulations, I can say pretty confidently that you are doing some good parenting. And if your house is like mine, it helps to hear that, because it's not always so apparent at home.
- We have good leadership for our kids in this church. Beth Cofield does an excellent job in planning this trip each year. That's an extension of the work she does year around with our kids, but having all the pieces in place for this type of trip to work and work so smoothly takes some effort. Take a minute to thank Beth the next time you see her.
- The list of activities Camp Directors use to keep you wet for a solid 4 days is apparently endless. Is there a secret Camp Directors book on this subject that is required reading? (Parenting Pro Tip from TeamBrawner: If you have crabs, put them in the water – wet kids are happy kids.)
The theme at Merge Camp this year was "Level Up!" If you, like me, are not immersed in video game culture, that might need a brief explanation. The term "level up" apparently refers to moving up to the next level of game play. It implies that you've mastered one task or mission and are now ready for the next, presumably, more difficult, task or mission. The task that our kids were charged with at camp this year was to make an honest assessment of where they are in their relationship with Christ, and commit to taking the next step, to Level Up. That kind of introspection is a big ask, even for adults, but our kids handled it well. I think many of them were indeed very honest about where they are and I think they have at least identified the next level. If you know a child that went with us you might ask them if they have "Leveled Up" and see what their response is. Maybe they'll recall what you're referencing. I hope.
I mentioned above that I have been fortunate to be invited along on this trip for several years now, and my perspective on it has changed a bit over that time. Initially, my expectation was to actually see kids changed by the time they spent at camp. There are some times when a kid may come back from a four-day camp and be recognizably different. I am sure that happens. I've been told as much. But I think more often than not the kid that comes home looks and acts about the same as the kid that left four days earlier.
So, what gives? Is camp just an excuse to go play for a few days? Just a chance to get your kid out of your hair for a little while? What's really happening here and why should we continue to spend time and resources on it? Well, as I also mentioned above, it’s a few days to stay good and wet. Both literally and metaphorically.
These kids are like sponges and I watch them soak up lessons at camp. But the little drops of water that represent those lessons get soaked up deep inside those sponges and the outside might not look a lot different when they get home. When a sponge is just barely damp, you have to squeeze it really hard to get any water back out of it. But as it becomes full, you don't have to apply any pressure at all; whatever it’s been soaking up just starts to drip back out on its own. Merge Camp is a chance for us to dump some extra water on those sponges. A chance to turn the faucet on a little higher for a few days and help you fill them up a little quicker. Some of you have sponges that were already getting full, and you may have seen them dripping a bit when they got home. Some of you have sponges that can still hold a lot of water and you may have to squeeze them pretty hard to get anything back out just yet. But keep pouring that water into them, one drop at a time, and they will eventually get full and start to drip on others. It's when we stop watering them that we encounter trouble. They either dry out, or start to soak up things we don't really want them dripping back out.
Fortunately, you have a church that wants to help you keep that good, clean, water dripping. Not just for four days at camp each summer. We want to do it every week. I've been a group leader for kids on Sunday mornings previously, and it's been frustrating at times because I've not been sure it's made a real difference. So, I took some time away. But I'm jumping back in this fall. I've realized that my job is to just keep them watered, keep them wet. One drop at a time. I happen to know that we could use a few more waterers on Sunday mornings. If you think you could drip a little, just let Beth know when you stop to thank her.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Cor 3:6NIV