In her book “Almost Christian,” Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean explains that many times, the Church offers nothing more than a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” to teens. Such an offer is severely lacking in a culture that questions everyone and everything. As the Church we are entrusted with the sacred trust of teaching and leading people to a living, growing, loving relationship with God in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
A “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as described by Dean is a watered down version of the Christian faith that cannot stand up to the hard questions and scrutiny of a post modern culture. Teens need more than a moral code of do’s and don’ts. They need a living, breathing relationship with God in Christ that inspires them, loves them, holds them, informs them, challenges them, and leads them in being the authentic expression of God’s love in the world.
The camp experience is a place and an experience whereby such work takes place. What makes camp such a powerful opportunity for such empowering work to happen is it’s unique expression of Christian community. It is one of the few places whereby teens live together, led by an inspired and trained staff, focused in an intense, deliberate experience of God and God’s working in the midst of living. John Westerhoff, in his book, “Will Our Children Have Faith,” says that faith begins and grows with an experience of God. An experience of God is central to the camping and retreat model of ministry. Without such an experience of God faith neither begins nor grows. What becomes so obvious in reading through the evaluations of our campers this past summer is their description of their experience of God. God is at work inviting, convicting, restoring, growing, loving, gracing campers in a way that transforms their lives. Listen to just a few of them:
“Feeling like I was walking and with God all the time.”
“This year I felt like I broke out of my shell and was more outgoing.”
“Just learning more about God and bonding with my new friends.”
“I loved the worship and the services.”
“I really loved my first year at camp.”
“When half the camp was crying on Thursday night worship. It was beautiful.”
“I cried during worship and I didn’t know why.”
“I felt like everyone was together as one body and close to God.”
What these campers are witnessing to is the power and presence of God in Christian community. It is these experiences that God uses to begin, form, and shape faith in young people. This is the sacred work that goes on in this place. It is through such experiences that God inspires and grows young people in the trust of God and what such a trusting relationship means as it leads them to express it through their lives.
We work very hard to be available and used by God to create such experiences in the lives of young people each and every summer. I believe it is through such experiences that God raises up dedicated, loving, and empowered young Christians that will lead the church in the mission and ministry of the church. A “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” isn’t cutting it in the lives of young people. I pray that as the church you will entrust your young people and their families to us for a week in the summer. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Much grace always,
Rev. Travis Franklin, Executive Director
Glen Lake Camp and Retreat Center