A year ago I was really challenged by something I heard and read. The concept comes from Seven Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones. The idea is to think in terms of steps as opposed to programs. This comes from one of Reggie’s chapters and he was talking to me about this last year and it really challenged me in the way we do summer camp for kids and students.

Here’s the concept. Every ministry has to decide on what is most important. Well, they don’t have to, but if they hope to be effective, they will. If everything is important, than nothing is. Everything will compete for money, resources, volunteers and families and everything will be okay and nothing will be superb. I’ve found this to be amazingly true. At Gateway, we’ve decided that relationships are the most important thing and we’ll do everything we can to value the relationship a small group leader has with a student/child. Everything!

Well, this caused us to evaluate camp. Good old summer camp. One of my favorite things about ministry. Several of the most significant defining moments in my life spiritually happened at summer camp. Every year we have many kids make take big spiritual steps at summer camp. However, these reasons alone aren’t legitimate reasons for doing summer camp. When I took a good hard look at summer camp, I saw that it was a program, not a step. We’ve decided that the most important thing we can do is focus on building incredible relationships between kids and their leaders. However, most of our leaders couldn’t take a week off of work to go to camp. This was unfortunate, because the kids were experiencing spiritually catalytic moments with adults who would only be in their lives for a few days and the adults who have committed years to the relationship were missing out.

See what’s happening here. Small Groups are good and Summer Camp is good, but is there room for something better? I say yes.

This is why we decided to move summer camp to the winter. On January 10-12, we’re taking our kids to Winter Camp, a two night getaway. At this point, we have over 80% of our small group leaders attending and they’ll have the same kids in their group at camp that they have each and every week during the year. When kids have moments of spiritual change, there is a relationship already there.

That’s effective ministry done strategically. More to come on some of the unique things we’re doing with Winter Camp this year.