Interacting with kids in their element gives me purpose. Their enthusiasm and exuberance gives me energy and I relish the positive role I can play in their lives. For me, a church sponsored summer camp is a no brainer. Those are just my reasons, there are SO many more reasons a summer camp for kids at Old First is a wonderful idea.
To start we should acknowledge that as Christians, especially in a church dedicated to urban ministry, we pledge to be servants in the service of others. I know that isn’t the most inspiring reason to consider this proposal but it is fundamental and has to be included. Old First does have a number of outreach efforts, mainly the winter homeless shelter and Saturday morning breakfast/ food and clothing shelter and many of us are involved in these efforts. But, I think we can do more and I think a summer camp is the perfect addition to our outreach efforts.
Duty alone is not enough to justify this project. Launching a summer camp is an awesome opportunity with amazing potential. The potential to bring the congregation together to plan and work at and support the camp. The chance to learn about and care for another community of people. Opportunities to employ good people and give kids in our church the chance to develop life skills. It could serve youth groups looking for urban ministry experiences and present networking opportunities in the area around Old First. These are some of the opportunities and there are plenty more.
The big reason for a camp specifically, is need. As many of you know Old First has some history organizing youth summer camps. I worked as a counselor for three summers in our most recent stint from 2005 – 2009. Camp was located in Kensington and it quickly became apparent this was a place in desperate need of constructive activities for youth during the summer. Most families in the area didn’t have the resources or resourcefulness to provide enough of the nurturing environment and learning experiences kids need while out of school. I don’t mean to be insensitive, it’s a tall order for any parent and in places where stressors like poverty and the threat of crime and violence are all around, it’s that much harder. Without positive options to spend their time kids idle or find trouble to get into.
A day camp provides a safe place where kids can be themselves and have fun. At the camps I was a part of we practiced reading every day, in fact the camp was called, I Read Everyday Camp. We dealt with conflicts peacefully, played outside and expanded horizons. It might sound basic but it was just what the kids wanted and needed.
I hope the whole congregation will get behind this idea and make it a total church effort. Even if it is something small like chaperoning a camp trip or baking for a camp fundraiser. There will be plenty of opportunities and John and I will make sure those opportunities are known! If we all play a part we can build something special.