For nearly half a century the good folks from Mayfield UMC have been going to Camp Aldersgate near Carrollton, one of our three Conference camps. The church fills up the camp, spending a week together swimming and hiking, lugging each other up that huge hill and eating together in the dining hall. For a generation or two this has been part of the shared experience for the people from that church.
So when the church decided to get involved in Aldersgate’s effort to replace the 1930s cabins with new, beautiful log cabins they started with some shared understanding. The people in the pews already knew what the Camp was and what it did. They had seen the cabins that were built before even the oldest member likely ever went to camp as a kid. They knew of the value of the camp experience, how great it is to see your pastor lose the tie and fool around on a tire swing or to build bonds with fellow church members around a campfire.
Because the entire church was on the same page, they were able to provide more than enough support to build two cabins, one of which is already under construction. Oh, and members of the church got the construction started this spring and will be spending a four day weekend at the camp this fall to finish it. Time together hammering and sawing equals more sense of community.
What are the shared experiences of your congregation? Not every church goes to camp for a week (although I happen to believe that a few dozen s’mores in June could make for happier budget discussions in the fall) but many do church-wide missions projects like Royal Family Kids Camp or “youth” mission trips where the average age is well over 21.
I believe that these shared experiences build community within a church. And community translates to generosity, to a sense of shared purpose, to an environment where, although we may not always agree on everything, we are at least all pulling the rope in the same direction.
There is an old saying, “You can’t rock the boat and row the boat at the same time.” Maybe it’s time to get the oars out of the closet and begin to develop a congregation-wide project to help them “Rethink Church,” develop that sense of community and get the energies of your congregation focused in a positive, Wesleyan direction.
Oh, by the way, a cabin at Aldersgate costs about the same as a new car. If you want to learn more about participating in this important effort, contact Eric Dingler, Aldergate’s Camp Director