5/26/15

Family Camp and Intergenerational Worship



Over the Memorial Day holiday we were gifted with a Family Camp weekend at SpringHill Camps in Evart, Michigan. One of the many things I just LOVED about the weekend was the opportunity to worship and engage in faith conversations as a family. What a HUGE gift this was to the 5 of us after a crazy busy youth ministry year. Time away to play, grow in our relationships with one another AND not have to make a meal OR wash dirty dishes = the best weekend ever.

This year, SpringHill strategically got rid of the “keep them separated” model of programming by planning innovative family sessions. This intrigued me, because it's what we strive to do at Mars Hill. Previously,  kids and adults had their own main sessions at Family Camp. Complete with their own bands and speakers. Research and the leading minds in the youth ministry world [Fuller Youth Institute, the Rethink Group, Youth Cartel, Princeton Seminary] tell us time and time again how important it is for kids + students to engage in faith practice together with their parents. Research shows the long term impact of parents modeling faith practice and using WORDS to share their own faith stories as vital to long term faith formation. I overheard a parent inquiring about their kid not having their own "kid program" in the gift shop. SpringHill staff handled it so well, graciously describing how families come to camp to grow in their faith together and offering an environment for just that.

As we made our way over to our first main session, I overheard a mom describing the session to her disgruntled child who was used to having his own program at Family Camp. “Don’t worry. It’s kind of like church, except it will be fun and it won’t last more than an hour.” Ouch. Those words pained my heart as a full time church staffer. Adults don’t want to bore children with church, do we? I don’t. I desire an engaging, impactful time of intergenerational worship, but we [the Church] often fall short of doing it well. But this weekend at SpringHill helped me to reimagine just how beautiful combined worship can be. Just how possible it is to capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of 5 - 85 year olds.


This weekend at Family Camp, the flow and timing for each session was perfect. The family focused environment to worship, pray, share, and learn together was stellar. Every detail, from interactive teaching elements, to short worship sets interspersed throughout the session and the use of audio/visual elements made for an optimal combined worship experience. Attention was paid to learning styles, multiple intelligences, the short attention spans of kids [and parents!], and best practices for engaging multiple generations.

I learned so much. I took notes and gathered a lot of ideas on how our church can do intergenerational worship better. All of our students in grades 5 and up attend church with their parents. Something I love in theory, but to be honest, something I totally struggle with in practice. We champion parents as the #1 spiritual influence in their kids lives, but tend to not program with a 10 year old in mind when designing corporate worship experiences. So then you have frustrated parents who give in [to the electronic devices that keep their kids from acting out] or give up [they just stay home]. It's good in theory, but so hard to pull off well every Sunday morning. Spring Hill helped me to want to stay the course in designing more strategic intergenerational worship experiences, even when it isn't always the popular choice, even if it isn't EVERY Sunday.

We ALL loved our weekend at SpringHill. My kids begging to sign up for next year and my three year old cried when we left. Family Camp was truly a blessing. We had so many Jesus centered moments and conversations at Family Camp. Conversations that are difficult to have on Sundays when the "big kids" are bummed and complaining about having to go to worship with mom and dad. 

1 comments:

  1. I love being a part of an organization that's willing to innovate... even when what we end up with looks a lot like what the church has been doing for centuries! So glad you came!

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