Posted: June 25th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: anticipation, experience, Jesus, mystery, relationship, surprise, Truth, Windy Gap, Young Life, Young Life Camp | No Comments »
If I was at home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, my day would be drawing to a close by 7:30 p.m. But I’m not at home. I’m at Young Life camp. The last event tonight won’t even start until 10:30 or so.
I’m at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in Weaverville, North Carolina. It’s a beautiful location in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I learned today that this 2,000 acre property was donated to Young Life by one family over forty years ago.
One of the things I’ve struggled with over the past few years is trying to explain the ministry of Young Life to those who are unfamiliar with it. My wife, Robyn, is the area director in Fayetteville and so I’m around the ministry a lot as a spouse and a volunteer. And yet it’s not easy to describe just exactly what Young Life is. It’s especially difficult to paint a picture of what Young Life camp is like.
When I was a teenager, the only camps I ever attended were football camps. The facilities usually weren’t great. The food was probably adequate, but forgettable. And the program was…well, the program was geared around football, not fun.
Young Life has camps all over the United States. I’ve only been to four of them. Each are different, but there are some common denominators. The locations are awe-inspiring. The landscaping is beautiful. The facilities are first-class. The food, well, it’s not your typical camp food–it’s delicious and almost all the meals are made from scratch every day. The programming is creative, fun and highly-entertaining. Relationship-building is a top priority. And the activities are awesome: go-karts, zip lines, swimming, giant swings, horseback riding and more.
Central to Young Life camp is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s the point of it all. This incredible properties, their full and part-time staff and the thousands of volunteers are all focused on one purpose: helping kids come to know Christ. That’s it.
Most of what I’ve described are the features of the camp and the overall purpose, but unless you’ve experienced it, it’s impossible to fully understand it.
When I worked in Christian publishing, we worked to create products that were more than just books. We created products for husbands and wives or parents and their children to experience. Together. We didn’t just talk about romance. We created products to help a couple experience romance. We didn’t just talk about the true meaning of Christmas–we created a product that fostered interaction between a parent and child and brought the story to life.
Most of us don’t need more information. We need an experience.
And that’s the magic of Young Life camp. The experience.
But experience is only one ingredient in the Young Life recipe.
Just like the products we created when I was in publishing, the Young Life camp experience is so powerful because of the unique combination of ingredients:
Truth + Relationship + Experience = Changed Lives
Remove “truth” and you’ve got a vacation at Disney World. Remove “relationship” and it’s like seeing a beautiful sunset or a shooting star, but having no one to share it with. Remove “experience” and you really just have a Bible study in someone’s living room. Not bad, but not all it could be.
Young Life takes all of this one step further though. They add in several other ingredients that take the recipe to another whole level. Those special spices are: mystery, anticipation and surprise. Stir those in to truth, relationship and experience and you create a week kids will never forget. Adults won’t forget it either.
There’s a meeting starting in about half an hour, so I need to go. After that, the campers will experience a surprise or two. They never know what’s coming, so there’s always an air of mystery and anticipation.
If you’d like more information about Young Life in your area or Young Life camp, you can email my wife, Robyn, at: email@example.com. She can connect you with the right person in your area. She’s busy for the next couple of weeks, but she’ll get back to you.
Posted: June 17th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: experience, relationship, Truth | No Comments »
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The truth is powerful, but even more so in the context of relationship and experience. God could have written a message in the sky, shouted from a mountain top or dictated a list of rules to communicate with us, but He didn’t. He stepped into a human body and lived with us. He sought out a relationship with us. He let us experience Him.
For the past ten days, I’ve been at a Young Life camp in northern Georgia. Young Life is all about kids hearing the truth of God’s word, but they know it needs to be wrapped in relationships and experiences. Kids come to camp with an adult leader–someone who’s been building a relationship with them, going to their games, hanging out with them.
A Young Life leader is someone willing to invest in a relationship with a kid no matter how far or how close they may be to Jesus. Leaders earn the right to be heard by loving kids unconditionally.
At camp, kids experience things like ropes courses, zip lines, climbing walls and mountain biking. They get to enjoy great facilities and eat great food. They sing. They dance. And they worship. It’s a week of off-the-charts fun and adventure.
Can a kid hear the truth sitting in a Sunday school class or after-school Bible study? Sure they can, but there’s something very, very powerful about adding in the relationship and experience elements. For many kids (and adults), it’s the difference between “more of the same” and “life-changing.”
The truth, relationship and experience model doesn’t have to be limited to a week long camp for kids. You can use it in your own marriage and family.
Think through the truth you desire to communicate. It could be anything: God loves you, I love you, you are forgiven, you are special to me, Jesus died for our sins, how to walk in the Spirit, etc.
To whom do you want to communicate this truth? Your spouse? Your child? A friend?
Once you know the what (truth) and the who (relationship)–all that’s left is the how (experience).
Here are a couple of examples. The first one I’ve already touched on.
Young Life wants kids to know they’re loved by God, sin is a barrier and Jesus died to remove it. They want kids to feel loved by and connected to their adult leaders. To pull this off, they pull out all the stops by creating a week filled with fun and adventure. It all sets the stage for kids to genuinely connect with Christ.
Here’s another example. Let’s say a husband wants to communicate to his wife how much he loves and appreciates her. Before leaving for work, he could simply say, “I love and appreciate you. Have a nice day. See you for dinner.”
Are his words sincere? They may be, but they lack any sense of genuineness or romance. It sounds more like an item he’s checking off of his t0-do list.
What if instead, he was to give it just a little more thought and creativity? What if he focused on the experience element and kicked it up a notch?
After arriving at work, he sends her a text message that says: Can’t wait to be with you tonight. Don’t make plans!
Later in the morning, he calls us just to see how her day is going. She tries to get some information about his text message, but he doesn’t reveal his plans just yet.
That night after dinner, he makes sure the kids are taken care of. If it’s young children, he does bath and story time and tucks them in while his wife relaxes. If the kids are older, he helps with homework.
Once the kids are settled for the night, he lights a few candles and brings her something to drink along with her favorite dessert. While she enjoys them, he gives her a foot massage. It doesn’t end there though. While massaging her feet, he asks, “What are your dreams? What do you see God doing in your life?”
Maybe it would look a little different in your home, but you get the point. Experience matters.
So are you up for trying the “Experience Experiment”?
Decide what you want to communicate. It doesn’t have to be some deep theological truth. It could be as simple as–I care about you. Then decide on the relationship–is it with your spouse, your child or someone else?
Finally, set aside a little time to think through the experience you want to create. Is it something fun? Adventurous? Challenging? It’s up to you. The possibilities are endless.
Then just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And it certainly doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
Are you up for it? Let me know. And when you’re done…let me know how it went.
There are several other elements that can add a lot of sizzle to your experience. I already hinted at a couple of them. We’ll talk about those at a later time…unless of course you want to know about them now. Email me if you do: firstname.lastname@example.org