Often, when thinking about ministries, people create a dichotomy between numerical growth and spiritual depth as if the two are not compatible. The thinking goes like this – if a ministry grows numerically it’s at the cost of challenging people spiritually. In other words it’ll be a mile wide and an inch deep. I get this thinking because too often, unfortunately, this is reality. So it’s easy to be a bit cynical when a ministry is experiencing significant growth and wonder if the increase in numbers is the result of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”.
But cheap grace hasn’t and isn’t always behind exponential growth. 2000 years ago a small group of Jewish people from a dusty Roman backwater saw the mission they inherited explode into a global movement. How did that happen? How did the Church become global and include hundreds of millions of people? It didn’t happen because the leaders of the Church watered down the message of Jesus. It happened because these leaders and their followers both lived out the Gospel fully, including being willing to give their life for Christ and His Church and challenged others to do the same. The Church today continues to explode in some of the most repressive countries in the world, where being a follower of Christ is a life threatening proposition. There is no “cheap grace” in places like these, yet, paradoxically, there is incredible growth.
At SpringHill we are continuously challenging ourselves to reach more kids in the same way the early Church and the Church in many places today are reaching more people – by being faithful to the Gospel and by being bold in sharing it with others. We want no numerical growth through cheap grace. Instead we desire to reach more kids through an uncompromising expression of Christ. To assure that young people can clearly hear the Good News of Jesus, see it lived out in the lives of our staff, and to experience Him in every part of every one of our programs.
Being a mile wide and a mile deep is not only possible it’s the expected model of healthy and effective ministries.43.928283-85.286682
At SpringHill we’ve asked and answered our own version of the reformers’ question. We ask “what is the chief end of SpringHill?’ or more clearly “why do we exist?”
And we answer these questions with our mission – To create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our mission explains why God created SpringHill and why God continues to sustain it and give it a bright future.
Another way to understand our mission is to see it as our calling, our vocation. God’s called us to create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
So what exactly does the SpringHill mission mean? Let’s break it apart a bit.
Create life-impacting experiences: SpringHill’s called to create life changing experiences we call the SpringHill Experience (SHX).
Enable: We believe that God transforms lives and not the SHX, so our goal is to create SHX’s which help young people hear, see and experience Jesus in a life transforming way.
Young People: This is who we’re ultimately called to serve, to reach out too, and who we ultimately create life transforming SHX’s for.
To Know and Grow: Our chief end is to introduce Jesus to young people who may not know Him and to help those that do to grow in their relationship with Him.
Relationship with Jesus Christ: Ultimately, if the chief end of a person is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever, than the only way we can fulfill this end is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So this is SpringHill’s ultimate purpose, the reason we exist –
to create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. When SpringHill fulfills its chief end enables young people to fulfill theirs – to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.43.928283-85.286682
And every once in a while I’ll hear a leader of a non – profit say “wouldn’t it be nice if we had one big donor who would cover all our needs so we won’t have to spend so much time fundraising?”
And I always reply, like I do with basketball players I’m coaching, “yes, that would be good and it would be easier, but it wouldn’t be the best shot you can take for your organization.”
And exactly what is the best shots for a not for profit organization to take?
First, it’s simply to have donors.
Second, is to have lots of donors.
And third, an even better shot is to need all those donors to achieve your mission and vision.
Why are these the best shots for a non – profit?
First, because, as Jesus said, “where’s one’s treasure is, so is one’s heart” (Mt 6:21). So if you want people’s hearts with your organization, you need a bit of their treasure.
Second, when people hearts are with your organization they’ll do more than just financially support you, they’ll volunteer, promote and endorse your work.
Thirdly, having many donors provides a broad level of accountability. With few donors, the accountability isn’t broad and the possibility exists that the accountability will not represent the interest of all those involved with the ministry.
Finally, being dependent on a large numbers of donors keeps an organization appropriately humble; open to input, and listening for opportunities to better serve.
So remember, don’t just take a good shot for your organization even if it’s an easy one, instead work for the best shot and your organization will benefit for years to come.43.928283-85.286682
I can’t tell you how many times over the past number of months leaders of guest retreats have stopped me to say how much they’ve appreciated working with Matt Hildebrand, one of our Michigan Overnight Hosts, and what a great job he’s done for them and their group.
If you’re not familiar with camping terminology, let me share with you what a camp and conference center Host does (and what Matt does so well).
A Host’s job, just as the name implies, is to take care of guests and groups assuring they achieve their goals for their time at camp. The host is the main point of contact before, during and after a group visits camp. They make sure every detail’s thought through and every department on camp is ready to provide their part of the experience. When the group arrives a host works with them right through the experience, providing for any needs that come up and making any mid-course adjustments so they have an outstanding experience.
For example, this past week Resurrection Life Churches had their annual youth camp with over 600 campers and leaders. When I bumped into Matt, he was on his way to meet with the Resurrection Life Camp administrators in the office space we provide them for the week. Matt’s immediate mission? He was bringing the two administrators card stock for their printers. A simple request, but a necessary one for this group, and one of 100’s like it Matt addressed for Resurrection Life while they were here.
To be a great host, like Matt, requires a desire to serve others and see them succeed, great attention to detail, superb planning and foresight, tremendous flexibility, great relationship skills (and maybe even the ability to walk on water).
So I’m thankful for Matt every time a leader stops me to say what a great experience they’ve had at SpringHill and how much they love Matt, reaffirming what we already know – Matt’s been the quiet force behind their success.43.928283-85.286682
In 2007, Brian Bennett (former SpringHill summer staffer) and his wife Cindy packed up their belongings, along with their young children, and moved into heart of Benton Harbor, Michigan to plant a church.
If you know anything about Benton Harbor, it’s a city that unfortunately resembles many small, Midwest cities where the loss of industry, and the work that goes with it, has gutted the life of the community. Abandoned buildings, struggling schools, broken families, and the loss of human dignity and hope that poverty so mercilessly steals away, all fills the Benton Harbor landscape.
It’s into this city that Brian and Cindy have brought the hope and dignity that only comes through Jesus Christ. Their church, Overflow, has brought the Good News to Benton Harbor through the Word and the deeds of its church family. And in 5 short years under Brian’s leadership, significant work, impacting the lives of many in this broken community, has occurred.
This past week, Todd Leinberger, our Great Lakes Vice President, Jeffery Wright, President and CEO of Urban Ministries Inc and Chairman of the board of Circle Y Camp, and myself met with Brian to discuss, pray, and dream about how our respected organizations could help Overflow in its ministry to the children and young people of the Benton Harbor community.
The story of how the four of us, and our organizations, have come together is for another post, but it’s because of this story that we sense that God may be leading us to work together in such a way that the transforming power of Christ is brought to the lives of 1000’s of young people of Benton Harbor area.
I’ll keep you posted to how this story of possibilities unfolds.43.928283-85.286682
Last week I had an experience that momentary carried me back to my first job out of college, working for Steelcase, Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI.
It happened because, like Steelcase back in the 1980’s:
It obvious Chick-fil-A’s corporate office and its employees clearly show the values and mission of the company.
That Chick-fil-A is also on a fast track of growth in terms of sales, stores and markets.
And Chick-fil-A places a high value on its employees and store operators. For example, Chick-fil-A encourages its employees to use, free of charge and during working hours, the on-site health and fitness center, and provides all employees free meals in the corporate dining room (I had grilled tuna).
But I as I listened to our tour guide, Andrea Lee, talk about the company and its leadership, that’s when my déjà vu was strongest.
You see, Chick-fil-A, like Steelcase’s first 75 years, is family owned and family lead. The Cathy family believes their company’s purpose is something more significant than just a return on stockholder’s equity. It’s clear they believe Chick-fil-A can and should improve the lives of its employees, store operating partners, the communities it operates in, and of course its customers. It seems chicken is just a means to a greater end – that end being inspired people, stronger families, better communities and ultimately – glory to God.
It’s a vision, I have no doubt, if held to, will continue to bring great returns on investment, not just to the stockholders, but more importantly to all the lives Chick-fil-A touches. And it’s a vision worth emulating.
Order S. Truett Cathy’s book here.43.928283-85.286682
After a four-day business trip to Indianapolis Denise and I took advantage of the spring like weather in northern Michigan and walked around camp (last weekend we snowshoed around camp). As we walked around Copper Country I reflected on the incredible support SpringHill has received over the decades.
Incredible support comes from incredible people who believe in what God has done and is doing in and through SpringHill. They align with the answers to the 6 key questions I’ve been writing about over the last couple of weeks. There’s a mutual commitment to making the answers to the 6 key questions a reality.
It’s important to understand that at SpringHill we include in our definition of supporters – volunteers, prayer partners, ambassadors, and donors. Every person who falls into one or more of these categories is absolutely critical to our effectiveness. We’ve been blessed over the years to have many people in all four groups.
While in Indianapolis I, along-side Craig Soderdahl our Regional Vice President and Kate Wilson our Regional Development Representative, met with friends of SpringHill who included corporate donors, long time supporters , former and current board members and staff, and over dinner, a group of future camper families, prayer partners, ambassadors, volunteers and donors.
Each meeting in Indianapolis was a powerful reminder of the essential role our supporters play in SpringHill today and into the future. The walk around Copper Country reminded me of the critical role our supporters have played over the years. So whether it’s past, present or future, on this early spring day, I’m deeply thankful for our supporters and what they’ve done and do for SpringHill, kids and Jesus.43.928283-85.286682
In Christian organizations we often live in the tension between faith and planning. The tension comes because we believe faith and planning to be polar opposites.
Christian history is full of stories of “great people of faith” who did miraculous things for God. We want to be a part of such stories. On the other hand, it isn’t nearly as appealing to be part of a story centered on a cold and calculated plan, professionally executed. Instead we want to “let go and let God” and become part of a “miracle”?
We want to be like Peter who stepped out of the boat to walk on the water but too often we ignore Nehemiah’s thoughtful and intentional plan to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, or David’s strategic vision and preparation to build the temple. Did David and Nehemiah have less faith than Peter? Or how about this question, would you rather walk on water for a few seconds or rebuild a city or build God’s dwelling place on earth?
I know my answer; I want to do something significant and lasting. And to do something significant and lasting requires planning, preparation and vision. And it also requires prayer (re-read Nehemiah) and faith (re-read David’s temple preparation).
Like Nehemiah and David, God has called us to be stewards of our time, resources, gifts and abilities. As a result, a good steward plans and then assures those plans align with their master’s intentions. And the beautiful thing is, the better the stewardship, the greater the opportunity of being a part of a miracle.
Therefore we need to stop seeing faith and planning as polar opposites, instead we need to see them as essential companions in our work. When we do this, God will do His greater work, allowing us the possibility of being a part of a miracle that’s significant and lasting.43.928283-85.286682
There are those moments in our lives where our past crosses our present as it moves towards the future. It’s in those moments of intersection that God provides a glimpse into how He’s orchestrating our lives for a purpose we may have never seen or anticipated.
I had one of these moments this past week when I had the opportunity to speak with Young Life’s Camping Department about leadership, professionalism and the current state of Christian camping. It’s an intersection because of the significant role Young Life’s played in my life.
I’m a Young Life kid meaning I attended Young Life club, campaigners and camp as a high school student. Next, my wife Denise and I served seven years as volunteer Young Life leaders. Then I moved into involvement on Young Life area committees before stepping back because of family and work commitments.
Young Life’s played an enormous role in my spiritual, emotional and leadership development as well as influenced my personal philosophy of ministry. So when I was asked by Steve Thompson, Young Life’s Vice President for camping, to speak to his team, an intersection of my past and present occurred.
But it’s also an intersection of the present and the future because of the continued need of Christian camps and other youth ministries to work together to serve young people. Because of the world in which we live and the culture we’re called to work, I’m convinced the future of effective ministry to young people will require the cooperation of like-minded organizations such as SpringHill and Young Life.
This week my past intersected with my present, but it’s to the future where I’ve now set my eyes and will continue to take steps on the path God’s graciously illuminated for me.43.928283-85.286682
There have been tens of thousands of SpringHill campers and summer staff over our 42 year history which means there are SpringHill alumni literally all over the world.
I had this reality driven home during my “pastor day” this past Tuesday when I ran into two former SpringHill summer staff, one who’s now working for Kensington Community Church and another serving Mack Avenue Community Church.
First I had the opportunity to reconnect with Cameron Underdown who’s the high school and college director for Kensington’s Orion/Rochester campus. Cameron’s playing a key role in a significant ministry. Talking with him reminded me of the part SpringHill play’s in the spiritual, personal and professional development of college age people.
Later that day while touring with Eric Russ I had the opportunity to talk with Kristen VanderPlas Selle. Kristen and her husband Scott live in one of the poorest communities in Detroit (and thus in the country) where they’re both involved in the Mack Avenue Community Church family. In particular Kristen leads Mack Avenue Community Church’s literary and tutoring program designed to serve the young children of the Mack Avenue neighborhood. As I watched Kristen working with some of the students I couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride knowing that a SpringHill alumnus is serving the “least of these” in this way.
These two friends represent the literally thousands of SpringHill alumni who’ve committed their lives to the service of others and to expanding Christ’s Kingdom. We, at SpringHill, pray every summer that God would use us to help our summer staff and campers grow in their faith as well as to develop as people and leaders who’ll make a difference in Christ’s Kingdom.
So “pastor day” had a second blessing – to see our prayer answered in two SpringHill alumni.43.928283-85.286682