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Posts from the ‘Ministry Strategy’ Category

The Story Chapter 4: The Gathering

Providence is the care, guardianship, and control of the events of life exercised by God. Many believe, or want to believe, in Providence.  Joe, Arvin, Darlene and Colin have experienced it first hand and thus know it’s true beyond a shadow of a doubt. This past week Providence brought together the “ambassador”, the two “big hearts” and their “inspiration” to write the next chapter in this special story.

Colin, Darlene and Arvin on the porch of the Founder's House

We all met together as a way to dedicate and celebrate the loving Providence of our Lord in bringing us all together.

We shared with Colin and his parents, Rick and Dawn, that because of Colin’s inspiration and his “voice”, the Van Hall’s have underwritten new Special Needs housing for SpringHill.  This housing will allow us to double the number of special needs campers who have special housing requirements and reduce our waiting list for this program.

The Van Hall’s asked that this new building acknowledge Colin and his inspiration. It will be a part of the Peaks (all the Peaks are named after peaks in North America) so we wanted a name that would be fitting to both this theme and to the inspiration of Colin and all the campers like him. With the help of Chris DuMond from DesignVox, who provides our marketing and creative leadership, we identified a name for this housing unit.

Colin Ridge will be our new Special Needs housing. Colin Ridge is a 8409 foot high peak  located in Canada’s Jasper National Park, a part of the Colin Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  Our vision is that all campers who come to SpringHill will have a “mountain top” spiritual experience.  Colin Ridge reflect’s our continuing commitment to assuring every one of our campers, no matter who they are and where they come from will have this type of life changing experience.

We are thankful for the Spirit filled time we had together, for Colin and his family, for the Van Hall’s and their faithfulness and for all the people over the many years who have helped assure that Colin and campers like him can have a life transforming experience at SpringHill.

As you might have guessed this story is not done and some time in the future I will be able to share with you the next chapters of this amazing SpringHill story.

Colin looking at plans for Colin Ridge

Arvin and Darling looking at the plans and the location

Colin learning that the new housing will be named Colin Ridge

Arvin sharing the moment with Colin

Rick & Dawn, Colin's parents, join the photo session

The Story Chapter 3: The Inspiration

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But the person in the picture is of infinite value as Arvin and Darlene Van Hall can attest to.  This past May I was sitting in a restaurant in Pella, Iowa with the Van Halls talking about our families, life, faith and SpringHill.

I shared with the Van Hall’s our 2013 Ministry plan we call Journey Forward.  As we were flipping through the Journey Forward booklet the Van Hall’s eyes stayed on the page with this photo on it.

They looked at it for a long time as tears welled up in their eyes. They asked me “who is this young man in the photograph and what was his story?”

I then shared with them how we have campers with special needs participate in camp alongside our other campers. That we embrace all kids and want them to experience the truth that they are created in the image of God and thus are valued and loved by God as His children.  This means we will do everything we can to have these campers participate in, along with our other campers, every camp activity possible (including “Crud Wars”).

So who is this camper?  His name is Colin and he has been a “SpringHiller” for a number of years.  He has Cerebral Palsy so he uses a powered wheelchair and has a one-on-one counselor with him during his week of camp.  He is at grade-level both cognitively and with his  speech thus communicates very well for someone with his condition. He loves camp and is one of the heros of the week when he is here.

Because he is able to communicate so well Colin has become a voice for others like himself but who are not capable of speaking on their own behalf.  Just as he did “speaking” through this photo directly to the Van Hall’s hearts inspiring them to do something significant, not just for Colin, but for the 100’s of other special needs campers and the 1000’s of kids who have the opportunity to attend camp with them each year.

In Chapter 4 I will tell the story of  the meeting of Colin and the Van Halls and exactly what Colin inspired the Van Hall’s to do on behalf of every camper who attends SpringHill.

The Story Chapter 2: The Big Hearts

“…love one another deeply, from a pure heart.” I Peter 1:22.  The first time I met Arvin and Darlene Van Hall was at our overnight camp in Michigan.  They had come, per Joe Yahner’s recommendation, to see what SpringHill was all about.  They wanted to understand what it takes to build and run an effective camp for kids.

My friends Arvin and Darlene visiting SpringHill.

After spending a few hours with the Van Halls it became apparent that these business people, parents, spouses and now grandparents from Pella, Iowa had big hearts to help kids. Especially kids who don’t have all the advantages that “normal” kids have in life.

Over the next five years I, and some of our staff, made a number of trips to Pella to visit with Lakeview Camp and meet with the Van Halls and enjoy Dutch pastries and coffee together.  It was apparent every time we were together that they wanted to do something to make a difference in the lives of kids.

This is why the Van Hall’s were involved with a camp that served kids who had a parent in prison.  They want to help these kids have experiences and opportunities that impact their lives today and for eternity.  It is their big hearts that have moved them to give of their time, talents, resources and their prayers to ministries that serve kids, especially less fortunate kids.

Over the years the Van Hall’s have become friends of mine and friends of SpringHill. They are the type of people who make me love my work.

It was on my last visit to Pella in May that I witnessed the Van Hall’s, because of their big hearts, take a huge step of faith. They were moved by a photo of a SpringHill camper they had never met. One, from all appearances, who did not come into the world with all the advantages of other kids. This camper, Colin, as it turns out, has a habit of moving the hearts of people in ways they could never expect.

In Chapter 3 you will meet Colin and see how God is using this young man to move the hearts of others.

The Story Chapter 1: The Ambassador

Joe Yahner is one of SpringHill’s key leaders.  Through his job as our Michigan Facilities Manager he daily makes a significant impact on our campers, staff and guests.  But there was a day five years ago when he made an impact in a way that he, nor any of us, could have ever envisioned.

Joe sitting on his chosen method of transportation for getting around camp.

On that day Joe stepped out of his normal role and became a SpringHill ambassador, something all of our staff do on a regular basis.  Little did Joe know that he would be initiating a story that would become, for many of us, one of the most remarkable SpringHill stories we have had a privilege to be a part of.

Joe was doing some “side” work installing new appliances for a local company (he was doing extra work so he could save for a new house for his family) when he was sent to a house in Big Rapids that had just been bought by a recent college graduate from Iowa.

As Joe  was doing his work he began talking with both the home owner and his parents, Arvin and Darlene Van Hall, who had come from Pella, Iowa to help their son move in.  During the conversation Joe shared that he had a “day job” working for SpringHill Camps.

Arvin and Darlene then shared that they too were involved with a camp in Iowa, called Lakeview, that focused on serving kids who had a parent in prison.

Joe then explained that SpringHill’s vision is to reach more and more kids beyond our current markets as well as helping other ministries fulfill their own visions by sharing our experiences and know how with them. Joe gave Arvin my name and number and encouraged him to contact me to see how we might help Lakeview in its next stages of development.

Arvin and Darlene made a trip to SpringHill, spent time with our staff and talked about how to reach more kids in Iowa and here in Michigan.  This visit, the result of Joe being a SpringHill ambassador, was the beginning of blessed relationship and the next chapter of this incredible story.

Giving Voice to Those With No Voice!

Sara, Eric, Eric and Keltie from Mac Avenue Community Church leading a discussion about ministering to urban kids with our summer staff.

On Tuesday we had the privilege of having the staff and their families from Mack Avenue Community Church from Detroit   http://www.mackave.com/ (also see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126142947448500607.html ) spend the day with us. We were able have them experience SpringHill,  meet staff, discuss their and our ministries but most importantly we had the opportunity to hear from them how we could serve them as they carry on their work.

And I want you to know that this team, Eric and Sara Russ, Leon and Rebecca Stevenson and Eric and Keltie Nielson are inspiring.  People worth following and emulating.  Here are a few reasons that I and our staff finished our day with these folks both inspired and challenged.

First, they have heeded a call to serve people and an area of our world that has, in many ways, been abandoned.  They believe in the Biblical truth that all people are created in the image of God and thus there are no insignificant people. Even those whom the world has abandoned.

Secondly, they are doing their work by moving in, living with and amongst those whom they are serving.  I call this living incarnationally, following John 1:14 where “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  Literally “made His dwelling”  means to pitch a tent.  This is what these friends have done- “pitched their tents” among those they are serving in an “abandoned” part of Detroit.

Thirdly, they are reflecting a holistic view of the Gospel.  Their work is both physical and spiritual.  They are treating their neighbors as physical, emotional and spiritual beings working to meet their needs at each level following the example and command of Christ (Matthew  25 and 28).

Fourth, the leaders of Mack Avenue are doing all their work within, as they themselves called it, a Biblical centric approach.  They are working to stay true to solid theology about missions, ministry and living.

Finally, they exude both a humble spirit balanced with a confidence in Christ that is both refreshing and compelling.

One challenge they gave us, which is still ringing in my ears, is that Christ has called us to be the voice to those with no voice.  This is a simple stewardship issue.   Most of us, probably everyone reading this blog, has a voice in this world because of the place God has put them.  Like any resource God has entrusted to us we are to use it to meet the needs of others who do not have it.

I, and the staff of SpringHill,  want to give voice to all the kids and young people of the world who do not have a voice. By being God’s image bearers all kids are created to have a voice of their own.  We want to help them find that voice and to use that voice to sing for and to the  glory of God.

Summer Staff listening to the discussion with the staff from Mack Avenue

Vision and the “SpringHill Way of Life” Part II

Michigan and Day Camp Staff Worship

After sharing with staff the need for vision in our lives, to become all that God created and intended them to be in Christ, much like my daughter Christina has done in desiring to become a professional ballerina, I shared with them the need to live their lives in such a way that leads to fulfillment on their vision.  To have a “way of life” as my daughter does living  a ballerina’s life.

In an effort to help our staff see what a Christian “way of life” looks like we create what we are calling the “SpringHill Way of Life.”   We asked all our staff to commit to this “way of life” this summer with the hopes that it will lay a foundation of living for the rest of their lives.

The “SpringHill Way of Life” is a simple summary reflecting classic Christian spiritual practices and commitments historically called a “way of life”.  A commitment to a “Way of life” is usually made by either individuals or a group of people in an effort to achieve certain spiritual goals.  A defined “way of life” provides guidance, accountability and encouragement for individuals and groups of people who wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ and make a difference in the world.

There are two components to the SpringHill Way of Life.  The first component is the engaging in the spiritual practices that help develop us in to “righteous living people”.  These practices  are really general categories of practices  and are to be tailored to each person based on who they are, how God created them and where they are in their lives.

The second is the “righteous living” component. We call it “righteous” because being righteous is to be right with God, reflecting the reality of Christ in us through how we think, work, live, love and serve.  It’s the difference we make in the world.  This is what our life looks like to others – what they see in us.

We have captured all of this in an acronym called VISION which stands for:

Voice- seeking to hear God’s voice and see His revelation in Scripture, in the spiritual community and through creation.  II Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17,

Intercession- making prayer a regular part of our daily lives. Proverbs 15:8, Philippians 4:6, James 5:15

Sabbath- taking daily, weekly and annual breaks from our work and regular life to reflect on Christ and our relationship to him. Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12,

Intimate- living and serving in an intimate spiritual community. Acts 5:12, I Peter 2:17, Colossians 2:2-3,

Others- serving others, making a difference in the lives of others, answering the call on our lives to be the “salt and light of the world”. Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:17

New creation- living holy lives as people who are new creations in Christ. I Peter 1:14-16, Romans 12:1, II Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 5:17-21

The first four are the spiritual practices component of the SpringHill Way of Life and the second two are the “righteous living” component.  Together, these six commitments reflect our VISION for our lives this summer and for the pattern we want to have for rest of our lives so we can become all that God created and intended us to be in Christ.

Imagine the impact on the 14,000 campers this summer (and ultimately their impact on the world) when 800 summer and professional staff and volunteers commit themselves to this vision and this way of life?  Now that’s a photo for my blog.

“The Hope of the Local Church”

A good friend of mine and of SpringHill’s, Ron Nobles, in making a case for ministry to young people made this statement “As Bill Hybels says, ‘the local church is the hope of the world’, if this is true then the hope of the local church are young people.”  This reality is what pushed SpringHill and the Willow Creek Association (http://www.willowcreek.com/) to join together in pursuit of understanding the key’s to the spiritual development of late elementary age kids (4th thru 6th graders) much like the WCA Reveal study did for understanding the spiritual development of adults. 

In partnership with the WCA last summer we surveyed over 800 4th thru 6th graders in our Michigan overnight camp.  This was followed by the “slicing and dicing” of the analysts of the WCA of all the data we collected from these 800 plus campers. 

Here are the major findings (none of which are surprising if we allow the Scriptures,  church history and common sense to direct our steps):

1.  What is the key to the spiritual development of kids?  Engaging in Spiritual practices especially prayer and Scripture reading.

2.  What is the key to kids engaging in spiritual practices?  Their parents! 

3.  What is the key to parents being effective as the spiritual mentors to their children?  Spiritual Maturity

4.  What is the key to the spiritual maturity of parents?  Engage in spiritual practices.

So implications of these results and open questions yet to pursue? 

1.  We, the local church and para church ministries, need to help parents grow spiritually by helping them develop the spiritual practices that lead to spiritual maturity. (This is much simpler and more fruitful for the kids and parents than training parents to be Bible teachers, theologians, etc.)

2.  How do church and para church ministries help encourage kids in their spiritual practices when they do not have role models at home?  How does this follow-up happen effectively?  This is an incredible opportunity to make a long- term, history changing, eternal impact on the lives of people and the entire world.

3.  Can this follow-up with kids lead to impacting their parents in their spiritual growth?  Here is what one SpringHill parent said that leads us to believe this can be done. “The counselors really tried to get to know each child personally & make them feel included.  Our son developed a deep interest in God that we have been very neglectful in.  We will take this lead and all begin to put God first again.  Thanks.” 

Ron is absolutely correct, from a strategic long-term standpoint there is nothing more important to the local church than the spiritual development of young people.  The great news is that the most effective way to impact young people is to impact their parents.   Impact their parents and in the end you impact the local church today and into the future.  With the local church strong and healthy than the local church can be “the hope of the world.”

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