Recently I was at an automotive service business run by a past SpringHill camper. When I picked up my car I asked this SpringHill alum for a tour of his business. You see I was not only interested in learning about his business but more importantly I wanted to get a glimpse into the life of one of our past campers.
After the tour we stood in the middle of his shop floor and talked about his life as a young entrepreneur. Our conversation drifted to SpringHill and reminiscing about those summers when his parents would drop he and his brothers off at camp. As we shared those memories together I could see his eyes lighting up. That’s when he said –
“It’s funny you’re here and we’re talking about camp because I was just recently thinking about my camp experiences. It’s become clear to me just how important they were in my development as a person. I was a shy, quiet kid. But at camp I gained confidence to interact with others and build positive relationships.”
Hearing him say this while sitting in the middle of his impressive business, brought to life the reality I’ve built my vocation on – that summer camp is an incredibly spiritual, emotional, and social building experience. Camp is one of those milestone moments where people’s live’s takes a quantum step forward.
And this is why SpringHill is so committed to creating life-transforming summer camp experiences. We see no other short-term experience in the world that provides young people such a life-long payback than attending summer camp. If there were, trust me, SpringHill would offer it in a New York minute. But there just isn’t. There’s no other experience that provides the breath and depth of personal, long-term growth than summer camp.
Which means there is no better short-term investment with such a life-long payback that a person can make for the child they love then sending them to camp this summer.
In my last post we looked at four ways to lead others – push, drag, carry or inspire. In the days since it’s occurred to me that these are also four ways parents can lead their children. But before moving to those ways let’s be clear on one idea about parenting. I’m convinced after 24 years of being a parent that the key responsibility we have as parents, maybe the only responsibility, is to lead our children. This may seem obvious but the truth is many parents don’t lead, either because they don’t know how to or simply don’t believe it’s their place. But the truth is the very first social organizations in history were not businesses, non-profits, or governments but instead it were families. And since healthy organizations require leadership, we shouldn’t be surprised that healthy families need leadership and that every child needs to be lead.
So what are the ways a parent can lead their child?
Parents have the same options available as a leader of any organization – they can push, drag, carry or they can inspire their children. Maybe the only difference is that as parents, especially parents of young children and adolescents, it’s appropriate to use all four ways more often than you do when leading/parenting adults. As a result, the key to successful parenting is having the wisdom to know when to lead which way.
Unfortunately this is usually where we make mistakes as parents. We push when we should carry, we carry when we should inspire, we drag when a gentle nudge is all that is needed.
And just like leading teams, parents (myself included) can fall into one way of leading because it worked so well at one particular moment or season in our child’s life. The tricky part is to be able to recognize the need to move away from a specific way when the child’s ready to be led differently. We’ve seen this in the parenting of our own children, who are now adults. When they were children, we often dragged them to piano practice, pushed them to eat right, carried them when life was beyond their capacity to handle. But as adults our children don’t want nor appreciate being pushed, dragged, and most often not even carried. They do love and want to be inspired. A new season in our children’s life requires a shift in the way we parent.
How do we know we’re parenting the best way? Our children should be accomplishing both our short-term goals (eating their vegetables) and our long-term goals (becoming people who don’t need to be pushed, pulled or carried).
So this leaves us with the question we all face as parents – are we ready to give up our go-to parenting ways for the better way in this moment or season of your child’s life?
Recently, in a 5 day stretch, my wife, Denise, and I attended funerals for three friends of ours and, maybe more importantly, friends of SpringHill. These three men and their families each made incredible contributions at critical junctures in SpringHill’s history. And by contributions I’m not referring just to financial contributions (though they’ve made plenty of those) but the kind of contributions that come as a result of hard work, energy and wisdom.
For example, one of these friends, Scott, was on our board during the sensitive transition of leadership following the death of our second President, Mark Olson. Another, Herb, spent 23 straight weekends coming to our camp in Evart, MI to help prepare it for it’s grand summer opening in 1969. While our staff gave the third friend the nickname “Saturday Jim” because he was so faithful volunteering every Saturday. And believe me, this is just the short list of their SpringHill contributions. Frankly it’s hard to over state the deep, long and lasting impacts these men had on SpringHill, its staff and their ability to fulfill their mission and vision.
As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure these men, before they passed on, were able to see with their mortal eyes the 100,000’s of people whose lives were, and will be, transformed forever because of their service. But the good news is I’m convinced that all three are now in Eternity and so are blessed to fully see the extent of their effort, including knowing every single person who benefited from their work. I believe this kind of sight, the sight we’ll have in Eternity, is one of the “jewels in our crown” we’re promised for remaining faithful like these three men were.
Speaking of mortal sight, from my perspective, I can’t even begin to imagine SpringHill without people like Scott, Jim and Herb. Together they reflect the nature and beauty of non-profits. You see non- profits, like these three men, exist to benefit the common good and their only fuel is the passion, commitment, time, energy and resources of people who receive no other benefit from their contributions than the anticipation it all will make a lasting difference in the lives of people and in the world.
So Herb, Jim and Scott thank you on behalf of 100,000’s of child, students, young adults, families and churches, past, present and future, for including SpringHill in your life. We’re all in a better place because of you.
Could it be cutting edge academic, athletic and fine arts facilities? A curriculum loaded with options comparable to a small college? Maybe it’s a large student body that creates intense competition in the classroom, on the sports field and in the auditorium? Or the ability for students to specialize in a particular academic pursuit, sport, or fine arts discipline? Maybe the secret ingredient is as simple as parental involvement or small class sizes?
Now based on our four children’s experience, I can say with certainty, that most of these ingredients aren’t necessary to create a life transforming education. I also now believe it’s likely that some of these ingredients can actually stand in the way of one.
So then what is the secret ingredient? To answer that question, take a look at the above photo of our school’s conference and regional men’s and women’s 4×400 championship teams. They represent the secret ingredient. But to see this ingredient you need to know a bit about these eight students.
- 5 seniors, 2 juniors and a sophomore
- Six 4 sport athletes and one 5 sport athlete
- The valedictorian and salutatorian of the senior class
- Leads in the school plays and musicals
- 7 students (with the other next year) who participated in an overseas mission experience
- Members of the:
- School band and choir
- State runner-up Quiz Bowl Team
- MHSAA Student Advisory Council
- Student Council
- National Honor Society (6 students)
Now do you see the secret ingredient? It’s the ability for students to participate, in a meaningful way, in a wide range of life developing activities both inside and outside the classroom. As a result these eight students and their class mates will graduate as well-rounded, versatile people prepared to enter an ever-changing, complex world and to be a difference maker in it.
But what about getting into those top-tier colleges and universities? Well these seniors received acceptance into and will be attending nationally acclaimed colleges and universities. There is no doubt, because of all of their educational opportunities, these seniors were able to create impressive and persuasive college applications.
And here’s the real secret –the only kind of school that creates the opportunity to participate in a wide range of life developing activities, and to do so within the context of a small, supportive community of facility, staff, coaches, parents and families – is a small school.
And this is what our four children have experienced in their education at Northern Michigan Christian School. We have no doubt their diverse educational experience, combined with the people and community who provided it, have set them up not only to be successful in their careers but to be difference makers in the world. .
This statement to me and a small group of our year around staff during the closing day of camp by a father of a camper with special needs. The father went onto explain that his son has been coming to SpringHill for a number of summers and it’s always the high light of his son’s year. It’s the week when his son feels accepted and loved like a “normal” kid.
I believe it’s this acceptance and love that the dad was referring to when he said, almost to himself, “I only wish the rest of the world could be more like SpringHill”.
Of course it’s always great to hear this kind of unsolicited feedback from a parent. Our goal is that every kid will feel like this camper, to experience the love of Christ through our staff and in the small communities we create.
So with summer camp just ending (and I’m already starting to miss it), this father’s wish has had me thinking. I’ve realized his wish really isn’t a wish at all, but instead it’s our ultimate mission.
You see at SpringHill we exist to create experiences (we call them SpringHill Experience) where Christ can transform the lives of young people. These experiences include embracing all kinds of kids, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done or where they’ve come from. Yet, as powerful as this is, the SpringHill Experience isn’t an end unto itself; it is part of something bigger.
That something bigger is the Church’s work of bringing the values and reality of Christ’s Kingdom into the world. In other words, we haven’t thoroughly done our job unless our campers and staff are leaving SpringHill and bringing a little of it back into the world, making the world a little more like SpringHill, which really means making the world little more like Christ’s Kingdom.43.892799-85.264956
Every single day during the 100 days of our summer camping season, beginning with staff training, we’re serving and caring for some of our 25,000 campers and 1000 summer staff. As a result, every single day, for 100 straight days I make three specific requests to God. These requests not only reflect our organizational priorities and focus but they also reflect my own personal hopes and desires for those we serve and those serve alongside.
My first request, because it’s our most important responsibility, is that our campers and staff are safe spiritually, emotionally and physically. I ask God to protect each camper, staff member and all those who visit our camps. And I pray for all our lifeguards, activity staff, counselors and other staff with the responsibility for the direct care of our campers.
The second request I make is that God will, through the experiences we create, transform the lives of our campers and staff. I make this request because this is our mission, it’s why we exist, it’s what we’re to do (create experiences) and it’s the outcome (life transformation) we’re working and praying for. The answer to this request is when a camper or staff leaves SpringHill with new attitudes, behaviors and perspective on life that are more aligned with God than before they arrived.
My final request is simply that we fill every one of our camp spots, that we’re granted the opportunity to serve as many kids as we’re capable of providing an outstanding SpringHill Experience for. This request reflects our vision of never-resting until every young person has the opportunity to hear, see, and experience Jesus Christ in a life-transforming way.
So last week we crossed the half-way point of our camping sessions and God has been gracious in answering these prayers. It’s been a safe, powerfully transforming, and record-breaking summer at SpringHill. But the summer isn’t over; we still have more kids to serve and staff to lead, which means my work of making my three daily requests continues.
Last week, the week we celebrated Independence Day, I experience part of today’s America I normally don’t see. It’s a part of America torn apart by poverty, broken families, prejudice, violence, and community breakdown. But more significantly I saw a glimpse into tomorrow’s America, with all its hope, its possibility of something better, of lives transformed, of families strengthened, and of communities revitalized. Yet this America is sitting on the precipice, either to continue today’s pattern of sliding towards the abyss or moving up to a better tomorrow.
In the places I visited last week it’s tempting to write off tomorrow’s America because of what today’s America looks like, believing there’s nothing that can be done to change its course. But after last week, I’m more convinced than ever that tomorrow’s America can be significantly different, better, more like the America we want and, more importantly, one that more closely reflects the values of God’s Kingdom.
You see my wife Denise and I visited SpringHill Day Camp teams working in three locations in the Detroit metro area. Each team, along with our ministry allies, served children living in some of the harshest and most challenging situations found in America. These children included Iraqi refugees as well as children born in the some of the poorest inner city communities in our country. Yet in each location, with each child and ministry partner we interacted with, we sensed a hope that can only come through the Gospel of Christ.
Now I’m convinced that each of the 300 or so children and their families we served can, with the help of God’s people, have a future reality that is different from their current one. And if their future reality is different, then our country will have one as well. I believe this to be true because I believe, in the core of my being, that our children are the hope of our country, the hope of the world, the hope of the Church.
This is why SpringHill, and so ministries like it, have as its mission to see the lives of kids transformed. And it’s also why I’ve committed my vocational work to this same cause, the cause of Christ and of all kids.43.928283-85.286682
And that’s exactly what Denise and I just did this past weekend.
We attended A Journey to Generosity retreat, hosted by our dear friends Bruce and Sue Osterink and facilitated by Brad Formsma a former business owner and now staff member with Generous Giving, an organization dedicated to “encouraging givers to experience the joy of giving and embrace a lifestyle of generosity, according to God’s Word and Christ’s example.”
It was a powerful retreat, life transforming in many ways.
So let me give you a glimpse into what made it so powerful by passing on some of the wisdom I walked away with.
“Wealth tends to isolate, yet we need to be together”
“Are we Tickle Tithers or Generous Givers?”
“It’s more fun to be a giver than a consumer”
“Concentrate on what’s important and the rest will follow”
“Christ came to rescue and restore, thus our responsibility is to do the same”
“I use to fear failing at what’s important, now I fear succeeding at what’s not”
“People can be a gift of inconvenience”
“Listen closely to those you want to help”
“Giving is not just for wealthy people, it’s for everyone”
“We’re really good at wasting money and we’re really good at disguising it”
“There’s a difference between discernment and judging. We’re called to discern but not to judge”
“We start with nothing and we even worry about losing that”
“We put pressure on our children to have what we have”
“We’re to Give – Save – Live, in that order”
“It’s easy to fool one of us (husband and wife), but it’s not as easy to fool both of us”
“God’s calling is not the same as God’s timing”
“Go where you’re celebrated not where you’re tolerated”
“Giving is adding something to your life, not taking something away”
“What’s our motive to be debt free? Is it to get more or to give more?”
“Giving is the only antidote to materialism”
“Giving is not a once and done deal, it’s an ongoing journey we’re on”
“Keep it simple and just give”
By the way check out some inspiring videos about people who experienced generosity by clicking here.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
The final criteria for evaluating and choosing a camp for the kids you love is simply transparency and outside accountability. Without these two qualities it’s nearly impossible to evaluate all the other areas we’ve discussed over the past four posts. So in many ways you must begin your assessment here.
Let’s first look at transparency.
Transparency is the ability to see into something. It’s vitally important that there’s transparency in any organization that serves kids. There should be no dark corners or secrets when it comes to the care of children.
You can quickly tell the transparency of a camp by asking for following questions:
- Are tours available, especially during camp operations? You should expect to be able to visit and see camp.
- Has the camp been able and willing to answer all the other questions you’ve asked? Did you receive them forthrightly or was it a struggle? If a camp can’t or won’t answer your questions you don’t want to send kids you love there.
- Does the camp provide parents glimpses into a child’s camp experience via video, photos, text messages or emails? They should unless the program, such as a wilderness program, can’t accommodate them.
- How easy is it to connect to camp staff especially when camp is in session? What’s the process for doing so? You should be able to reach someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when camp is in session.
Outside accountability is an often overlooked but vitally important quality every camp should voluntarily submit themselves to if they’re the kind of camp worthy of the kids you love. So you should look for the following types of certifications and audits in any camp you’re considering:
- Certification by the American Camping Association (ACA)? The ACA is the camping industry’s only general certification program. Their standards are high and the audits beneficial. You should think twice before sending your kids to a camp that has not been certified.
- Meet all state regulations and inspections. Note some states are better at this than others.
- Outside companies that design and certify high adventure activities such as zip lines, ropes courses, climbing walls, etc. There are experts in this field that help camps operate and provide safe activities.
- Best Christian Workplaces certification or others like it. These outside firms provide insight into the kind of leadership and organization a camp is and how it operates.
- Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) or other outside financial groups that assures integrity in the camps financial practices.
When you evaluate your camp options against the criteria from this post and the previous four posts you’ll make the right decision for the kids you love.43.928283-85.286682