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.
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.
For over twenty years Michael Perry has made it his mission to bring young people closer to Christ through his Bible study publications, his capacity as the President and CEO of SpringHill, and his recent book, Experience = Everything. Over the last fifty years, SpringHill has changed over half a million lives—proving that it is more than just camp, or a place, SpringHill is a transformative experience.