• Marriage and Family

    More to College than the Classroom

    My wife Denise and I just dropped off our daughter, Christina, at college. She attends Butler University and had to be back early because she’ll be a Resident Assistant this year and was starting her training.

    Also our son MD will be a junior at Calvin College. He ran for and was elected Vice President of the Student Senate and is at school completing his summer job as well as beginning his “Student Senate” work.

    We’re excited about the growth and learning opportunities these experiences will provide our two college students. We appreciate these opportunities because both Denise and I benefited from similar experiences while college students. And the truth is (I maybe committing educational heresy to say this) I learned and grew more as a person through my extra-curricular involvement than I ever did in the classroom

    But it’s also why we should be worried about the continuing rise in the price of a college education. Sky rocketing costs have caused both individuals and schools to make drastic changes in how they approach and deliver a college education and the campus experience. Such things as on-line classes, reduction in funding for “student life” programs, more students living at home or in cheap apartments, have all robbed many young adults of these precious opportunities (such as being an RA) to learn the “life lessons” that can only be had outside the classroom.

    And for many of these lessons, the college campus is the best environment to learn them. Where else in the world can you try new things, make mistakes with limited down side, and discover one’s passion and giftedness while being supported by an institution whose mission is to educate you?

    If education and learning is our real goal (and not just stream lining earning a diploma) then we need to figure out how to make the full college experience available to as many of our citizens as possible. Diplomas and true learning are two different things and we can’t afford, in the long run, to see them as the same. If we do, both our kids and our country will suffer.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Marriage and Family

    A Case for a Technology Sabbath

    Last week the Perry’s had a family reunion at Camp Anjigami in northern Ontario, Canada. The trip was a result of our boys and I “taking a risk” by inviting our entire extended family to join us for our annual fishing trip.

    It was a risk because going to northern Ontario means there’s absolutely no connectivity, and we had no idea how everyone would handle such a 5 day “technology sabbath”.

    Well the consensus from the family was simply this – it was an incredible vacation. Our family said things such as

    “The most relaxing vacation I ever had”

    “I got to know my cousins in a way I never have before”

    “It was so nice not having any distractions”

    There’s no doubt that the lack of television, video games, cell phones, text messages, internet surfing and social media monitoring was a major contributor to this great experience (as well as being in God’s stunning creation). Why? Because all of these technologies add stress and distractions instead of eliminate them.

    But it wasn’t just the lack of technology that eliminated stress and distractions, the difference was the lack of the temptation to use it (you can’t get cell service or internet in the Canadian wilderness). You see, we tend not to crave the chocolate cake when it’s out of our line of sight or reach. This is especially true when we’re immersed in so many other incredible things (people, nature, facilities).

    So the lesson I took away from our family reunion? Take the occasional break from technology but do it in a place that’s beautiful, peaceful, with great people, and where there’s no possible temptation to be connected, then you’ll have a true sabbath (rest).

  • Marriage and Family,  Summer Camp

    Jerry Sandusky and the Hard Reality about Child Abuse

    With the report from Penn State’s internal investigation of the Sandusky affair released this week, we’re all reminded once again of children’s vulnerability to abuse. Yet, as important as the reporting about this horrific situation is, there are two facts that are continually reported that can cloud our vision about the nature of child abuse.

    The first fact is that most of Sandusky’s victims were from broken homes, where no father was present, and the economic challenges were great. The second fact is that the abuse was the result of a known public figure swooping in and taking advantage of these children living in difficult situations.

    Both of these facts are true, but this cannot lead us to believe that this is the most common scenario for child abuse. Because the reality is that abuse happens in every corner of our society including to those kids who come from families that look like, on the surface, that they have it all together. And secondly, the perpetrator, more often or not, is a family member or close friend, not a public figure.

    We know this to be true at SpringHill because nearly every week during summer camp our staff discover campers who have been or are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by family members or close family friends. They’re from rich families and poor families, and families from the city and families from the suburbs. It happens within families who attend church faithfully and those who’ve never entered a church building in their lives. The harsh reality is – where there are children, abuse is always a possibility because kids, being who they are, are by nature vulnerable to predators.

    Fortunately, because SpringHill is a safe place, kids feel the freedom to share with our staff their experiences, including many who’ve never shared their horrors with anyone before doing so at camp. This allows us to do what Penn State failed to do – first, report these situations to the appropriate authorities, and second to assure these young victims receive the support they need to move forward and ultimately be healed.

    So let’s not be lulled into believing child abuse only happens in certain segments of our society. Instead let’s always diligently look for signs of abuse and then, when we see them, to have the courage to do what’s necessary to protect all our children from these horrific evils.

  • SpringHill Experiences

    Sunday Night Live and the Official Start to Summer

    Summer has officially arrived because SpringHill has had its annual Memorial Day Family Camp.

    Family Camp, along with Summer Camp, is SpringHill’s longest running program. This is our 43rd year of family camping at our Michigan camp and, believe it or not, we have a handful of families who have not missed one, ever. It’s also the first program I was a part of as a full-time  staff member of SpringHill, and thus, for many reasons, is one of my favorite programs.

    One of the reasons I look forward to being a part of Family Camp is because I love watching families have a SpringHill Experience together – riding horses, doing the zipline, sharing around the campfire, or joining in one of our family sessions where they sing together and listen to excellent family speakers together. After every Family Camp, we hear from people who tell us how God used their time at SpringHill to transform their family.

    One of my favorite parts of the weekend is Sunday Night Live. Sunday Night Live is a giant campfire like session in our outdoor amphitheater where our staff performs campfire skits; families will sing campfire songs, listen to a campfire message from our camp speaker and, of course, have a visit from Duct Tape Man. It’s a blast and this past week, with the incredible northern Michigan weather, it was as good as it gets.

    So get the suntan lotion and the bug spray out, summer has officially started, and after this great weekend, I’m looking forward, with anticipation, to all God will do in the lives of SpringHill campers, families and staff this summer.




  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    The Power of a Fresh Context

    In my last post I wrote about the transformational power of a fresh voice heard in a different context. That fresh voice is an essential part of a transformational experience. But it’s the fresh voice in a new and different context that makes all the difference.

    What makes a context different and thus such a powerful combination with a fresh voice?

    First, a different context requires, well, getting out of an old context, even if it’s for a short time. Going away, leaving the routines and the familiar behind is the only way to step into a new context. This is why going away to camp is so powerful and transformational for kids. I’ve heard of parents doing “camp” at home for their kids. This maybe a good and fun summer activity but it can’t replace going away to camp, because it will not have the transformational power that leaving home, and going to camp, can have in a child’s life.

    Second, a transformational context includes excitement, adventure, challenge, and novelty. It’s why SpringHill and so many other camps have activities such as zip lines, climbing walls, blobs and horses. These are exciting, challenging and novel activities. They’re things kids do not do in their regular, everyday life. When a child or student does something for the first time, such as scale a 40 foot climbing wall, they’re also more likely to do and make positive spiritual and life decisions for the very first time. 

    The power of a fresh context is also what drives SpringHill to have something new at camp every year. People come to SpringHill expectant, expectant of something new to see or do, and thus expectant of a new and fresh perspective on life and the possibility of a different direction to take.

    This is The Power of Camp, and it’s why I believe all Kids Need Camp.

    What’s your camp story?

  • Marriage and Family

    An Antidote to Signing Day


    I began writing this post on the most overhyped and, in some ways, the saddest day in our sports calendar – the college football “signing day”, where kids become national heroes based on nothing more than their potential.

    So as an antidote for yesterday’s craziness, here’s a snapshot of high school athletics which, no doubt, reflects the experiences of most student-athletes and their parents.

    My wife and I have watched lots of high school basketball over the years, but this season has been one of the most enjoyable. The reason is, for the first time, we have two of our sons playing together on the same team.

    Our sons, Mitch and Jonathan, play for the Northern Michigan Christian School’s junior varsity team. Mitch plays up front and Jonathan plays guard so they’re often on the court at the same time.

    Seeing them interact in such a competitive, high pressure and public situation as a high school basketball game, tells us a lot about their relationship as brothers. And here’s what we seen – they’re completely honest in their communication with each other. We’ve watched them have intense discussions after a bad play in a way only brothers can and we’ve also seen them affirm each other after a good play with what can only be described as brotherly love (not a bad model for our working relationships).


    We’ve also have daily talks around the kitchen table about their team, the practices and the games. There have been challenges, heartbreak and victories, all of which they’re sharing together and we’re sharing with them as parents (what will I do in a few years when this is all over?).

    So if you’ve been doubting the sanity of high school sports, remember ESPN has nothing on local, home town high school sports and the lifelong learning experiences they give young people like our sons Mitch and Jonathan.

  • Marriage and Family,  Organizational Leadership

    Qualities of Trustworthy Youth Organizations

    Denise and I hold two important, but at times conflicting, goals in raising our children. The first one’s simply to assure our kids have experiences that help them grow physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually and spiritually. Secondly, we want to do all we can to keep our kids safe and to protect them from the consequences of evil.

    It’s when we need to entrust our children and their safety to those who provide them life transforming experiences that we can feel conflicted. We want to provide our children these experiences and at the same time assure their safety.

    The best way to achieve both is to verify that the organizations we entrust our children to have the following three qualities.


    The organization and its staff are transparent. Transparency mean’s there’s nothing hidden about its history, operations, philosophies, track record and methods. Transparency also includes our child’s experience.


    Related to transparency is accessibility. Organizations and staff are accessible to parents. In addition, if necessary, our kids are accessible when involved with the organization. We should expect our phone calls and emails to be returned timely as well as the opportunity to meet the staff when dropping off and picking up our child as well as any other time we want to interact with them.


    Professionalism includes a broad range of key activities that we should expect from an organization and its staff including verifiable training, quality control, safety practices and policies that the staff know and demonstrate commitment to by their adherence to these policies.

    These three qualities should permeate the entire culture of an organization as reflected in the staff, websites, promotional material and most importantly in their reputation.

    With prayerful due diligence, we as parents, can reduce the possibility of any harm coming to our children and yet still provide them those formative experiences they so desperately need to reach their potential.

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