I am sitting in the airport in Ashville, North Carolina after attending The Great Gathering, which is the first ecumenical gathering of outdoor ministry professionals from across the United States and Canada. My head is spinning with the myriad of possibilities of how Slumber Falls Camp can continue to improve the programs, amenities/facilities, and most importantly the impacts of our relationships in terms of well-being, development, and spiritual formation.
Some of the benefits of an ecumenical gathering are attending workshops by gurus in their field of expertise lifted up by the individual denominations, and the sheer number of participants to bring in world-renowned speakers such as Barbara Brown-Taylor, Jim Cain, Shane Claiborne, and Joan Garry to name just a few, and the relationships forged with other campgrounds across the country and information sharing. The theme of the week was Relationship, and we were looking at new ways to envision ministry, gospel sharing, and new paradigms for helping others experience the Divine through creation. After all, children and youth that attend church camp are three times more likely to be a part of the church in their adult lives. It is one of the single most powerful tools that our church has for faith formation and development that has a lasting impact way into adulthood.
I ran myself ragged trying to maximize my experiences and expand my knowledge base from so many creative people and veterans in the outdoor ministry field. I have no clue in how so many people could sit by the indoor fireplaces in rockers while looking at the snow-covered scenery, though it did look picturesque. Out of the many topics and workshops that I attended, I wanted to lift up one of them pertaining to generosity. Often times we associate generosity with time and money. The workshop presented a new paradigm based on the Barna research on generosity and generations. Their research looked at generosity collected from data from Generation Z, Millenials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Elders. This generated data that gives insights that help congregations and church organizations understand more about their people and realize that generosity is present, alive, and well in all generations, but they do have different ways of living a generous life.
From the Barna research, Thrivent (a Christian organization helping people live more generous lives) extrapolated 5 ways of being generous – hospitality, emotional/ relational support volunteerism, monetary gifts, and non-monetary gifts. Generosity is driven by compassion and a sense that there is a need. Each one of these five areas has a real cost associated with it. While money, time commitments, and gifts are easier to see and measure, hospitality and emotional support can be a little more intangible. For those engaged in ministries that practice radical hospitality or work alongside groups deemed undesirable by some, the social costs for associating with a church or organization can have personal costs. When was the last time that you challenged the culture in your area to embrace the outsider and welcome them in your circle? My mind quickly thinks of Jesus and the woman at the well or the parable of the Good Samaritan. When giving emotional/ relational support it also can tax our own emotions and skillsets, leaving us tired and drained both physically and emotionally. After John the Baptist was beheaded, the emotional toll of that relationship on Jesus led him to seek out a boat and solitude. While the people still found Jesus, compassion for the people led to the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14). Living a generous life has costs, but the effects transform lives and ultimately bring the world a little closer to where God is calling us to be as people of the way.
So, what were some of the highlights and takeaways of the various generations from the research? Generation Z (3-19-year-olds) are strongest in showing generosity through volunteerism followed by emotional/ relational support. Generation Z (35-53) was the flip of those categories, and the Millennials (20-35) was even across those two categories but also had gifts giving on the same level. Baby Boomers (54-73) had a spike in volunteering with monetary support and relational support trailing at higher levels. Elders (73+) were highest in monetary support with volunteerism coming in a close second (higher percentages that Millennials and Gen X numbers). Hospitality was at the bottom of every generation with the exception of Generation Z where it was second to bottom with monetary gifts being their lowest category. The research presented did not flesh out why this form of generosity was not the favored, but I would suspect that social risks could play a part because we are relational beings and belonging is often more important that challenging norms and risking our social networks. The other observations that I made were that stages of life could play a role in our ability to be generous in some of these categories. Gen Z is high in volunteerism, but are there correlations to graduation requirements and higher education applications? The workforce is now dominated by Gen X and Millennials starting families and working, leaving less time to volunteer. As people retire, kids become self-sufficient, and resources become available, does that allow for more financial contributions and time to be given? More research and future studies will provide us with more information, but if the church is going to lift up generosity and compassion as Christ-like values, then we need to provide opportunity to teach, encourage, and practice living a generous life.
Throughout the year, and especially during the summer, I see generosity all around me in all five of these areas. The active living out of all these practices forms a core of what it means to be an intentional Christian community. Modeling these is also a powerful experience for our children and youth to understanding the importance of generosity through compassion. Slumber Falls Camp is a nexus for radical love and hospitality where individuals are lifted up and welcomed into the Christian community. Our camp rejoices in those who have answered the call to volunteer throughout the year, attend work camps, and serve as summer camp leaders. And it is through gifts and monetary donations were youth are afforded this opportunity to learn about Christ’s teachings, experience God through the sacredness of creation, and discover a family that is fiercely passionate in helping them grow into who God is calling them to become. I invite everyone to consider ways in which you can be generous to Slumber Falls Camp. We cannot do this without all levels of generosity. If your church does not have a youth program or even youth, I invite you to give and support the camp as your youth ministry. We will keep your church informed on how your youth mission and ministry is thriving through Slumber Falls Camp.
During this time of reflection from All Saints Day to Thanksgiving, I am humbled by the people that are generous to sharing the gospel and supporting the success of our programs. If this convention has taught me anything it is that we have the potential to become more than we have ever been and be that beacon of light, love, and hope to the world. There is no other camp in Texas or Louisiana (and most of the south) that proclaims the gospel as Slumber Falls Camp does in an open and unapologetic way were all are truly welcomed. Thank you again. Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope our paths cross soon!
Peace and Love,