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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What I Learned at Summer Camp

Camp One of the blogs I really enjoy reading is by Seth Godin. Seth is a common-sense marketing genius that always has something interesting to say. I read this and immediately thought about the similarities between what he is saying and what many church staff members experience on a daily basis. Read what Seth has to say and see what you think...

"My friend Tim dropped me a note, asking me if I had any tips as to where he might go to improve his public speaking. I was flattered that he asked, and then took a minute to think about where I learned how to speak in public.

Answer? Camp Arowhon.

Wait, there's more. I also learned marketing there.

My summer camp was a marketplace (a loud one). Everyone had to do something, but what you did was up to you. So the canoeing instructor (that was me) was always struggling with the sailing instructor (that was Mike) and the others to get people to come to our dock. If no one came, you were a failure and you didn't get asked back.

I discovered that:

1. No one cared about me. They didn't care about how hard I'd trained, how little I'd slept or how much effort I was putting into my job. [my note: of course people do care about you, but don't you ever get the feeling that there are really few people that understand what it's like to be in your position? Most people feel being a pastor is a 'cush' job... I mean, you 'only work one day a week, right'?]

2. People were rarely willing to try something new. If they'd never done it, they didn't want to start any time soon. [my note: boy, where is this more prevelent than in the church?]

3. Word of mouth was electric. [my note: I've served in both kinds of situations: churches with great word of mouth/momentum; and churches that have had absolutely none. I learned to do whatever you can to try and create positive WOM!]

4. You didn't get many chances to screw up." [my note: take out the obvious moral lapses, which are an instant "strike three" and you still usually have churches that expect close to perfection from their pastors in most cases. Do you serve in a church that where you feel comfortable (and are even encouraged) to fail sometimes?]

You can read Seth's entire post here. It seems you can learn quite a lot at summer camp!

FOR DISCUSSION: What do you think about Seth's observations? Do you find they apply to you in your church situation? Do you deal with apathy, resistance to change, and the consequences of goofing up? Which do you struggle with most? What advice would you have for others if you've overcome any of points 1-4? Please share your thoughts today!

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May 31, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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For me, point four is the most intriguing: that you/we don't get many chances to mess up. Ironically, we preach that we are *failures* saved by grace, yet how often do we feel that congregations today expect perfection? (Possibly due to the exaltation of mega churches and televangelists?)

Do congregations today understand the difference between programatic and moral mistakes? Or on the other side, with motive/intentionality being so subjective, how much room for failure should we allow church leaders?

I am interested in what you all think.

Posted by: Joel Jupp | May 31, 2005 10:22:21 AM


This is a pretty dismal view of the ministry. Three of the four "discoveries" are negative and the other is neutral (negative or positive depending on the situation).

"1. No one cared about me."
Why should they? My experience is that folks in the church care about me as much (perhaps a little bit more) as they do about anyone in the congregation. I have also found that the congregation is as caring as I am willing to be open and honest about my needs. If I don't share my struggles, how will they know how to care for me?

"2. People were rarely willing to try something new."
In nearly twenty years of ministry I have found very few people who are completly unwilling to try something new. Resistence to new things comes when people do not have a clear understanding of the vision or how the "new thing" helps us to accomplish the vision. This is where leadership comes in. When I clear up these questions, almost everyone is willing to give something new a try.

"3. Word of mouth was electric."
This is true. But it can be electric for good and for bad. Where gossip and backbiting are allowed, word of mouth is always destructive. Where positive vision is kept at the forefront and gossip is handled biblically, word of mouth can help energize the congregation.

"4. You didn't get many chances to screw up."
Actually, I have found congregations to tolerate more failure on the part of pastors than I would expect in the secular world of business. They are also more forgiving of Senior Pastors than of staff pastors. I have some ideas about why this is so, by they are only my opinion based on my experiences.

"What advice would you have for others if you've overcome any of points 1-4?"
Have realistic expectations of your congregation and a realistic understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Be a humble servant leader, but by all means lead. I'm sure there's a whole lot more, but this would be a good starting point.

Posted by: Rich Viel | May 31, 2005 10:22:58 AM

Sorry, Rich... didn't mean to be dismal. I guess with only four points, if you're not 2/2 (50/50) than you're 1/4 (25%) positive.

Have a great day!


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | May 31, 2005 10:28:15 AM

John 5

"44": How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

I would recommend that the pastor go to the Father. This is what Jesus modeled.

F.Y.I. Todd the link from today's letter is not pointing here.

Posted by: Harry Miller | May 31, 2005 1:37:09 PM

Romans 10

17 Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

I would add that we as pastors/teachers need to create "word of mouth (electricity) focused on the Word of God.

Posted by: BeHim | May 31, 2005 2:48:10 PM

What do you think about Seth's observations?

I don't think Seth was viewing the world through a Christian world view, so Seth's views will be more in tune with the flesh than with the Spirit of God.

Do you find they apply to you in your church situation?

I think almost any oberservation can be applied to any situation if you look long enough but what is the point? Are the oberservations real necessaties in the Church? Or are they fleshly desires (wants and needs of the flesh or this world) not of real Biblical concern?

Do you deal with apathy, resistance to change, and the consequences of goofing up?

Sure, that's part of dealing with and living in a fallen world still tempted by/with sin.

Which do you struggle with most?

Apathy about the Word. The majority of people don't read their Bible much at all and if they do, they don't seek to study to know and understand what it says.

They love to pray but without knowledge it's like whispering in a howling wind.

What advice would you have for others if you've overcome any of points 1-4?

Persevere and keep your eyes, ears and hearts on Jesus in the Word of God and teach others to do the same.

Posted by: BeHim | May 31, 2005 3:02:27 PM

I just have to say the obvious. I loved camp! It was a blast. Being a children's pastor has afforded me the opportunity to relive many of those awesome camp memories and lessons as Seth does through ministry. Camp is one of the foundational pillars of our children's ministry program. What was lost in all of this was what an impact camp had on Seth's life.

Posted by: Bonner | Jun 1, 2005 11:12:10 AM

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