April 3, 2014

Dear Friends in Christ:

“We don’t have any youngsters in our church.”  “We don’t have any young families here any- more!  Sound familiar?  It is a common refrain when a visitor walks into any of a number of our churches and it is unfortunate that this is the answer all too often forthcoming.

So, what do we do about it?  I am no more an expert than any of you but I did offer up a couple of suggestions a couple of years ago related to camping ministries when the United Methodist women graciously decided to offer up camping scholarships and pledged to make sure that any child who wanted to go to camp had the opportunity.

When I began visiting churches that summer and churches said that they didn’t have any camping age children we began talking about the Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors theme that we have advocated for a number of years now and we began to discuss when was the last time any of us went out into our community to see if there were young people out there who wanted to go to camp.

Friends, make no mistake about it, there is a tremendous difference between an athletic camp, a fine arts camp, and a Christian camp.  You have all heard the statistics about how many of our people who are serving as ministers shared that having the opportunity to attend a Christian camp is what convinced them to pursue ministry.  Now maybe you don’t really care whether or not your child becomes a pastor, but what if you provided them with the chance to make the choice on their own.

Over twenty years ago my wife and children came to an altar call at one of our camps and I remain convinced that it set the foundation for their walk with the Lord, and it is one of the key reasons that they are raising their own families in the Christian faith.  Going to that camp the last several years and observing hundreds of other youth come forward, brings such joy to me even today.

So don’t just open your doors, go forward, visit your community, find those people many whom just need a gentle nudge.  Perhaps it is an article of clothing, or a bite of food, or what about the opportunity to go to camp and visit with hundreds of children their own age for an event in their life that many of them will never ever forget.

Max Waagner
Albion District Lay Leader