Our neighbor’s children are free to come and play in our yard. We’ve given them permission to do so. They bring their imagination, play and energy into our lives and we enjoy their laughter and the conversation coming from their eyes and world. A text message received from their mother once read, “I don’t know what is so attractive about your yard but the girls love to play there!” And we don’t mind at all.
Eating dinner after a Sunday service and a morning snow, we heard the youthful voices sledding in front of our porch. Then we saw the top of a blond little head making its way to our front door. The door bell chimed. When my wife went to the door no child was there. The game was on, with the youngest being put up to it by her older sisters. We watched another sneaky approach to our front door, heard another chime, saw another flight and listened to the giggles in the bushes below as we searched for the big bad wolf ringing our door bell. With the third stealth door bell ringing my wife proclaimed it was too bad that such a hungry wolf would run off since cookies and milk were inside! All the giggles came inside and we gave their mom a little break.
The fun times came from a few years of cultivating a relationship with our neighbors. We are glad the message is clear, “You are free to come and you are safe here. Bring your imagination to our pine grove, sled on our hill, play in our bushes and ask us question while we garden. Bring your world to us.
A foundation of camp ministry is that you provide a program designed for an age specific group. Many of life’s spiritual battle need to be won with our youngest campers. This requires that our programs let campers bring their world to us. It is far more difficult to create a program that engages a camper’s imagination, productive play expansive curiosity than it is to schedule a list of fun activities.
As you get ready for camp this summer, I encourage you to let your mind enter the child’s world. Camp programs give campers today the opportunity to live life for a week in their, a world that has been robbed from them at home by a culture of fear to go outside and captivating plasma screens.
I love to take hikes with kids and let my imagination run. I remember last summer picking up a rock on a river beach and proclaiming it a petrified dinosaur tear. Outrageous for sure, especially from an adult, but I was there to let them bring their world to me. One boy looked at me as real strange. Awhile later he returned with his own rock convincing me it was a dinosaur tooth. From there the conversation began, I had entered into his world.
My wife has a passion for children’s literacy. I’ve discovered through the books she brings home that I can enter a child’s world through reading good children’s literature. Reading Newberry Award winning books for children, I’ve found a glimpse into the questions they face, emotions they feel below the surface and the inspirations that motivates of the children that Christ said, “Let them come to me.”
I hope I’ve created a desire in you to be ready when the children come to your ministry this summer. What can you do to make your program inviting for imagination, productive play, and expanding curiosity? Take some time to remember the poignant moments and the lessons learned in your childhood, including the difficult ones. Are you ready to teach those same lessons? Our culture may change but the lessons to be learned never do.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:4 ESV