When Hope Chapel in Collingwood needed a new minister in 2020, I was honoured to be chosen for the position despite the challenges I knew lay ahead. In the process of negotiating a contract, I requested that the church commit to paying my salary to work at our denominational camps for two weeks each summer.
Why would a middle-aged woman, with a plate full of other ministry responsibilities, make such a request?
Aside from my natural love of the overall camping experience, I value the way I have seen God work in the lives of countless campers and staff of all ages and I love being a part of the ministry that God does each summer through Christian camps.
However, through the years, I have also observed how often camps struggle with finances, finding the needed volunteers and getting the word out to member churches. Worse yet, I have seen campers and staff come to love God more deeply at camp year after year, only to grow very little spiritually once home for lack of follow-up and encouraging connections. It is my sincere belief that many of these challenges in camp ministry could be alleviated, if not totally eradicated, if more churches paid the salary of their ministers to work at camp each year.
What benefit is there to having ministers commit to working at summer camp for one or two weeks each year? And why should church congregations pay their ministers’ regular salaries in order for them to do that work? Here are four reasons that inform my conviction.
- First, the more volunteer staff that a camp can ‘employ’ the further the available finances will stretch. This cost savings in staffing makes it possible to ensure that facilities are maintained well and improved upon; programming remains impactful; and camper fees do not need to keep pace with rising costs to the same degree, costs that disqualify a growing number of children from participating each year.
- Second, if a church has a number of campers and staff attending camp, why wouldn’t that same church also commit paid staff? Church staff will be enabled to build deeper relationships with those attending camp, thereby extending the camp experience and connections so that discipleship gains do not remain stunted or are even lost.
- Third, we all know that the Christian life is best lived in community…whether that be individual persons or individual ministries. Isn’t that why we belong to a denomination? Our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom increases exponentially when we partner together.
- And finally, believe it or not, camp is not just for the young…even children’s camps. Adult staff can bring experience and expertise that a younger person often does not yet possess.
Personally, I am happy to report that when I made my proposal to Hope Chapel—for the church to pay for my time to work at summer camp for two weeks, separate from my vacation time—that they quickly agreed. My time at camp both opens up further opportunities to minister, as well as providing me with some necessary perspective as I immerse myself in God’s creation and once again engage with a less jaded generation whose faith and enthusiasm for God is truly infectious!
~ Jane Peck