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A new series based on The Feeding of the 5,000 - #4 Chewable Bites

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP3er @ 15:32

If I were asked to feed 5,000 people I’d feel overwhelmed by the size of the task and over-matched by the complexity of the challenge.  What needs to be done? How do I get started? What do I do first?   

As Jesus prepared to feed the large hungry throng, his disciple must have senses the massive challenge and been very aware of their personal inability.  Jesus knew what he was about to do but he also knew he needed to help his disciples get a handle on the enormous task they were facing. 

To chop this enormous project into chewable bites, Jesus divided the crowd into groups of 50 to 100 people.  Let’s make a few assumptions and do a little math.  A group of 50 is 1% of the total 5,000 people present.  It is essential to break big jobs into 1% and 2% tasks.  If the average size of each group was 75, there would have been about 67 groups.  If those groups were divided equally, each of the 12 disciples would have been responsible for five or six groups.  Responsibility for five or six groups of 75 people is a big job but it is also a manageable challenge; at least it was only about 8% of the overall task.    

When facing overwhelming projects, wise leaders follow Jesus’ example and break the massive challenges into manageable segments.  Successful leaders learn to manage big projects by addressing the three crucial management arenas of time, money and people. 

Time – Camps, in many countries, run all summer. Building projects or program redesigns may take years to complete.  The longer the project, the more important it is to dismantle the lengthy program into a series of do-able 1% and 2% episodes. Flow charts, PERT charts, schedules and sequencing are all techniques to break big projects into 1% and 2% bites. Management of time is really management of self.  Planning anticipates the critical path but disciplined choices turn plans into reality.   

Money - For management purposes, a one million dollar budget is really a two million dollar challenge. If a camp (or any institution) needs a million dollars, it is responsible for a million dollars of income and must be good stewards of another million dollars of expenses.  Breaking income and expenses into line-items helps isolate manageable challenges that, like the small groups in the feeding of the 5,000, are 1% and 2% of the total need.   

People – Organization charts help visualize relationships and job descriptions detail the 1% and 2% areas of responsibility within the camp – or other organizations.  Too often, traditional organizational charts are designed as representations of power and authority instead of ways to understanding who is charged with what responsibilities.  Job descriptions are critical to explaining how the 1% and 2% tasks will be distributed.  

Part of what CCI does is help camp ministries manage the way Jesus did – breaking down large, overwhelming challenges into bite-sized pieces.  Camp is a wonderful place to learn time-management, money-management and people-management.  Schedules chop long-term challenges into chewable bites of days, hours, meetings, and meals – and discipline keeps us on schedule.  Budgets break income and expenses into bite-sized income and expense line-items. Organizational charts and job descriptions divide the overall mission into morsel-sized tasks and responsibilities.

A new series based on The Feeding of the 5,000 - #3 Green Grass

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP4er @ 16:45

Jesus didn’t have much to work with, just a few rolls of bread, a couple of fish, twelve reluctant disciples and a hillside with some patches of green grass.  Just before he performed his miraculous feeding, Jesus directed the people to sit down in the green grass.  He didn’t have much to work with, but he used what he had – including the green grass.   

Why did he make a point to direct them to the green grass?  Why not the rocks or the dirt?  Why even bother to record that Jesus instructed the people to sit in the green grass?  What difference did it make?  Apparently a lot!  

Besides Jesus’ basic commitment to be gracious to people, he achieved two additional objectives by seating the people in the green grass.  First, he eliminated the distractions that come with dirt and rocks; and second, he built trust with the people by meeting their needs through attention to details.  These two issues are true in life and in camp. 

In camp ministry we are always looking for ways to remove problems or concerns that might distract a person from the heart of the ministry.   Camp staff members are always doing things that build trust and deepen relationships.  The twin challenges of removing distractions and building trust creates a clear path to the cross.   

Let’s look first at removing distractions.  When a camper turns on the hot water they expect hot water – providing hot water meets, but does not exceed, expectations.  Failing to provide hot water creates a context of frustration, disappointment, and distrust.  Good signage on the highway leading to camp allows campers and guests to arrive without incident; no gold stars but not problems either. Poor signage leads to wrong turns, anger and exasperation.    

Generally, the operational and administrative sides of camp carry the load when it comes to eliminating distractions.  Food service workers, housekeepers, grounds keepers, maintenance staff members, receptionists and registrars work hard and serve faithfully.  But their work is rarely what campers talk about months after camp is over.  However, they remove distractions and provide the wonderful context within which God works. 

Green grass ministry involves answering the phone with a cheerful voice and a helpful heart, responding to e-mails, and staying late to answer one more question.  Green grass ministry means clean toilets, mowed lawns, hot food, warm beds, and swept walks.  Doing the little things well helps eliminate distractions that can jeopardize ministry opportunities.  

Besides eliminating distractions, green grass camps build trust by attending to the details that make a good camp great.  Green grass programs love people, speak truth, have fun and meet needs.  Effective camps take great pains to hire a green grass staff, they play green grass games, teach green grass activities, sing green grass songs, prepare green grass Bible studies and engage green grass speakers.  

Jesus didn’t have much to work with.  But he used what he had to remove distractions and build trust.  Some camps fret about what they do not have.  Jesus seemed to take the simple, available tools and with a grateful heart, use them effectively.  Camps may not have much but each one can find some green grass and use it more effectively.  By attending to details and looking for better ways to serve campers and guests, operational and administrative staff members can remove distractions and set the stage for life changing ministry.  Program staff members can do the little things to build relationships that enhance trust, express love and share truth.   

Every day, in every way look for green grass opportunities.  Strive to provide a ministry setting that removes distractions and a program that builds trust.  Then enjoy watching God use your little to achieve much. 

A new series based on The Feeding of the 5,000 - #2 Whole Person Ministry

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP12er @ 12:10

With apparent ease and grace, Jesus ministered to the whole person.  In the story of the feeding of the 5,000, He healed people who needed healing, fed the hungry, tested those who needed a challenge; and he taught everyone about the Kingdom of God. 

Too often, ministries focus on one aspect of people’s needs and neglect the broad array of maladies that confront every person: spiritual, personal, relational and physical. That’s ok as long as we do not become one-string banjos that can play only one tune and can only sing one song. Schools teach, hospitals heal, preachers preach, counselors counsel and camps camp; we each do our part as we seek to help the whole person become whole. 

Once we see the special role that God has called us to as the only tool in God’s toolbox, we are in danger of missing the big task that God has called us to.   

When Jesus saw the crowd coming toward him, he had compassion on them.  Compassion begins when we focus on the needs of others; true compassion responds. Too often I start with what I want to say and do and look for targets that provide me with a chance to “say my piece” or “do my thing.” Jesus looked at needy people and responded emotionally, practically and strategically. 

Some people/ministries focus on spiritual needs and neglect the human hurts of hunger, disease, illiteracy and violence.  These groups are criticized for saving souls and not addressing the presenting needs of hungry and hurting people.  Others focus so intently on present pain that they ignore the reality of eternal suffering that is only resolved in a relationship with Jesus Christ.   

Jesus seamlessly healed and taught, fed and preached.  He addressed temporal and eternal needs, and he confronted physical and spiritual pain. 

No doubt about it - I’m biased; but I think Christian camps provide a powerful context in which ministry can address the needs of the whole person.  Physical needs are met, relational needs are addressed, emotion pain is released, and spiritual needs are confronted in a loving, biblical and transformational manner. 

Camps are not the only tools in God’s ministry toolbox – but they are some of the best.  Camp ministries allow staff members to express their compassion in ways that feed the hungry, engage the lonely, challenge the comfortable, express God’s love and teach God’s truth to millions of campers and guests each year.      

A new series based on The Feeding of the 5,000 - #1 Inconvenient Ministry

Posted by Dan Bolin on OA8er @ 8:42

Ministry opportunities often present themselves at the least opportune moments.  In the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus allowed ministry to interrupt His personal time.  Grieving the murder of his cousin John, he and his disciples were drained emotionally.  Endless days of ministry and conflict had depleted his human, physical reserves.   Jesus needed a break, and he knew his disciples were due for a time of recovery as well. A brief staff retreat was in order. 

When Jesus and his disciples arrived to begin their time away, they were met by a sea of human curiosity and trauma. People came to Jesus for his teaching because they were wrestling with a question, seeking instruction, or curious about who he was and the message he proclaimed.  Others came for healing with specific pains, disorders, and limitations.  At least 5,000 people arrived with very real physical and spiritual needs; the call came to Jesus and his disciples to teach, heal and eventually feed the multitude.   

Jesus did not deny his need for rest and recovery.  He did not pretend that his needs did not matter; he merely delayed meeting his needs for the sake of others.   

Yes, I believe in boundaries, and I believe in time off and time away.  Jesus recognized the need to step back from the relentless pressure of ministry – that’s why He had taken His disciples on this getaway.  But He also recognized the need to respond to people’s needs whether or not it was convenient.  Every rule has its exceptions, and every policy has a superseding value.  Somehow Jesus was able to refuel in flight, draw on the power of the Spirit, and find the resources required to meet one more set of needs. 

Strangers arrived at Abraham’s tent (Genesis 18) while he was resting during the heat of the day.  His siesta was interrupted by the needs of strangers.  He abandoned his desire to rest so that he could address the needs of others.  Ministry intruded into Abraham’s life and he responded with grace and hospitality.     

Moses, David, Daniel, Jonah, Paul, Peter and a host of other Bible characters experienced moments when ministry was thrust upon them; inconvenient opportunities that intruded into the routine plans and ordinary structures of their lives.  These people’s responses benefited others but cost them dearly.   

Experiences that stretch us, test our limits, and force us to face challenges create the disequilibrium and disturbances that God uses to teach us, change us, mature us, and force us to grow.  Our growth plate is found where the needs of others intrude into the comfortable and convenient structures, schedule and expectations of our lives.   

If we are serious about being conformed to the image of Christ, we need to get used to unscheduled opportunities to serve, unsolicited challenges, and unwanted involvement in the messes of others. Jesus remained available, focused on the needs of others and dependent upon the power of God even though he had other plans for the afternoon! 

Part 3 - Psalm 19:14

Posted by Dan Bolin on OA11er @ 11:49

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

 Psalm 19 describes two of the ways God reveals Himself to the world:  through creation and through the Bible.  Creation provides a general revelation about God’s glory, the Heavens declare the glory of God (v: 1 – see Part 1 below), and God’s Word gives us special revelation about who He is and how to live, The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (v: 7 – see Part 2 below). These two great areas of revelation merge in Christian camping to provide an amazing and powerful impact in people’s lives.

But why?  Why is it so important that we know about God?  Why did God take the initiative to reveal Himself to us?

God wants us to know Him and to align our view of others and this world with God’s perspective.  What we think about God influences our understanding of everything else.  Thinking righty about God impacts how we relate to our spouses, children and friends.  Our understanding of God changes how we use our money, our time, our vote and our authority.  Our thoughts about God determine how we treat our bodies, our work responsibilities, and our world.  So God wants us to know Him and the more accurately and completely we view God, the more effectively we will live our lives.

Henrietta Mears said, Camp is where people make up their minds.  Camp is a place of decision and commitment.  At camps around the world, the revelation of God’s creation intersects with the revelation of God’s Word and creates a powerful context in which the Spirit of God works in people’s lives.

That is why verse 14 concludes Psalm 19.  The theme of God’s creation has been introduced (verses 1-6), and the importance of God’s Word has been established (verses 7-11).  The conclusion (verses 12-14) provides the result of this powerful confluence of revelation – changed lives. 

Verse 14 says, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The words of my mouth include verbal sounds but they represent much more.  They are the external expression of our lives and the public professions of our attitudes and beliefs.  Words are the outward demonstration of our inward commitments.

The meditations of our hearts are our deeper core motives.  This phrase speaks to the inner desires and attitudes that control our outward expressions.  Words and deeds come from passions and desires.  David wanted both the outward expressions of his life and the inner attitudes of his heart to be pure and wholesome before God.  

Camp provides the time and context for people to reflect on their lives from God’s perspective.  Camp is often the place where God is invited to snoop inside the deepest recesses of our hearts and to clean out the inappropriate meditations that hide in the shadows. 

David ends this powerful and pointed psalm with two powerful images for God:  Rock and Redeemer. 

The word Rock describes the power, greatness, strength and supremacy of God that is the heart of God’s revelation in verses 1-6.   The word Redeemer addresses God’s love, grace, care and initiative to save us that is the heart of the second section, verses 7-11. 

Camps, retreat centers, conference centers and other outdoor ministries provide the places around the world where campers and guests encounter their Rock and Redeemer.  Through those encounters many thousands each year join David in praying,

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Part 2 - Psalm 19:7-11

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP3er @ 15:04

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. 

Not only has God chosen to reveal Himself through His creation, He also uses His written Word to reveal Himself to mankind.  The first six verses of Psalm 19 demonstrate God’s use of creation to reveal Himself; then David refocuses our attention on God’s revelation through the Word of God.  

Five of the next six topics in verses seven through nine focus on God’s Word.  Law, statutes, precepts, commands, and ordinances speak of God’s special revelation to his people.  David describes God’s Word as perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, and sure.  The benefits are described as reviving the soul, making wise the simple, giving joy to the heart, giving light to the eyes, and altogether righteous. 

David goes on to favorably compare God’s Word to gold and honey.  As a king, David could think of nothing better than a treasury full of gold, much fine gold.  As a shepherd boy, David could imagine nothing better than sweet honey from the comb of a beehive.  The results of heeding God’s Word were described as well; it provides warnings and rewards.  

In over 60 countries, Christian camping capitalizes on these two great arenas of God’s revelation – God’s creation and God’s Word.  Christian camps are blessed to operate in gorgeous settings.  They use God’s general revelation of Himself through His creation to reach millions of people each year and to help them see the glory of God.  But they also use the special revelation of God’s Word to share with campers and guests the good news of who Christ is and what He has done on their behalf.  Christian camps meld these two great areas of God’s revelation and see the results week after week as lives are changed for God’s glory and purposes.     

Part 1 - Psalm 19:1

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP1er @ 13:08

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Creation is God’s ‘town crier’ proclaiming God’s glory all the time (v:2), communicating to every language (v:3), and to every part of the world (v:4).  But we rarely hear creation’s proclamation because most of us live in urban settings rather than in close proximity to God’s creation.  Inner city, urban life is a reality for over 50% of the world’s population.  Many more live in suburban or metropolitan areas; and by some estimates only 10% - 15% of the world’s population live in traditional rural areas.  Concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt dominate the “landscape” for most of us.  Smog obscures our view of the heavens and light pollution dims the stars.   

Little wonder that people who can afford them buy second homes away from cities and near lakes, oceans, mountains and forests.  Little wonder many of us surround our homes with flowers and grass.  Little wonder people throughout the world grow plants within their apartments.  Little wonder in New York City, apartments charge more rent if they are on “tree lined” streets.   

Despite these manmade obstacles, God continues to reveal himself through creation.  So, when people go to camp they not only leave behind the distractions of life, benefit from the relative safety of a controlled environment, and enjoy a change of pace, they also immerse themselves into a world that continually declares the glory of God. 

In the trees, by the lake, through the meadows, under the mountains, and beside the stream God speaks.  The intricate details tell of God’s glorious care, and the majestic grandeur of the universe announces God’s glorious power.   

Christian camping capitalizes on God’s decision to reveal himself through his creation.  Globally, Christian camping seeks to reduce the “noise” and clear away the smog that distract and minimize the steady, consistent proclamation of God’s glory.  As people examine God’s handiwork up close and in a personal way, they have the opportunity to hear the clear proclamation of God’s glory and respond in awe. 

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