Seven Pathways To Spiritual Connectivity
I have been in Christian camping now for 15 years. Summer after summer, I have seen God do miraculous things in the lives of many, many youth. While the power to change a life comes only from God’s Word and the moving of His Spirit, there is definitely something special about the camp setting and environment that prepares a heart for this change like nothing I have seen. But what is it? What is so special about Christian camping? I have given this question considerable thought and here is MY answer.
I will start with the premise that we are all different. With this, I think we can all agree. We look, talk, behave, and think differently from one another. We have different gifts, talents, and abilities. We have unique fingerprints, DNA, pet peeves, quirks, personalities, and we all see the world through a unique perspective. This truth is just as true for our children as for us, and our differences do not stop there.
Let me introduce you to the concept of Spiritual Pathways. Much of what I share here is from a workshop I attended at a Christian camp leader’s conference a few years ago. A spiritual pathway is the way a person most naturally connects to God and grows spiritually. From reading through the Bible, we find at least 7 distinct pathways to God, and we each use a unique combination of these 7 pathways to relate to Him. Here is a list of these pathways with a biblical example for each.
- The Relational pathway (Peter): Spiritual growth comes most naturally when you are involved with people and God speaks to you through significant relationships. You love to be around others and time alone can drive you crazy. You may even be a “small group junkie”. A biblical example is the Apostle Peter. Peter came to Jesus with others and he was part of the inner circle with James and John. The defining moments of his life – his decision to follow Christ, his confession of Jesus as Messiah, his denial of Christ and his restoration – all took place in a relational context.
- The Intellectual pathway (Paul): You draw close to God as you are able to learn more about Him. You are a “thinker” and you come alive in a class or with a great book because the road to your heart is through your head. The study of scripture and theology comes naturally to you. The Apostle Paul had an intellectual pathway. Even before his conversion he told of studying with Gamaliel, one of the great Jewish scholars of his day. After his conversion, Paul went into the synagogues and reasoned from Scripture and debated with the philosophers in Athens.
- The Worship pathway (David): You have a deep love of corporate praise and celebration. You may not even be an outgoing person but during worship you open your heart and enthusiastically participate. A corporate praise service is the most healing experience you can have with your God. King David is an example of someone who had a worship pathway. He danced in the streets with all his heart and he wrote psalms and poetry to God to express his love.
- The Activist pathway (Nehemiah): Activists have single-minded zeal and a strong sense of vision. You have a passion to build the church and work for justice in the world. You also work to bring out the potential that God has placed in others. Nehemiah was an activist. He was troubled and depressed when he heard that Jerusalem was in ruins. He prayed and then he told the king, “Here’s the problem, these are my plans, here is a list of what I need from you, and when can I start?” With an activist prayer and action go hand in hand.
- The Contemplative pathway (2 Mary’s): You love uninterrupted time alone with God – no distractions. And often times busyness or spending a lot of time with people can drain you. Martha’s sister, Mary, was contemplative. She didn’t care about housework, she just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also contemplative. She didn’t speak much, but “stored up these things in her heart”.
- The Service pathway (Dorcas): If this is you, God’s presence seems most tangible when you are helping others. You connect with God when you are serving. You would much rather serve than be served. An example of a server in the Bible is Dorcas, who is described in Acts as a woman known for her deeds.
- The Creation pathway (Jesus): You respond deeply to God through His creation. Being outdoors replenishes you, moves your heart, opens your souls, and strengthens your faith. You drink God in through your senses and are often creative yourself. Perhaps the best example of this pathway is Jesus. Of course, He exemplifies every pathway, but the Bible portrays Jesus as being especially drawn to nature. He often withdrew from others to be outdoors going to a lake or the mountains or the wilderness to be with His Father. He always wanted to be in nature and often used things of nature in His teachings, which is not surprising when He created it!
Okay, so these are 7 Spiritual Pathways, but realize there are most certainly other pathways and no one uses just one path exclusively. We all use these pathways in varying degrees – with each of us having a unique combination of these approaches to God. Perhaps, you are already beginning to connect the dots as to what makes Christian camping so special, so powerful, so vital, and so very unique. You see, Christian camping is tailor-made to help a child connect with God in whatever way is most natural for their unique self. In a camp setting a child is exposed to nature continuously; they hear the birds as they rise from their bunk in the morning, learn and play in the fields and amongst the trees throughout the day, and soak in the stars at night while sitting around a campfire – the Creation pathway. While at camp a child will rekindle past friendships, make new friends, have times of sharing in small groups, and interact with positive, caring role models – the Relational pathway. At a Christian camp a child will hear biblical messages, participate in classes, memorize Scripture, and be given the opportunity to learn new skills – the Intellectual pathway. Music is always a big part of the camping experience with lively corporate praise as well as the more intimate campfire songs – the Worship pathway. At a Christian camp a child will learn about world missions and have the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of those in need – the Activist pathway. At camp a child will clean their cabin, sweep floors, serve meals, wash dishes, and help with special projects around the camp – the Service pathway. And at a Christian camp a child will have quiet time to pray, alone time for personal Bible study and devotions, and time alone in their bunk at night to think about the bigger issues of life – the Contemplative pathway.
Now add to this spiritual pathway component: a unique child removed from their home and every day environment, placed, perhaps with a friend or two, in a place that they are either completely unfamiliar with or somewhat unfamiliar with and give them an extended period of time to soak up all the other joys and benefits of a camp environment: running, playing, laughing, learning, growing, silly games, talent shows, mail call, eating, swimming, and the list goes on and on, and yes, even missing home and you can see how a Christian camping experience is entirely and completely unique for each and every child. So unique, in fact, that the set of circumstances created in a Christian camping environment just cannot be duplicated in any other setting – not in the home, not in the church, and not even at a spiritually based youth event. Christian camping provides the perfect combination of circumstances and experiences needed for every unique child to find God through their unique pathway and for God to become real to them as He reaches down to find them through that same pathway. And when this miracle happens, a young person will begin to embrace a personal and intimate faith in their Creator and their Savior. Through the Christian camping experience, we can (to paraphrase Paul), “become all things to all young people so that by all possible means we might save some.” This is the Power of Camp!
Douglas T. Hamer is the Director of LaMoine Christian Service Camp in Tennessee, Ill. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.