It's summer camp time, again, and one of the interesting things going on in my church's association is that, for a variety of reasons, Bible camp attendance is again down. Some blame an aging church, some blame modesty standards and how they're presented, some blame cost, and I'm sure there are a host of other reasons.
That noted, what we're presented with, really, is a list of Bible camps out there that have multimillion dollar facilities used less than a month a year with only a few hundred children benefiting. Sure, we do have professions of faith and renewals of faith, some of them genuine, and that is a good thing, but I have to wonder whether we ought to really take a look at the cost/benefit equation.
To draw a comparison, my son and I attended a weekend expedition of "Trail Life" in facilities far superior to those at my association's summer camp for about $50 apiece including meals at the local state park. The cabins were clean, comfortable, well cared for, and heated, as were the bathrooms and kitchen facilities. We had the use of a nice meeting hall, games, hiking paths, water access, and more.
Where was this wonderful Scout camp? It was the group camp at Whitewater State Park here in Minnesota, and it has a history going all the way back to its original use as a POW camp for Germans in World War II. Great trails, a museum nearby, and a bunch of other recreational activities for a very reasonable--and probably taxpayer subsidized--price.
And as such, it strikes me that churches everywhere might do well to consider whether they really need to hold onto various facilities they own. If the state parks, or other church camps, do a better job and are more viable, why not help keep them in business by using them? Keep in mind as well that if you value evangelism, one of the biggest things you need to do is to get out of the fundagelical "cocoon" and interact with those outside the fold. Easy around state parks; difficult in isolated church camps, no?
Moreover, in the case of my church's association, the likely proceeds from a sale would fund youth pastors in about two thirds of member churches for about a year as well, and the time, effort, and money spent maintaining the camp might be better spent maintaining our local church buildings. In other words, if we want to keep summer camp viable, our best option might be to sell our facilities.