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Revolutionizing Camp Meeting


Camp meeting! Summer in my house begins with the annual trek to the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference camp meeting at Highland Academy. Tents, bugs, and this year, a snake, all add to the memory book of adventures.

Only 36, I often feel out of place amongst the rocking chairs piled high with pillows for the ever-aging set of devotees. Yet, even while multi-tasking on classwork, texting my husband, and reconnecting with friends, I gain spiritually from the lessons presented. 

Sitting in my favorite back row, I pondered why more young people don’t attend. Eating junk food, exploring nature, not to mention a great week of kid adventure led by the pastors, all lend themselves to a great Generation X or Millennial experience.  So, in my mind’s eye, I set out to propose a camp meeting vision for a new generation.

1.       Focus: Intentionally building relationships

I’ve attended the KYTN camp meetings for six years, and although I reconnect with a few old friends and recognize many by sight, I haven’t really invested in building relationships that would add to my spiritual growth. I blame no one but myself; however, breaking the ice is often the hardest part. Thus, I propose a format change. 

In education its termed “flipping the class.” A book or assigned theme is proposed. Attendees study this beforehand. Rather than sitting in a gymnasium or facing a teacher, chairs should be arranged in circles or around tables for interaction. Rather than staying in static groups, members could rearrange themselves at various intervals in an effort to meet new individuals or gather insight from people whose opinions differ. Speakers are limited to no more than 20 minutes at a presentation, followed by conversation regarding application of their thoughts. Communication with others from different churches allows a free flow of information and ideas, sparking paradigm shifts and avoiding stagnation. 

2.       Focus: Seeking a Deeper Understanding

Sitting for endless hours taking in information becomes tiresome and even overwhelming. In an effort to stay focused, I often find myself drawing doodles or working on other tasks. I often will text/email friends, even while in a meeting – usually commenting on what I’m hearing. I know some over 50 may see this as rude, but that’s not my intention. Rather, in my own “ADD” way, I’m keeping on task. Texting or email conversations could actually increase engagement with a speaker’s presentation. Apps such as “Back Chat” or “Today’s Meet” apps might improve audience participation and understanding. 

Imagine the app projected on a large screen. Audience members log on, and while the speaker is explaining a spiritual thought, listeners could offer him or her affirmations, follow-up questions, or even gentle nudges when it seems time to quit. Rather than spiritual study staying in a one dimensional form, it suddenly becomes engaging as communication flows between speakers and listeners.

3.       Focus: Service

Spiritual growth does not reach fruition without the component of service. Hours, days, and even weeks of spiritual nourishment make no difference to the daily life unless lived and given to others in some form. Thus, I propose that time is dedicated each day to service. At the KYTN camp meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Juniors/Earliteens/Youth engaged in a service activity; however, the adults were not. Given the age of those attending, less physically demanding activities might be most appropriate. For example, those who knit or crochet could make items for a homeless shelter. A group could run an oil change day for low income families in the community. Some could go on a food drive for a local food bank. Opportunities for all age groups to engage in showing love to others in the community are endless. Through service, relationships with others and with God are cemented for eternity.


As people seek spiritual renewal that fits their individual needs and demographic, the church has witnessed the formation of multiple groups to achieve this. GYC, The One Project, youth conventions, prayer conventions, and retreat weekends cater to age, ministry, and specific genres of interest. I’m not against this, yet I see additional opportunity when all members of the church come together. 

In my mind, I envision a collaborative, diverse group “where everyone knows my name,” a space and time where I sense belonging, because I, too, am a spiritual stakeholder in God’s vision. As such, I actively engage in pursuit of a relationship with God, which leads me to engage with others in a meaningful spiritual context. 

Rebekah Helbley seeks to know God better as a wife, mother, learner, and teacher in Augusta, GA.

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