“Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure” 2 Cor. 13:11 The Message translation.
Over the next week, maybe even tonight, camps will be concluding staff training. Those who stand on the outside of those communities never fully comprehend the serious responsibility these staffs are about to undertake. They only see the crazy games, outlandish skits and wacky songs. However, these energetic, crazy young adults will be given the awesome duty of caring for the emotional, physical and spiritual health of children. Not just for a class period or for a day trip, but for 24 hours a day over a six, or more, day period.
When each new session begins, staff will need to forge a cohesive community out of a random collection of children. These children will bring their anxieties, their expectations and their own individual personalities and behaviors. The staff will have to establish authority over this group without any real form of power. Their days will be spent negotiating behavior alternatives, managing conflict resolution and smiling through quirky behaviors that drive them nuts. If there is any joy in that cabin group, it has come as the result of doing the difficult work of bearing and enduring each others differences. This is harder than most people realize.
New staff do not understand this lesson yet. They are coming to camp with wishes and dreams. In their heads, they want to be the cool counselor. Most new staff have a vision of changing lives and getting children to be the best version of themselves. Somewhere in the first two weeks of summer camp, these dreams will be smashed to pieces. They will be crushed when the staff discover community building, even in a controlled environment like a cabin group, is incredibly difficult, thankless and exhausting. However, the staff who allow their dreams to be destroyed will be the ones who discover the deeper joy of community.
Very few people get trained in community building quite like a summer camp staff. Because the dynamics of forming a community happen simultaneously on several levels. There is a cabin group community, a program area community, a support staff community, the larger staff community, and the community between board and staff, donors and staff, etc… The list goes on and on. Each group has its own wishes and dreams standing in the way of true community.
Most adults have dreams of community. They wish for a conflict free existence where everyone is happy and loving. Nowhere is this more visible than in a congregation. We read words like Paul writes here in 2 Corinthians and wish this to be true of our church or our nation. However, this dream needs to be destroyed because no community is conflict free, especially, this community in Corinth.
When we refuse to allow our dreams of community to be destroyed, we end up hating the community. The neighbor becomes a threat to our personal happiness. To feel safe, we have to remove the threat, which typically involves either leaving the community or kicking people out it. When this happens, we forfeit the opportunity to discover exactly why forgiveness and reconciliation are so beautiful.
I am confident that at the end of the summer, each summer staff will sing Paul’s words from deep within their hearts. They will sing them, because they have committed themselves to the difficult work of community building. They will experience the joy in crushed dreams. I am equally confident that each congregation and person, who allows their dreams of community to be destroyed, will do the same.
Click to read: 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13
- What wishes and dreams do you place on the communities in your life?
- How are these dreams standing in the way of your discovering joy?
- What is necessary for true community?
- How can you commit yourself to community building?
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