Tuesday, April 1, 2014
GratiTuesday - Dream Big
A few months ago, something challenged me to rethink the way that our children's youth group at church worked. We'd been using a simple curriculum with lots of scripture memorization thrown in, but what if we weren't limited by money, materials, or volunteers in any way?
What sort of group would I want my kids to be involved with?
So I began praying and making lists and praying some more. I started doodling and seeing mission activities and Bible lesson plans everywhere.
Part of this dreaming-big process involved church camp. My week at Camp Penn completely changed my life about 25 years ago, and I knew I wanted my kids to have that same opportunity - although they are still a bit young. I found a great Christian camp nearby, though, and started researching how to get a group of kids from our church to camp.
All the while feeling that if we could get maybe 5 kids to day camp there, including our 2, that we'd call that a successful first year. We could carpool, fitting all of the kids in one mini-van, and that would help with gas expenses for the two-hour round-trip commute.
Then in the midst of Christmas craziness, we found that camp registration had opened. Who knew people signed up for camp that early? With a deep breath and lots of prayer, we started talking about camp at church.
We signed up. Our two kids were now committed to camp - but some of those other dreams started coming true. People began donating supplies for our kids, and now there were bags and boxes of art supplies to organize, as well as money to track, events to plan and advertise, and communication with all sorts of people to make happen.
As we worked to raise money to help pay for kids to go to camp, they started to sign up. Just four at first, but that was okay. We had to start somewhere. Then we jumped to six, then eight, and then in the space of a week, our numbers rose again - to TWELVE.
As the number of campers rose, I found myself worrying more and more about the money. Sending kids to camp was a painful expense for many families, and while they all deemed it important, we were hoping that our collective fundraising would mean a significantly decreased cost in the end - but would it happen?
Our last two big fundraisers were this past week. The second, a bake sale, is something we've done before, but the first was a different story.
We planned to hold a spaghetti dinner, hoping to earn several hundred dollars' in one swoop - but tickets proved to be hard to sell. We were hoping to serve 100 people, but for several weeks, it looked as though we'd be making dinner for 60, instead.
Then in the days before the dinner, ticket sales and reservations exploded. It looked as though we would be serving 130!
The big day finally came. Volunteers came out of the woodwork, and we got the space decorated beautifully with kid-created placemats and springy flower arrangements. Our camper-wannabes all played a part in the evening - from being greeters and door holders to ticket takers, hosts, busboys, photographers, and table setters. They looked professional and adorable both as they worked hard to serve our guests.
And guests we had - nearly more than we knew what to do with! We ran out of bread after serving somewhere above 150 plates, and people continued to trickle in.
By the end of the evening, we had taken in more than twice our projected amount - merely because people gave generously. That generosity means that our families don't have to worry about camp money, because we can now pay down those camp bills in big ways, which is great - because kids are STILL signing up for camp! We're up to 13 with a few more thinking about it.
So I hoped for 5 kids and enough money to cut their camp costs close to half. Instead, we're sending nearly every child in our small church to camp - and parents should end up paying far less than half of the total cost per child. No single mini-van is going to get these kids to camp anymore - unless we tie them to the roof. Just kidding. At the rate we're going, we might need a bus - but now I'm sure that God's got the transportation angle worked out, too.
Me? Days later and I'm still dreaming about spaghetti. I'm in awe of just how kind and generous everyone was on spaghetti night and how on-task and professional these elementary kids could be. God has reminded me that no matter how hard any of us worked to make this happen, it's not about us. It's not about me, my kids, or my dreams.
Dreaming big is fun, but dreams are just that: dreams. In this case, though, I don't think that's exactly what these were. I think that God wants our kids at camp this year and He's had His hand on this project all along. I think that He wanted to shake up our expectations and routines and is going to be making big things happen at camp this summer.
I can't wait to see it.
Where have you seen God at work lately?
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