Headlines from First Thoughts

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kids Camp from a Youth Group to Grandparents

Group Shot

June 20-23, I preached at First Baptist’s version of Camp-Ba-Yo-Ca. So many of our folks grew up attending camp on Happy Hollow Road. This year, we connected generations of grandparents, parents, youth, and students to provide training, renewal, and formation of 3-5th graders.

Stephen Carlone and his critter at the "Critter Crawl"

Joel Smith Loaded down

Our 2010 strategic plan challenged us to teach students to grow in their faith by connecting the generations. In a year of economic austerity, we needed creativity and partnership. This story began last summer. Our youth began dreaming about a mission project for this summer and approached Michael about leading a camp for our kids. There is no better way to grow than to take the leap of teaching, with a great safety net of course.

Second, we partnered with Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia, where FBC alumna and Money Scholarship recipient served on the children's staff.

Third, not only did we need parents; but we also received the gift of grandparents. Grandmother Jane Hall sent her grandson Joel Smith. Grandparents Peter and Elaine Smith invited grandson Stephen Carlone.

The camp turned into more than your average get-a-way. Students shined like never before. I think Parker invited the entire neighborhood. Susan Tatum, Michael McEntyre, and Kara and the Smoke Rise staff pulled off an incredible experience. This would not have been possible without your generous gifts and the creativity of our staff and young people. And without camp, I would not have met Joel or Stephen.

Joel Smith lives in Knoxville, but his grandmother Jane Hall wanted to make sure he had a chance to experience Christ the only way camp can do. She worked to arrange schedules with his parents to attend.

Stephen Carlone does not live in Knoxville. His grandparents, Peter and Elaine Smith, do. Peter and Elaine attend the deaf congregation. Stephen often visits with his grandparents on weekends and worships with them on Sunday mornings. Stephen can hear perfectly, but he listens to Greg Johannsen preach when Stephen is in town. When the Smith’s read about the camp, they registered Stephen. And when Stephen came to camp, I met one of the most dynamic kids in the bunch. He prayed one night in worship and demonstrated the power of a family committed to Christ.

These are just two examples of the way this camp touched my life and continues to touch the lives of those we serve in East Tennessee across the generations.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Reunion that Never Happened

"What if they gave a banquet, and no one came?" Matthew 22:1-14
The refund checks have been mailed, and the regrets have been sent. This is a story of a reunion that never happened. This can only be a living parable.
Jesus posed the question from Mathew 22 in a parable about a wedding banquet. I lived this parable recently with the Pensacola Christian Class of 1990 reunion. We did not have a good track record for reunions. We/I missed the 10th reunion; we had a 12th anniversary event instead. As the class president, these responsibilities fall into my lap. We had such a good time for the 12th, people talked about taking a cruise together.
Seven years later, we were assured of success. To avoid the mistake of missing the 20th anniversary, our vice president contacted me a year early in 2009. This is what vice presidents do apparently. They get busy ahead of time. We organized, recruited a committee, held conference calls, and planned. We used all the wonders of modern technology: facebook, website, email. We even accepted credit cards for payments.
To make sure everyone was involved, we held an online vote for the location. We have just 50 or so alumni. A few people I have never heard of on facebook count themselves as alumni. They had a chance to vote too. But the vote was the first sign of trouble. People who were never planning to participate--no matter where it was held--voted to have the event in Pensacola. We realized way to late that the act of voting misled us
We sent invitations, confident that people would come, eager to see everyone. But no response. Not even half the commitee paid for the event by deadline. One family reserved a spot in the hotel. Then the perfect disaster happened. The BP oil spill washed ashore in Pensacola, complete with tar balls. A beach reunion suddenly did not seem so inviting. We canceled the hotel and relocated the dinner to a cheaper place, but we changed too little too late. Once we canceled the hotel, the people booked for the hotel canceled their travel plans and asked for a refund.
A few committee members called around to their buddies. "Why aren't you coming?" they asked. One person boldly said, "I just thought we would show up after everyone had finished eating. I just wanted to see everyone, but I didn't want to pay for the food."
Obviously this person had not factored in the cost of something that, for them, was free-- a website, postage, and the room itself. With discouraged hearts, and realistic outlooks, the two people left on the conference calls decided to refund the money to the 7 people who had paid. I stayed in Knoxville for the weekend.
Reunions have changed so much just like everything else in the last 5 years. Since the advent of facebook, somehow the novelty of seeing one another, catching up, and introducing family members to each other has worn off. New verbs like "friending" replaced "reuniting." Quick scans of photos from the high school yearbook now posted online for the world to see suffice for face to face contact.
But nothing has changed about human nature. People still want to get something for nothing, especially if someone else does the work. Even after 20 years, a reunion only works if there is some common reason to, well, reunite. If people are held together by a common bond of living through the 80's together, then that kinship continues, no matter what the cost, oil spill, or headache. But if all you have is a piece of paper, a facebook friendship is stretching it a bit. No amount of planning, organization, involvement, voting, and initiative can change the one thing that never happened for our class-- enough people who want to see each other.
Ironically, our alma mater is a Christian school, which gives us even more reason to believe the parable. Maybe Jesus was onto something when he raised the question. Not eveyone wants to be invited to the party. And some people wait to see if they get a better invitation. The best banquets are the ones where the guests appreciate the invitation and are pleased to see those who are invited. Only then can there be reunion.

William D. Shiell, Ph.D.
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Knoxville
510 West Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
O: 865-546-9661 x 114
C: 865-363-7087
Facebook: www.facebook.com/william.shiell
Blog: www.firsthoughts.blogspot.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Williamshiell
Church: www.fbcknox.org

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