Several years ago, I had a conflict with some people who wanted to make my debate camps “more spiritual.” They were well-meaning people who thought spearheading daily worship songs and devotionals would add to my program and make it more spiritually exhilarating.
I understand this. Training Minds is a Christian ministry. Since my camps were in the summer and involved youth, you’d think things like daily devotions, worship time, and corporate prayer would fit. These things aren’t bad, but they took a considerable amount of time out of the camp program.
Yeesh, I feel weird saying this. It feels spiritually dirty to suggest prayer and worship would take too much time. I want the kids to have a mountain-top experience at camp. They should go home with a feeling of euphoria, a spiritual high, with relationships that will last beyond the academic nature of the camp.
Problem is, I run a debate camp. I need to train young people to win debate rounds. Over the years, spiritual activities dropped from the schedule. A few judgments — some spoken, some hearsay — came my way:
- Training Minds waters down their Christianity.
- Training Minds doesn’t have devotionals or worship time.
- Training Minds won’t be the spiritual experience you want for your kids.
We’re 12 years into this, and these criticisms still come my way now and then (typically from people who have never attended). We don’t hide our faith — we pray and we share our faith openly — but we don’t open the days with guitar singing or sermons. The results?
- Training Minds campers still leave feeling like they had a mountain-top experience.
- Training Minds campers still leave with friendships that last a lifetime.
- Training Minds campers still leave with a foundation of purpose and vision.
Yeah, we don’t do worship or do devotions. I like to think we live them. We guide young people through busting out of their shell and overcoming their fears. We seek out their gifts and unique propose in life and train them to exploit them in their platform speeches. We train them to think, speak and persuade.
This is spiritual. This is the mandate Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:13, “Train the mind for action.” Is strapping a guitar to a singer for campers to watch on stage spiritual? I suppose you can say it is, but years ago we dropped things like that from the schedule. Instead, we train young people to walk their walk, to overcome their fears, to construct topics and develop skills to stand in front of their peers and deliver champion speeches.
Here’s what we don’t do: proselytize. We don’t require Christianity — or faking its sincerity — to participate. And though we are a Christian ministry, we don’t lead children through spiritual formulas that help secure their theological future. Kids witness and experience the coaching from Christian leaders, and we talk of faith and even have an apologetics track, but Training Minds Camp is not a Bible camp. You’ll have to send your kids elsewhere for an experience like that.
The absence of songs and sermons isn’t evidence that we water down our faith. We don’t need songs and sermons to add to the spiritual experience of Training Minds Camp. I believe this is evidence that we’re living it.
I was asked to lead a devotional at my very own camp the morning I published this. I took this as an opportunity to explain myself deeper. Enjoy…