The Family Camp at YWAM Harpenden over the last week was great! Lots of hard work, but lots of smiles, action songs, creativity, cuddles, silliness and some really profound lessons. Having worked for a church, and YWAM and volunteered with lots of different organisations, I have learnt that each place has its own language.
When I hear 'Family' used in the church, I often think of the meaning as 'something for everyone, provision for each member of the family' - i.e. maybe a bit together, but mostly in respective age groups. Perhaps it's a language thing, but often in YWAM, 'family' means 'all-age' or 'intergenerational'. Something I have become used to - although I still didn't know what to expect at our family camp. However, I was challenged and delighted to see a culture being set at this camp of families doing things together - the fun, the serious and the spiritual. It was great to see the 'all-age' bits really being 'all-age' and not just children-focused.
To cut a long story (or week) very short, daily we had 'Tribal Gatherings' (or all-age worship/creative sessions) morning and evening. The morning one was followed by the daily 1.5hrs in age groups, followed by lunch. After lunch each day there were creative options: bubbles (epic bubbles at that, sculpture, high-rope tree climbing, water-fun, wide games, drama workshops, learning the Bible off by heart and so on. Most of those were to give the opportunities for whole families to have fun together. Then there was the evening Tribal Gathering, followed by tea, and then something for the older children and adults once the kids were in bed.
Despite running the 4-7's program, which was so much fun and filled with some delightful manners and wide-eyed wonders, the thing that struck me were the Tribal Gatherings. Although chaotic and noisy, they were filled with heart-felt worship, dramas to challenge and to relate to, symbolic activities of handing on batons and 'bag time' to talk about the day. One on-going activity was that each family had a large planter, and each day added something to their garden. The gardens represented their family and the family's spiritual life, and it was great to see them pulling up weeds and stones and talking about the hard things or things that need to be removed from family life; the hedge of protection around the garden and the role of parents, the planting of seeds - again the role of parents in choosing what to invest in their children and the watering - seeking God for nourishment.
All the families I spoke to felt God had spoken to them about some aspect of their family life - particularly from a spiritual perspective, and were hoping to put some of the ideas and values in place. I too went away excited at the prospect of being more inclusive and feeding the age-relevant stuff into the bigger picture - a value I've owned for a long time, but haven't seen put into practice so explicitly before.