“What is one of your hobbies?” someone asked me recently. At first I struggled to answer because I don’t consider myself much of a “hobby” kind of person. I don’t ski or paint or play backgammon. But when I realized that by “hobbies” they meant, “What do you love to do when you’re not at work?” I readily replied, “Write Bible curriculum for camp.”
Bible Exploration, or “Bible Ex,” is the unique way that we study the Bible at Cedarbrook. During each full day (Monday-Friday) of camp, cabin groups sit down with their counselors in the woods for Bible Ex. This is how Bible Ex has always been done—and it is a core part of our camp program that we are committed to continuing and improving.
When our director Amy (“Ellie”) approached me in the fall of 2015 asking if I would head up efforts to create a new Bible Exploration curriculum, I was excited because it is one of the things I am most passionate about for camp. But I was also overwhelmed, and I had my doubts. I knew it would be time-consuming work, and I knew I would need a lot of help. I also felt the weight of the responsibility of designing a well-organized curriculum from scratch that would support our counselors in leading these small group Bible studies with their cabin groups and that also would draw our campers toward a deeper knowledge of God and relationship with him over their years at camp.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my time working at camp is the power of collaboration and teamwork. To be honest, I might have burned out on this project, but before too long I had a “partner in crime.” Over Skype one night, Heidi (“Cambri”) Johnson and I dreamed and schemed. We prayed earnestly together for the project. It was so exciting to see that we loved the same things about Bible Ex, and we had the same overarching vision for how we wanted to improve it. Let me share some words from Heidi to give you a peek into our passion for pursuing the excellence of our Bible Ex program.
[U]ltimately when our campers leave, we want them to have had ample opportunity to experience Jesus—to have learned of his love, to have felt his presence, to have gained some sort of new insight. At the end of the day, our deepest longing for our campers is that they would know and love the Lord and feel loved by him. I think that in writing this curriculum, specifically for the camp setting, we are helping create a space for the Spirit of the Lord to move.
The Bible itself is incredible and life-changing and interesting…My dream is that counselors would be so excited about the Word that they would embody that sentiment and encourage the next generation of world shakers to love scripture. (Heidi “Cambri” Johnson, CCA staff 2010—2013, 2016)
Once we had discussed our vision and goals, we were able to sketch out an outline with some the details of what we wanted our Bible Ex lessons to include. Before long, we had a couple lessons written and several camp staff members and alumnae enthusiastic to help with the project.
Last summer we piloted the new curriculum with two weeks of curriculum for our younger campers (Pathfinders and Trailblazers) and two weeks of curriculum for our older campers (Challengers and Explorers). This year, during the off-season, we are currently working on producing two more weeks of curriculum for our younger campers and three weeks for our older campers. We also created Morning Watch (daily devotional) material that complements the Bible Ex lessons. Our vision is to eventually create four summers of curriculum that can be reused at the end of the four years—giving time for the younger campers to become older campers.
Our new curriculum is marked by a five-day topical pattern that applies to each week of Bible Ex:
- Day 1: The nature of God
- Day 2: The nature of sin
- Day 3: Understanding the gospel
- Day 4: The character of a Christian
- Day 5: The practices of a Christian
Our goal is that we want to avoid teaching disjointed concepts. For example, we want a lesson on “loving your enemy” (Christian character) to be presented in the context of knowing that God is love (nature of God) and the beautiful truth that Jesus died for us when we were at enmity with him (understanding the gospel). At the same time, we don’t want to fill our campers’ heads with information and passages about the holiness of God (nature of God) without leading them to consider how we respond to his holiness in worship (practice of a Christian). We want campers to understand Christianity as the big beautiful overarching story that it is—a story of which they are an important part. Our hope is that this five-day paradigm will provide space and structure for this.
Given the chance to peruse our new curriculum, camp staff alumnae would find many familiar Bible Ex features—object lessons, scripture reading, discussion questions, opportunities to act out bible stories, games, reflection exercises, etc. Each lesson is divided into the “hook, book, look, took” format—a tool for structuring lessons that counselors have been taught at camp over the years. Previously, counselors were given purchased material and asked to design lessons according to this structure using the material as a resource. Counselors are still responsible for planning their Bible Exes—for meditating on the scripture and for making choices about what components of the lesson to use, based on their own style and the needs of their campers.
The benefit of the new curriculum is that it is already in a format conducive to the camp setting with questions and activities written by experienced camp counselors. We have also prioritized some features so that in each lesson, counselors will find journaling reflection questions, an “at camp” section to help them apply the topic immediately to daily camp life, and an exercise or question that helps campers to connect the topic to the spiritual theme of the summer. Counselors will also be prompted by the “share your life” section to think of personal experiences that relate to the topic, making themselves accessible role models to their campers.
Tune in next week to hear from some of the staff members who helped create the new curriculum!