13 Feb 2018
In my opinion it really is the greatest families' ministry initiative and deserves a weekend to be carved out in every church calendar!
This all sounds like marketing hyperbole. Let me justify that claim.
During my time as the Children’s Worker at Dundonald Church, Dangerous Camping was an initiative we developed to reach the fathers of those children who came to our popular children’s outreach club - “Dangerous Club”. They came and they loved it. As with all the best outreach initiatives, our own families enjoyed it even more. I remain convinced that it offers so much to the local church that it became one of the first priorities for Faith in Kids as we started out as an independent charity in September 2017. Here is why we want to offer it to any church who want to bring a group:
- Busy Christian dads love spending a weekend with their children outdoors. They can relax knowing that their children are safe being so far from any roads and within the walled garden campsite. They enjoy the shared family devotions over breakfast and the raucous Bible talk around the campfire before bed. They grab the rare chance to hang out with their church mates, without needing to rush off to the next diary commitment.
- The children come back year after year for the freedom of the outdoors. They are old enough to be trusted to roam free in the woods that neighbour the walled garden. They are young enough to attack all the activities with enthusiasm and humour. And every child is thrilled by the chance to sleep under canvas with their dad. Who wouldn’t want that?
- The guest dads get a chance to see inside the church family without any expectation of worship, prayer or ‘religion’. They are amazed to see the depth of male friendships that exist between the Christian dads. They can build friendships and relax, because the weekend is designed to be completely accessible irrespective of their prior beliefs. And a menu designed around the barbeque means almost no vegetables and certainly no salad!
During the weekend of 8th-10th June 2018, we will be running a Dangerous Camping weekend for boys and girls in school years 3-6 (roughly 7-11 year olds) and their dads, open to any interested churches. The weekend will be run in partnership with Oak Hall holidays.
Do you live within striking distance of Otford Manor where the weekend will be held? Even if Dangerous Camping may not be directly relevant to you, would it be something for your church to consider?
Who could take a lead in organising a small group of church dads, their 7-11 year old children and a few of their friends?
Our hope is that scattered around the walled garden will be little pods of 5 or 6 tents, each pod containing families from one church. So no matter how many come to the weekend, each family will be amongst those they know, not lost in the crowd. Each tent will have a dad and their child(ren). Perhaps one or two of those tents will have a dad who isn’t normally in church, with his child(ren). We organise the activities, the food and the Saturday evening Bible teaching. We will help the pod leader to run the 10 minute family devotions after breakfast each morning.
Can a child come without their dad? Yes. But another dad will have to take responsibility for that child. The sleeping arrangements will need to be agreed with that child’s parent. No child can come without a dad; their own or someone else’s!
Is the weekend actually dangerous? No, not at all. We called it “Dangerous Camping”, because for most children, running through woods, prodding at a bonfire, ordinary camping and swimming in an unheated swimming pool feels pretty edgy! All our activities are carefully planned and risk assessed.
What does the cost of the weekend include? We will provide all the food; snacks, meals and drinks. We will cook it on a barbeque in front of your very eyes. We will provide all the equipment for the activities. In fact, it is a long way to any shop, so it is almost impossible for you to spend any money once you’re there!
What do we need to bring? We expect you to bring your own camping equipment, although the lovely team at Oak Hall have some kit that you could arrange to borrow. We have found that if each church group brings a fire pit or barbeque then it provides a great gathering point at the heart of their pod of tents. The children love gathering firewood from the woods.
Wouldn’t a dad who isn’t used to church be a little freaked out? We love hearing from the guest dads as they leave at the end of the weekend. They normally say, “This is a lot more normal than I expected!” We don’t expect anyone to sing or pray. There is no church service. The family devotion each morning is a chaotic 10 minutes looking at 2 or 3 verses from a gospel. The children will do all the shouting, leaving unwilling dads to look on in awe. On Saturday evening, around the bonfire, we have a very atmospheric look at a gospel story. Again, in under 10 minutes, there’s no time for anyone to get bored or freaked out. Afterwards, those who want to can shout a one line prayer of thanks for their highlight of the weekend. It’s surprisingly moving!
Can I come on my own, with my children without a church group? Sure. You’re very welcome. We’ll put all those without a church group into a pod of tents. It would just be so much more enjoyable to come with a few friends, and their children if you’re able to. We really think you could invite anyone to Dangerous Camping. What is there not to love about a weekend of camping in the Kent countryside?
Can I bring my children if they are in below School Year 3 or above School Year 6? Sorry. The weekend is only for children in school years 3-6. It works better this way.
I want to come! What next? Go to http://www.oakhall.co.uk/manor/otherevents and book in!