Some Ideas Dorion Bible Camp Could Consider
From Manitoba Pioneer Camp

Please, refer at some point to
Introductory Thoughts.
Right from the start I want to emphasize that my point here is not to say that Manitoba Pioneer Camp is great and Dorion Bible Camp sucks.

There were some things I saw at MPC while I was there (Aug. 1 - 14, '04) which I wondered about and which I would do differently, but my experience there was so brief that I don't feel I have enough knowledge to comment, especially not in public like this.

Therefore, I also make very few comments here about how to run the kitchen or maintenance, since my experience in those areas at DBCCC was limited.

However, I do feel that my 25 full summers at DBC have provided me with some amount of insight into life there and any member of the public has the right to offer his/her perspective based on whatever experience s/he has there.

Why am I doing this?

This past summer ('04) I spent two weeks at Camp Gitchigomee and one session (2 weeks) at Manitoba Pioneer Camp. It felt to me as if it's how I should have spent last summer when I was put on Health Leave from Dorion Bible Camp. Unfortunately, although I was told that my supervisors had been contemplating a leave for me since at least Spring '01, nothing had ever been said to me about it. Thus the circumstances that led to my leave resulted in what felt to me like very reactionary, hasty and last minute actions, leaving inadequate time for planning.

As well, in order to be consistent with the rationale for the leave being stress, limitations were placed on what activities I could volunteer for. I was allowed to go to Gitchigomee for one week as long as the programme demands on me were not "too stressful".

However, now, since I was dismissed without cause on April 19 and therefore "paid out", I had the freedom and the resources to volunteer elsewhere. And yet all the time I felt that I was learning so much that I could bring back to Dorion, -- but alas that is not to be.

Shortly before I was dismissed, the board met with me to urge me to agree (which I did) to their plan to reintegrate me back to DBC (as per our agreement). As well, they presented to me some thoughts about the need for a "new direction" for DBC suggested to them by a local Christian leader. From a conversation I had subsequently with that leader (and others from a few years previous), I believe that his intention was to encourage DBC to build a community of freedom and safety. (That's my wording.) This was on my mind, as I observed MPC and many of the suggestions gleaned from there would, I believe, help DBC move in the direction they desire.

So, it is my hope that someone with some influence on the board and Admin of DBCCC will surf into this page and consider some or all of these ideas and, if possible and suitable, urge their application to DBCCC's situation. I hope that the ideas can be considered on their own merits and that it can be overlooked that they come through a persona non grata.

(I am aware of one person of influence who thinks that CSSM staff should be rotated from camp to camp after a significant period of time. I think that would be asking a lot, be difficult on families and possibly more disruptive than it is beneficial. However, I do now believe that CSSM should mandate planned sabbaticals c. every 7 years. I believe that DBCCC would benefit greatly if any current leader whose term is currently past that amount were sent next summer to volunteer at a successful camp. I believe that their seeing ideas, such as those below, in practice would be far more convincing than my words.)

I am aware too of the possibility that I may be seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence (but see my opening sentence). But to the extent that you did sense any bias against DBCCC, please, I hope you will not be surprised that I do have some anger towards an organization that dismissed me only two weeks after strongly urging me to put the past aside (except as a source of instruction) and to accept their plan to reintegrate me -- which I did.

It is important first however to note three possibly significant differences between DBC and MPC which need to be kept in mind when considering the applicability of any of these ideas from one camp to the other.

1) Theological Orientation:

Dorion Bible Camp is operated by CSSM Ministries. Therefore, the Evangelical spectrum they tend to represent is narrower than is Manitoba Pioneer Camp (operated by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship).

a) The latter tends to include Evangelicals in mainline churches more often, as, in fact, that is their roots.

b) As well IVCF is more open to Charismatic Christians. CSSM actually has a policy in their official "green book" (906.020) of avoidance of "Charismatic" practices. CSSMers are required to destroy old copies of the policies, and so I'm not certain, but I seem to recall as well a policy that prohibited co-operation with Charismatic groups. If so, this was not followed consistently in Thunder Bay (and I have knowledge of this in one other CSSM setting). I personally felt (and I think other CSSMers did as well) that the policy needed revising as it did not reflect the reality of what God was doing in the Canadian church. Perhaps some revision has been made.

But I would go as far as predicting that if DBCCC moves ahead with its intended "new direction" in order to broaden their appeal in the church community, they may come into some amount of tension with the CSSM authorities. My experience while still with CSSM (not that long ago) led me to believe that they were tending towards entrenching themselves in certain "anti-" positions.

However, DBC might in fact win out in this tension, if in fact the grass roots of CSSM are moving in the same direction, even if the hierarchy is not. (I have some sense that this is the case.) As well, numerical success, if it accompanies these changes, may speak more loudly than any theological argument.

c) More significant, however, than the Charismatic difference may be the question of the role of women in each ministry. At the last National CSSM conference, when the ON members were discussing the qualities we desire in the next ON Divisional Director (-- the current one having expressed his wish to retire --), I raised the question of why this could not be a woman. The responses indicated that this was out of the question, but, as the reasons given were not official CSSM positions, I won't list them here. The President of IVCF Canada, Geri Rodman, is a woman. You, the reader, may have your own views on the appropriateness of this, but I simply list it here as a real and significant difference in the ethos of each organization.

2) Philosophy of Ministry:

The CSSM website stresses that its camps are "Bible Camps". The MPC poster referred to a "Christian camping experience" at their camp, which might be best described as a Christian Wilderness Camp (allowing for the use of Christian as an adjective).

a) Now, I don't know about many other CSSM camps, but DBC is in fact not a Bible camp, that is, not in the sense that a "Hockey Camp" is a Hockey Camp. Kids see a "Hockey Camp" advertised and therefore understandably expect to spend most of their time playing or practising hockey and that's (usually) what they want to do. There are recreation times, meals etc. and some cross-training, but everyone agrees to the focus on hockey. The experience of "Bible" at DBC is not analogous to this and it is not wise to use our own jargon and expect others to adjust themselves to it.

(A friend and I have theorized that it might be worth DBC's while to run a week of actual "Bible Camp" for older teens/adults*, sort of discipleship-"school"/revival/staff-training, and see what happens. I'm not against Bible Camps -- but I just think we shouldn't call a club a spade.)

Possibly, DBC might say they are a Bible Camp in that the message of the Bible "informs" all they do. (Of course, Pioneer Camps say the same thing.) And certainly on the spectrum of a true Bible Camp on the one hand (basically a Revival Camp meeting, the actual origin of Christian camping) and on the other a Wilderness or Sports or Sailing Camp that happens to be owned by Christians, DBC is more towards the former than is MPC, judging by the amount of "direct" Bible teaching. But MPC is certainly not at the other extreme. Each is probably "middle left" or "middle right". I'll let you decide which is which.

b) The difference is probably reflected in the method of "evangelism". MPC, even in writing, as far as I could see, tends to stress the building of relationships more than the formal teaching times. In my last years with CSSM they were becoming concerned about the lack of Bible literacy among the campers and responded with a mandatory curriculum for conveying certain key Bible facts. At least one other DBC person and I questioned this method, though not necessarily the end result (children more aware of God's truth). CSSM's reaction is not absurd, and yet an alternate (or additional) equally reasonable reaction could just as easily have been to find better ways to connect the campers relationally to older growing Christians who could model these truths in the context of a relationship. (Note that either method will have its flaws.)

My guess is that an MPC staff member would tend to be more inclined than a CSSMer to agree without qualification ("yes, but") with Cathie Nicoll who said (I am told) that it is just as spiritual to teach a camper to canoe as it is to teach him/her the Bible. (Paraphrase)

* = Weekend retreats run both by parachurch groups, such as the old "Rising Son/Emmanuel" events, and by churches -- sometimes "conferences" at their buildings come close to "Bible Camps" analogous to "Hockey Camps".

3) Coed vs Unigender:

Currently, Camp Dorion runs coed camps only, while MPC runs single gender sessions. I think that both approaches have their merits, which I won't list here. I'm not sure how much it affects the applicability of MPC ideas to DBC, but still it is a very noticeable difference, and so keep it in mind for what it's worth.

I am aware of one family who sends their children to Round Lake primarily because of this difference, and so in the market research Camp Dorion is doing (?) they could consider at least investigating this question.

And now for the ideas:

But, please, do not forget to read Introductory Thoughts at some point.
Latest Update Oct. 10, 2009