Off to Preacher Camp

Off to Preacher Camp August 9, 2011

It’s that time of year again and this time EVERYONE’S excited.  In a few days we’ll be leaving for Preacher Camp, the seventh year in a row of collaborative sermon planning with really incredible colleagues.  I’m proud to say that I was one of the founders of Preacher Camp (also known as Homipalooza) along with Jim Somerville (how smart was I???).

Here’s how it happened.

Jim (who was then pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and has since abandoned me to pastor First Baptist Church of Richmond, VA) and I used to meet every Monday morning for coffee and sermon discussion.  We’d debrief the Sunday just past and talk about the texts we’d be working with in the week ahead.  I cannot tell you how many times Jim’s ideas and questions inspired a Sunday sermon.  In short, the man taught me how to preach and, frankly, if anyone ever finds a sermon I preach helpful they should be grateful to him.  But that’s another blog entry.

So, one day we were sitting around in Starbuck’s talking about how we wish we could have a think-tank discussion group to plan a whole YEAR of sermons, rather than running to catch up every week.  We started dreaming: out of all the preachers we know, who does really good work?  From whom would we most like to copy, uh, adapt brilliant ideas?  So, we made a list.  And then we dreamed up a week of sermon planning.

Thus, Homipalooza was born.

Not only did we all get some really great sermon material and an entire year’s plan of preaching from the week (we divide up the liturgical seasons and each one of us takes responsibility for dreaming up preaching plans for that season), we also found ourselves engaged in really meaningful conversations about theology, church polity, personal spirituality, and lots more.  And, we also had a LOT of fun.

While I can’t claim that I speak for the entire group, I know I came back from that first experience…and every one since then…rested, inspired, and ready to tackle another whole year of preaching.

These are not feelings one should take lightly.

So, we’ve been doing this every year since we started, but last year we dreamed up the possibility of inviting our families along.  Thus, Homipalooza became Preacher Camp.

Last year when I broached the possibility with my children there were groans all around.  Apparently activities that celebrate your identity as a preacher’s kid are not overly popular, and they did not believe me when I told them how cool and fun the other preachers were.  Even when I said they were WAY cooler and much more fun than I am.

So, grumbling children packed into the car, we made our way to preacher camp.

And had the best annual preaching retreat EVER.

As it turns out, my colleagues are, in fact, way more cool and much more fun than I am.  And the collective group of kids, aged 4 through 20, all got together to go on nature hikes, play long ping pong tournaments, and learn to water ski.  In addition to planning a whole year of preaching with my colleagues, I also got to roast marshmallows and sing camp songs around the bonfire plus have a huge dance party where we all danced to All the Single Ladies.

So, this year when I announced we were headed to Preacher Camp again, there was no grumbling heard at all.  There were only shouts of excitement and conversations that began like, “Remember last year when we…?”

We leave for this year’s Preacher Camp in a couple of days.  Here’s hoping for fabulous sermon ideas, great memories, and kids who, at least for the moment anyway, love to be preachers’ kids!

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