Early last summer, Cary Hendricks was telling some old friends about his work as director of Laity Lodge Family Camp. One of them, trying to be helpful, started suggesting some programming ideas—what sorts of content should be the focus of Roundup talks and devotional times. He started listing big-time family ministry speakers for Cary to consider, especially experts in marital counseling.
Another one chimed in: “Yes, a camp like that needs to be really focused on teaching people about marriage.” They started encouraging Cary to invite more retreat and camp speakers who would focus on marriage during Roundup and devotional times.
Sounds reasonable enough. But as they spoke, Cary was thinking of the single mother of three at a recent Family Camp. And all the many single parents who come to the Canyon for retreats or camps. How would they respond to a bunch of talks focused on improving their marriage?
Laity Lodge Family Camp is a family ministry, but the phrase “family ministry” can mean several things. As LLFC has matured, it has coalesced around a core purpose: “Our job is to give people space to connect with Jesus and each other,” says Cary. “Everything we do boils down to that goal.”
In August, Cary finished his first year as LLFC’s senior director. After a full year of retreats and a summer of camps, he’s more confident of the program’s purpose. “The most concrete product of this year,” he says, “is that I have a much clearer handle on what the camp is for and what it can be in people’s lives.”
Space-making is not easy. “It is amazing how much stressful, busy, hard work goes into making something feel slow and laid back,” Cary says, laughing. His team—William Collins, Mary Echols, Kate Bachelor, Dayton Whites, and Matt Huffman, plus interns, volunteers, and expert housekeeping and grounds crews—work long hours to make Laity Lodge Family Camp feel peaceful and easy to every guest who comes to the Canyon.
The team feels the work of creating space is vital, and very much worth the effort. Our world—and especially our age—seems intent on filling space rather than making more of it. Every portion of our cities, every part of our homes, and most assuredly, every minute of our days is as crammed as possible. We’re more adept at addition than deletion, at filling in margins than leaving them empty.
But it’s not just especially our age. The Bible calls people to Sabbath—simply put, rest—from Genesis to Revelation. Humans love action. But we need stillness. Our minds, our hearts, and our families—all of our relationships—need space in which to do nothing but be.
Family Camp is trying to meet that need in specific ways. Rather than filling camps and retreats with tons of curriculum, they try to expand the available time.
“The most concrete product of this year is that I have a much clearer handle on what the camp is for and what it can be in people’s lives.”Cary Hendricks, LLFC Director
During summer sessions, Cary and his team tweaked the schedule in an attempt to open it up. First, they instituted a “rolling breakfast.” Rather than ringing the bell and having everyone sit to the tables like they do at other meals, the kitchen served breakfast as a buffet. Food was set out for an hour starting at 8:00 a.m. (with cold cereal available an hour earlier), meaning kids and parents could roll out of bed and toward the meal at their leisure.
Also, LLFC restructured afternoons. In the past, they were booked with back-to-back activities (hiking, fishing, rock climbing, etc.) This summer, they scheduled the first activity in the morning and the second in the early afternoon.
These simple changes created a lot more cushion in the day, and families noted the difference. “This was the best schedule we’ve ever had,” said Brittany Williams, whose family has been coming to Family Camp since before Headwaters was built. “My husband and I felt we had much more time together, and our kids had plenty of chances to recharge.”
More changes for Family Camp may be on the way—small adjustments that make a big difference. As Cary and his team settle in to their second year together, they’ll be looking for more ways to meet their singular goal of creating space for families to connect with one another and God.