He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
— Psalm 23:2
Soul is the translation of the Hebrew nephesh. Nephesh is our life itself, the life God breathed into us. For our soul to be restored, we need to turn off the devices, get away from all the noise, and find some green pastures and still waters.
This summer, tens of thousands of children and teenagers, and a good number of grown-ups, will find their soul restored at camps and conference centers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In these sacred spaces, the youngest campers experience sheer joy and the formative days of a relationship with Christ. Teenagers find acceptance in places with God’s unconditional love, and adults renew their focus on spiritual pursuits.
Outdoor ministries develop, strengthen, and reaffirm the faith of Presbyterians. They also spread the good news of God’s grace beyond our denomination — they make disciples. Many of our pastors say they first experienced God’s call at one of our summer programs.
Youth conferences are in full swing at Montreat as I write this. When Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly heard that parents in the Rio Grande Valley were afraid to drive their children to camp through highway checkpoints near the U.S.-Mexico border, the ranch took camp to the valley.
As a church, we forget how important these ministries are. The Board offers benefits and programs to foster the spiritual, health, financial, and vocational wholeness of ministers and employees of the Church and its affiliated organizations. But how many who serve these essential, outdoor ministries have the support of the church Benefits Plan?
We've been working with many folks in this community of ministry within our denomination. In some cases, those who serve outdoor ministries are plan members because their presbyteries help cover the cost. But that’s not true for all of them.
The Benefits Plan of today has flexibility, choice, and a growing membership. We continue to reach out to affiliated employers to tell them about the unique support the plan offers, and more are joining us. In the year ahead, we want to count more outdoor ministries among them.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer