Around the Campfire...

Something special happens when we gather around a campfire. That blast of warmth, the smell of smoke, balancing on a slightly damp log while preparing to move as the wind changes direction. The sticky sweet delight of toasted marshmallow with bits of grass and dirt stuck to the sides. The strum of a guitar and a fireside song. The stories, the jokes, the life lessons shared, the big questions of the meaning of life and God and faith raised like sparks into the dark sky.

Several years ago at WAY2GO I talked about the importance of the stories that we pass on to the young generation. The stories we tell equip our children and young people for the future, and enable them to see how God has been at work in the circumstances we have faced as adults. I talked about the fact that this is something known by the Bushmen of Botswana, as they gather around their campfires. Here’s an excerpt from that talk:

“The bushmen of Botswana, (the khoi san) rely on being skilful hunters for survival.  The life of their people depends on their food supply.  As they gather around the fire after a hunt, these skilled hunters re-enact the hunt.  They tell the story, using their whole bodies to show the animals movements as the hunt unfolded.  In a society with no photographs, no smartphones, google or encyclopaedias, these elaborate storytelling sessions are the only way to convey to those in the village exactly what went on during the hunt.  

For the children at the fireside, these stories are not just entertainment.  They watch and they learn.  And when they were old enough, they too join the hunt.  These stories allow the children to recognise the animals by their movements.  They know the animal, even though they may never have seen it before.  They know how it moves and how it reacts to the hunt.  What is fascinating to me, is that these stories don’t just tell the present, they set up the future.  They prepare these children to face things with the skills they will need.” 

Debora Dobbie took this story and ran with it! She has allowed me to share her ideas with you, and they are definitely worth reading. She took this image of storytelling around the camp fire and developed an all age service. 

Debora and her team created a campfire in the centre of their church. Yes, you heard right! They used charcoaled logs and red flickering lights, and a smoke machine to really set the scene. The fire was placed in the centre of the church and the chairs were placed around it in concentric circles. The children sat around the fire. You can imagine the anticipation!

Debora writes this: 
“I introduced the service with a brief over view of [the Bushman of Botswana] story to set the scene. We started with true hunting and fishing stories shared by members of our congregation, times where God had provided and rescued.  It was quite lively with props of antler heads, and an antique fishing spear gun. We moved into a time of worship with percussion bongo drums. More faith stories were shared, with Bible reading and a great talk by the leader of our church...”

They finished off the service with the Youth serving up smores (melted marshmallows between chocolate thins biscuits) alongside coffee and tea. All that was missing according to one young person was that fireside smoky taste.

What is encouraging from this service is not the creative ideas, although they are certainly bold and attention grabbing. What is encouraging is that this all age service captured the imagination of the whole church. A traditional church embracing a rather untraditional church service. Many people commented on how wonderful it was to worship God in a circle where you could see other people worshipping God too. They commented that they felt more like the family of God.

The stories that were shared around that fireside were inspiring and faith building. Debbie comments on a highlight for her: 

“Highlights for me was the way one of our speakers sat down around the
camp fire with the children to tell his story, this really engaged them.”

Rend Collective is band who recorded one of their albums around a campfire, in order to capture the intimacy and family experience it creates. They write this: 
“To be on a journey as God’s family, going through the highs and lows of life, suffering and laughing together, that’s what I want. Not some holy huddle where we all pretend that everything is all okay but a real community that believes in the God of miracles but also the God of the trials. That’s what the world needs too. So let’s give out the invites, put aside our selfish ways and celebrate Jesus round the campfire.” Rend Collective Rend Collective – Campfire


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