In the beginning of August, our leadership team was able to live stream the Global Leadership Summit. For 25 years, God has used at least one – but usually several – of the GLS speakers to teach me new ideas, soften my heart, and energize my spirit to become a better leader. God never fails to show up and transform me in a significant way.

This year in the opening session, Pastor and leadership coach Craig Groeschel shared the diagram above about the life cycles of organizations. While this was not new information, I heard it with fresh ears in the context of Calvin Crest. If you’re not familiar with organizational life cycles, Groeschel described how organizations move from a concept to birth, generally go through steady growth and expansion, and assuming they navigate well all the obstacles faced during the growth stage, they often hit their prime and are considered mature. If an organization does not continue to stay relevant and innovative by re-creating themselves, they begin to decline and eventually become stagnant, leading to death.

If we are honest, it is easy to identify this life cycle at Calvin Crest. Calvin Crest was born in 1954 and experienced rapid growth and steady expansion over several decades. Along with the entire Christian camping industry, it hit its prime in the late 1990s, when Calvin Crest boasted 600 campers a week for 10 or 12 weeks straight during the summertime.
Since our late prime in the early 2000’s, we have experienced a slow decline, mirroring that of the Western church which was then beginning to experience the impact of rugged individuality, rampant consumerism, and postmodern thinking. In addition, an increasing pressure on students to “more strategically” use their summers by pursuing internships, summer jobs, travel abroad, or specialized athletic or academic camps also fueled the decline. At Calvin Crest, this was exacerbated by denominational splits, devastating fires, traumatic incidents, and significant changes in leadership.

Now I don’t know at what exact point on the slope I entered the picture, but I am pretty sure it was somewhere between the decline and death. While that might seem somewhat discouraging or negative to some, I find it exhilarating and challenging for the very reason Craig Groeschel described: at any point, an organization can choose to dream, innovate, pivot, and recreate itself. This does NOT happen by circling back around and trying to do what we used to do, only better. That has never worked.
Rather, through the creative work of the Holy Spirit, we can allow God to re-inspire us to find whole new ways of accomplishing the same mission we’ve had for 65 years. We can experience a new birth of sorts and start a whole new life cycle. I am so grateful we have a board of directors who, despite having lived through “the glory days” of the 1990’s, are not trying to replicate those days but are open to change and want to experience the fresh winds of the Spirit in 2020.

However, before we can truly experience new birth and begin to grow and expand in fresh ways, there is inevitably a season where things get worse before they get better. Craig Groeschel called this challenging time “the dip.” It is the time most leaders want to give up because they feel the challenge in their core and don’t know if they can rise to meet the occasion of “leading through the dip.” He illustrated it like this:

It was in this moment of Craig Groeschel’s talk that I knew in my spirit that Cam and I were called to Calvin Crest to “lead through the dip.” This was at once overwhelming – how much more challenge can we handle? – and encouraging, because if we can get through the dip, exciting growth and expansion lies ahead.

And we truly believe that. Despite the unexpected challenges during Covid-19, Calvin Crest is also experiencing unprecedented provision and opportunities to try new things we have never had the time or space to try before… an online store, Come and Camp, a silent Advent Retreat, new staffing models, facility improvements, and many more ideas that will be coming in days ahead.

Again, our board and staff realize that if we can stay nimble, creative, and open to new initiatives (that still align with our mission and values, of course), and humbly learn from each new idea, God may show us all kinds of new pathways into the future. We believe He is leading us, and we can trust Him with our future, even when we can’t see what lies ahead. He is cultivating new life, and we could not be more thankful that you are along for the ride with us. God is using YOU to provide for Calvin Crest during this season, so thank you for sticking with us through “the dip.” The future is bright!
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