Collins' Teachable Moments

June 28, 2018

Reflections on the Seven Foundations for Camp & Retreat Ministries

Foundation 4: "Develop Principled Spiritual Leaders"

by Dan Benson, Director of Collins Retreat Center

My first job after college was working as a counselor/teacher at a residential wilderness therapy program, which is a fancy way of saying a residential camp for kids who had made poor choices in their lives.  Many of these youth had struggled in traditional education systems at least in part because they had so many things going wrong in other parts of their lives. Staying within the framework of school was beyond them. So, the system sent these youth to us.

We were faced with the difficult task of helping these youth. We needed to help them learn different ways of behaving and thinking, while at the same time we wanted to keep them from falling much further behind in their education. And so we were trained to be always on the lookout for teachable moments.

Teachable moments included stopping on a hike to examine a rotting log to talk about the process of decomposition; talking about the physics of skiing with friction and gravity; discussing fractions as we were creating menus and needing to double or halve a recipe.  Teachable moments are those opportunities that are all around us when we stop and wonder at the world.

This idea of teachable moments has stuck with me since that time, and I find myself, now as a director of a retreat center, open to opportunities to share with people about what it means to me to be Christian. For instance: 

  • I find great joy in encouraging our guests to compost their food waste. In so many places people think that being Christian means that we will leave this Earth behind and so do not need to care for it. On the other hand, I have the opportunity to invite people into living into a different way, a way of caring for creation that stems from one’s faith.
  • There is hope found in guests learning that this is a safe place for them regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that this care originates in faith as opposed to being offered in spite of faith.
  • There is grace offered as retreatants discuss and teach others the insights that they themselves have experienced.

Our Camp and Retreat Ministries sites provide wonderful opportunities to seek out teachable moments that help us grow our capacity for being Christian spiritual leaders.  What are the teachable moments that you can receive or share today?  If you are looking for some fresh inspiration, come renew yourself at one of our sites, so that you may taste and see that the Lord is good.

Peace and Joy,

Dan Benson, director of Alton L. Collins Retreat Center

© 2014 Camp and Retreat Ministries:

A partnership between The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church
and The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon