Thrive in change. Defy the trend.

Run Camp: A Lesson in Doing Church?

by | Jan 21, 2015 | Change Leadership, Faith Formation | 3 comments

Confusion. Frustration. Anxiety. Was written all over my face.

I hate to admit this. I like being the one who always has it all together. But, let’s face it. I don’t. I left the house a little too late. In the early morning winter darkness, I got a little lost on the huge hospital campus before I found the parking lot overrun by overly excitable people donning layers upon layers of winter-weather athletic gear and neon-colored running shoes that someone could have pulled from a 1980s John Hughes movie.

I walked through the maze of circuitous hallways while friendly faces greeted me and directed me to the gymnasium. More helpful people pointed me to the registration desk to pick up my packet. Then, I winded my way through the crowd to try to find my group. This was the beginning of Run Camp, which would help me train to my first half marathon. I have participated in training groups before. This was a training group on steroids.

I was still a little grumpy and overwhelmed. I scanned the walls for a sign that showed the running time I paced. A team leader (I now know what they are called.) saw me furtively scanning the walls and said, “You look nervous.” “No.” I said tersely. “I’m just confused. I got lost.” She quickly found out what my running time was and pointed to the group I was going to be in. Finally, I found home base.

I had been warned that Run Camp was a bit of a “cult,” but I didn’t believe them until this moment. As our introduction, we got indoctrinated into the values and culture of Run Camp. (a.k.a. drinking the Kool-aid, we joked.) The values are clear and easy to understand:

  • A welcoming environment;
  • Motivation and information; and
  • Coaching and support.

You saw immediately these values in action. They certainly had the welcoming part down. Each week begins with a short clinic on things like how to stretch, dressing for the cold, etc., (motivation and information). They introduced the coaches, mostly doctors, and told us they were available to answer individual questions (coaching and support).

All I could think was how many churches (or any organization) could learn from this example. Run Camp managed to do what I coach congregations to do — articulate vision, mission and values in simple, clear terms. Teach your leaders to espouse those values through what they say and, more importantly, what they do. Welcome people who may be nervous visiting for the first time. Help new people to immediately build relationships with people who can also model this way.

On a spiritual level, all this organizational work creates a place where people can easily belong and identify. In a fragmented, fast-paced world people need a community where “your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1: 16) A community defined not by social constructs, but by people who are devoted to each other and to serving the world around them.

Joining Run Camp was like walking into a perfect example of how to do church.


  1. revmom13

    Wow! That’s a prayer. Yes! That’s an affirmation. What a great concept. I am a member of our Outreach Flex Team. I’m taking this to our next team meeting. Thanks

  2. nancyjohnsen

    Thank you Nicole. This is very clear as to exactly how to make people comfortable, in any situation. I do think we all want to do this, or think we are doing this,eventually, but those first minutes count. We need to figure out where we fall short of this and go with it.

    • prayitforward247

      Those first few minutes are critical and make or break a lot of experiences. We all fall short, even with the best of intentions. But, I thought this was a good, simple example of how easy (and how hard) it is to do it right.


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