Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What are you really offering?

Perhaps the most fundamental question in marketing is what are you really offering to folks? At the most fundamental level, what service, what product, what experience will they receive?

Some time ago, we came to understand the experience of Christian camping as the opportunity to gather around the fire. But, not just any fire. It is the Easter Fire. We wrote this to express, for us, the fundamental understanding of what Christian camping offers to the world.

In marketing, the first task is to be very clear about what you offer.

More to come...


The Easter Fire

In a predawn darkness that seems impenetrable, the faithful gather. Its been only days, but seems like a lifetime, since we joined our voices with the crowds and have asked for Barabas to be set free, and the preacher from Nazareth to hang on a cross. What hope could might there be for us, for our world? The darkness is overwhelming and pervasive.

Then, a tiny spark jumps in the darkness and a flame catches. As it casts a light that is much brighter than its size, for the first time we hear the words, “Light of Christ!
Thanks be to God!” As the flame is passed and the light grows, so too does the acclamation, “Light of Christ! Thanks be to God!” and we realize that the darkness is vanquished.

For many centuries, the primary sign of the Resurrection, the central symbol of Easter was the Easter Fire. It was a bonfire lit in the tomblike cold darkness of the night, the re-kindling of the Christ candle from the celebration of the Nativity, dark since the beginning of Lent. Before lilies, eggs, and butterflies, the faithful gathered around the Fire and heard for the first time the proclamation, “Christ is Risen!” The Fire was the Light of Christ come into the world, which the darkness cannot overcome. The first Service of the Resurrection, generally held in the darkness of Saturday night, called the Easter Vigil, was and still is, for countless Christians, a service of lighting the Fire.

This service is one we rarely connect with camping ministry. Partly because of the time of year, I suppose. Most of us do not run camping programs on the weekend of Easter, leaving that time to congregational gatherings. But the central symbol is ours to claim. There is no more common symbol of camping ministry than the campfire. Few of us have realized, however, that the campfires around which we gather and sing are the Easter Fire, the Light of Christ which the darkness has not overcome. More than a sentimental, nostalgic pyre upon which to toast marshmallows, our campfires, large and small, are the Easter Fire.