The following is a program announcement by Southern Adventist University.
Civic engagement—promoting the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes—is an integral component of what I do as both a social work professor and practitioner. This would be true regardless of my faith.
As a Christian, there’s an added dimension to this transformative work. We believe effectual civic engagement activity is ultimately rooted in a theology of mission and a recognition that the presence of the kingdom of God is real and consequential for all areas of life, not just for when the church is gathered. It is the motivation to be a witness for Jesus and ambassador for Him that fuels our civic engagement. These pillars of compassionate faith are one reason why Southern Adventist University has added a civic engagement camp for high school students to its summer camp offerings on June 18-20, 2018.
Our Civic Engagement in Action camp is dedicated to getting young women and minorities involved in civic engagement at all levels. Campers will be encouraged to challenge their ideas on the issues that directly impact their lives and the community they live in. This three-day immersion experience seeks to increase campers’ knowledge and citizen participation regarding several topics: legislative and issue advocacy, voter engagement, campaign work, and running for public office.
However, the larger goal is to get campers to see how they are called to love their neighbor. It’s not about merely “doing service in the community” as much as being about a call to care for a people and their place. I love Chattanooga, Tennessee, not only because I live here, but also because I am called to love my neighbor here. I care for where they dwell; I care for them and their leaders.
This is the first year Southern is offering the civic engagement camp, but the second year we’re hosting a Social Work and Missions camp. Relevant for all high schoolers, this camp follows the same Christian principle of loving our neighbors, applies a more openly Christian angle, and examines it from both a local and global perspective. Students visit agencies in Chattanooga that serve some of its most vulnerable residents, learn how to plan mission trips that empower instead of enable the people volunteers are trying to help, and spend time on Southern’s organic farm learning sustainable practices that can be put to use domestically or overseas.
I’m excited to be a part of both of these camps and proud that Southern prioritizes this kind of instruction for high school students. Even for those who don’t plan to go into social work or other areas of public policy and service, it’s never too early to begin exploring the combination of career and calling.
For more information about these and other camps at Southern Adventist University for high school students, visit southern.edu/camps or call 423.236.2781.
Kristie Wilder, MSW, JD
School of Social Work Professor and Dean
Southern Adventist University