There are people who play golf and then there are people who play miniature golf. The original version of golf used to be available to few and came with certain economic restrictions. Expensive equipment, hefty green fees, and elite golf club memberships put the sport out of reach with the common man. Today things have changed and golf has opened its doors to the public. However, there has been one champion who has been bringing golf to the masses for a very long time; miniature golf. This small scale version of its older brother has been entertaining people of all ages for years.
It is my opinion that miniature golf has been totally underestimated. Mini-golf only requires one club and the rules are fairly straight forward. Large-scale golf courses are limited by how much land they take up and the cost to maintain them. Mini-golf is only limited by your imagination and willingness to take on each mini challenge.
Parents can take their kids, youth can take their friends, and mini-golf makes for an excellent date night. Ever seen someone struggling to play golf? The great thing about miniature golf is often times the worse you play the more fun you'll have! Don't get me wrong, there is some skill involved. Windmills, blind corners, and giant figurines can all be distractions to getting a hole in one.
For as long as I can remember, there has been a mini-golf course at Echo Ranch. It is located by the generator shed and was put together in the mid-1990s.
In its prime, each hole was covered with bright green turf and we even had a windmill (for looks). During free time, the kids would play and it gave the counselor in charge of mini-golf an opportunity to connect with campers. Families staying at Echo Ranch on retreat could spend quality time down at the links where everyone can play.
Sadly, this is no longer the case for the Echo Ranch miniature golf course. The turf is gone and the windmill is broken. Although still an activity, mini-golf has lost its charm. Not to fear, there is hope!
Echo Ranch has launched an initiative to build a brand new 18-hole miniature golf course. This new mini-golf course will be located toward the back of the sports field away from the generators. At the end of the 2008 camping season the forms had been made for the holes and a shipment of cement had arrived to fill them in. The fence was also in the process of being put together. We are asking churches to help with the completion of the course by financially sponsoring a hole. The participating church will receive a plaque located at the hole allowing visitors to see who made our miniature golf course possible. The hope is that a person searching for a church to visit will take note and attend service some weekend.
So how does this all come together? What kind of lesson can possibly be learned from miniature golf? Are you ready for this?
Sometimes the concept of faith and connecting with God can seem like a large and daunting task. It's like staring down the fairway on some huge golf course. We don't often feel prepared, as if we don't have the right equipment to get started. Perhaps, in the past, people have made God seem out of reach and unknowable.
In a way, the local church is like mini-golf. Their job is to take the giant reality of God and break things down so everyone can understand. This doesn't mean your journey of faith will be less difficult, but it will be something you can begin to grasp. And there is joy in learning about God in a community with other people looking for hope.
Miniature golf is just a game but it makes for a pretty cool analogy. I am excited about the future completion of the mini-golf course at Echo Ranch. The kids really like to play and it is a fun activity for families. But I am most excited about individuals being inspired to seek God and find a community where they can learn in a group.
Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.