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Purple Cows and Bible Studies  //  Creating Intentional Space as a Spiritual Discipline

07 Apr Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Purple Cows and Bible Studies
Purple Cows and Bible Studies

Sacred Cows and their Purple Step-Cousins

We have all heard about Sacred Cows in ministry. It is an idea or custom that has risen unreasonably above criticism; carrying weight and influence; as if it were a sacred object. In ministry it is a program, a preferential tradition, paint color, namesake, contemporary song or building, among many other things, that is viewed so highly it becomes irreproachable and unapproachable.

Sacred Cows are unhealthy things.

But what about those things that aren’t clearly unhealthy? What about those good things that should be viewed highly but aren’t quite right? What if something is simply misplaced, disproportionate or unhelpful in its current form? What do we call that thing?


In my mind I see a purple cow. It hasn’t become a sacred cow yet, but something isn’t quite right.

What could possibly go wrong with a Bible Study?

During the first few years that I served here at Arrowhead I helped feed a Purple Cow called Bible Study. Now, before you gasp in horror, let me explain. Don’t get me wrong. Studying God’s Word is paramount. I remember when I first transitioned from a solo diet of the top five Sunday school stories to concordances, word studies, commentaries, reading plans and study books on every biblical topic you could imagine. It was amazing… how little I knew about God. What did I find? Scripture, God’s Word is just as powerful as His words that spoke creation into existence.

When camp was in session we scheduled a Bible Study with our staff every day, no matter what. Along with it came a slightly spoken, mostly unspoken view that if we failed to have Bible Study every day, we had failed altogether. When I first arrived at camp for the summer fresh out of Bible College, I was so excited to study the Bible with the staff. That summer we surveyed the whole Old Testament and it was exhilarating. I loved every minute of it.

What I didn’t realize was that our staff did NOT love every minute of it.

Burn-Out and Going through the Motions of Spiritual Disciplines

On any given day at least a few of our staff were tired, frustrated, drained or exhausted. They weren’t tapping out, giving up or neglecting there summer staff role. They were serving, giving, caring and loving people with everything they had. And some days, it completely wore them out. It took me awhile to understand that they weren’t falling asleep during Bible Study because it was boring (shameless pat on the back). Instead, it was because they had been up two or three times the night before with one of their campers who needed them. They had been profoundly biblical, obedient, and faithful in their care for those entrusted to their care, and now they were spent.


Over the past 13 years God has been changing, crafting, molding, shaping and growing our view of Him and Bible Study. Now, instead of scheduling 30 minutes a day to have Bible Study, we emphasize a biblical ethos of worshipping God in and through everything we do.

Instead of the bumper sticker, “Bible Study or Bust” we look for ways to create healthy people who can live out healthy ministry. Instead of cramming our devotion to God into 15 minutes every day (1.04% of our day), we carve out intentional space each day to be present with Him. That intentional space becomes a tangible expression of a bigger vision to have our entire day be an expression of devotion and worship.

Leading Others into Intentional Space

Intentional space has become a great way for us to lead, disciple and serve our staff, as they do the same while living the camp life alongside our campers.

SDSPACESome days they are tired (from worshipping God at 3:00am when they spent an hour helping a camper back to sleep who had a bad dream) and they need to take a nap.

Some days they are frustrated because some things or people from their past (or the counselor next to them) have been weighing on their mind and they need to journal, confess sin or pray with someone.

Some days they are weary and they need good counsel from a mentor. On many days though, they are hungry, thirsty and craving a more meaningful relationship with God. On those days we study God’s Word, we learn more about our identity in Christ and we experience the power of Scripture.

Let me encourage and challenge you with this.

  • Worship God all day in everything you do… not just with a 15 minute devotional.
  • Create healthy people who create healthy ministry… what do your students and leaders need to be healthy worshippers of God?
  • Make room for Intentional Space… dedicate yourself to knowing God through a long list of timely, helpful spiritual disciplines.
  • Cultivate a healthy rhythm… don’t be afraid to put your Purple Cows out to pasture, and the sacred ones too.
Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.