|A student kneels in prayer. Photo by Brandy Campbell|
July 1, 2003
HANNIBAL — Shouts can be heard as a group of teens come darting around the corner of a building. Water guns rest on their shoulders, and the pockets of their shorts sag with water balloons. Suddenly, they come to a sudden halt, mouths gaping and faces turned upward. Blades of grass swirl around them as a black hawk helicopter touches down several yards away. Summer camp will never be the same.
"TRAINING 24/7" was the theme of Super Summer 2003, a week-long evangelism school sponsored by Real Ministry and the Missouri Baptist Convention. The theme comes from 1 Corinthians 9:25 which says, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." The helicopter was just one of the visual aids used to remind students of their task: To train 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be disciplined followers of Christ.
|Ben Hempelmen of First Baptist Owensville, Mo., participates in a relay race while his blue team Mom, Sabrina Price, an HLG alumni and member of Immanuel Baptist in Hannibal, Mo., cheers him on. Photo by Brandy Campbell|
“This year has been one of the best years of Super Summer yet," said Brad Bennett, director of Real Ministries and coordinator of Super Summer. “Everything we did this week ties in with the challenge we set before the youth. Everything was very purpose-driven in a way to help the kids apply what they learned in real life."
In June, two Missouri Baptist colleges hosted Super Summer, including Hannibal-LaGrange College and Southwest Baptist University. Approximately 1,200 youth and 300 volunteers total were in attendance during the three weeks.
“We really sought to bring things up to a whole new level," said Bennett, who has served as the coordinator of Super Summer for three years. “We are definitely ministering to a multi-media culture, so we sought to incorporate a lot of video, computer, and music into the week. We also wanted to integrate the theme into every aspect of the week. That meant that the drama was about training 24/7, the speaker spoke about training 24/7, and even the games were about training 24/7. We want these kids to go home ready to put into action what they learned here this week."
Super Summer separates each age level, grades 8-12, into school groups–red, blue, yellow, orange and green. Purple school consists of youth ministers and workers. Deans and assistant deans lead the school sessions, while “moms" and “pops" lead family groups, usually consisting of 10-25 youth.
|Jake Smith, Jr., and the rest of the members of Jonas, lead worship at Joy Explosion. Photo by Brandy Campbell|
The family set-up allows Super Summer students to build relationships with both peers outside of their home groups as well as college-age adults who can serve as both mentors, friends, and mediators. The small groups afforded teens the opportunity to speak more freely with fewer inhibitions.
The emphasis on evangelism was a benefit that many leaders say they haven’t found elsewhere. Rik Maxedon, a youth pastor at First Baptist, Ferguson, and dean for the blue school, has been doing Super Summer for three years. He said he keeps coming back “because God calls me to."
“I don’t know of any other camp that impacts the kids greater than here," said Maxedon. “Kids come back from Super Summer so much more focused." Maxedon was also quick to add that it wasn’t only the youth who are impacted. “I always tell people not to miss what God is doing in your own life when you are part of a ministry. Tuesday night, at the Joy Explosion, God just really brought new life to me, and reminded me of why I do what I do. I don’t think I’ve felt that kind of joy since last summer!"
Joy Explosion was listed as a favorite part of the day by many students. This evening service offered a time of praise and worship as well as application of the Word. Jonas, a band led by Jake Smith, Jr. of St. Louis, led the worship. Clear Vision provided the drama, and Matt Kearns, who works in student evangelism at the North American Mission Board, was the week’s speaker. He brought the students thought-provoking illustrations on how to stay in the game, how to find purpose, and how to keep your focus, all tying back to the theme of “Training 247." Each evening the music was loud, the words were passionate, and the aisles were filled with dozens of youth kneeling in prayer, oblivious to their peers surrounding them.
“I loved the Joy Explosion because I was able to sing, dance, and pray," said Brant Hubbs, a 14-year-old attending with First Baptist Viburnum. “I learned this week that I need to talk to my friends about God. One of my best friends is not a Christian, and I realized that we never talk about God. I need to get closer to God and share Him with others."
“I want these kids to leave here with an understanding of what it means to be a Christian," said Bennett. “I want them to know that it’s not a Sunday and Wednesday thing, but it’s an every day thing. It requires patience and discipline. That’s why Paul used the analogy of running a race. If we’re going to finish strong we must train every day."