LEBANON – Across Missouri most Baptist associations and churches prepare each spring for summer camping programs. Children and teenagers register and go away to a rural campground where they have an opportunity to connect with God and establish a relationship that may be life-changing. Many associations are now calling their camp teams and committees together to develop the programs that will provide for the kids in the summer camping season
Many types of volunteers are needed for these programs: cabin leaders, nurses or medics, kitchen staff, pastors, musicians, camp directors and others will be needed.
A Bible study and crafts leader for Fellowship Baptist Association’s children’s camp, Tammie Nichols, said, “Kids come with an expectation of learning. They are not much trouble. Most of them like to be involved. We try to have very interactive lessons and have things that appeal to kids with different styles of learning. We try to make our activities very hands-on.”
Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Springfield, uses the Laclede Baptist Camp, near Lebanon. They rent the campground and bring about 40 kids plus staff. Janice Sartin is the children’s ministry director there and she said, “We are more in an urban, economically poor section of Springfield. There is always lots of traffic and noise.”
“At the camp there is not a lot of asphalt,” she added. They look forward to going out into the country where there is lots of grass, trees and a nearby river. “You don’t even hear a car” Sartin said.
Looking up into the night sky and enjoying the summer breezes is a treat, and the kids are able to put aside distractions, family problems and really focus.
“We don’t allow any electronics at camp. This allows us to focus on nature and on what God created.”
They have Bible classes, worship, games, crafts and of course, swimming in the pool.
The Grant Avenue camp takes their own cooking staff, bringing a lot of the groceries and supplies, getting fresh supplies as needed in Lebanon.
The pastoral staff comes out to preach and lead worship. “It’s a good bonding time with the kids” she said. They always have several who make decisions for Christ during their annual summer camp.
Nichols said when the Fellowship Association kids finish their Bible classes they have a prayer time and many times she hears heart-rending requests from the kids. “We don’t have them name any names, but they share about issues at home and with friends,” she said.
“We hope that we help them learn about Jesus being our Helper and Comforter,” Nichols said.
Sartin was asked if a particular camp experience stands out and she related a story about a boy with learning disabilities who was saved and wanted to be baptized but had an issue. He was afraid of water—very afraid. He came to camp and asked Sartin, “Could I be baptized in the camp pool?”
Her response was, “Of course.” They worked with the pastor and prepared for the baptism after a chapel session. They warned the little boy that his head would be under water and he had never experienced this before.
But when his pastor, Bro. Ray Roach, baptized him, the little boy looked up at Sartin and with a big grin and water streaming down his face, shouted, “I did it!”
She said that makes it all worthwhile for her.
Brad Fields, the camp manager of Grand Oaks Baptist in Chillicothe, likes to meet with the campers near the first session of each camp. He likes to do more than just “explain the rules” but also wants to connect with the campers and let them know they are in a safe and welcome place.
Grand Oaks hosts about 10-12 camps per summer with eight north Missouri associations.
Leaders of camps are always looking for volunteers. Most of the camp staffers in Missouri summer camps are volunteers.
Taking a week of vacation from a job or a ministry position is a sacrifice if the week is sleeping on a cot at a church camp. But it is highly rewarding. To be able to lead a child to Christ or comfort a troubled teenager in emotional distress is a pretty good trade off for taking vacation time to spend at summer camp.
It is not too early to plan to attend or volunteer at an association or church camp this summer.