LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–Summer camp. For some, those words may conjure up memories of squeaky bunks, sweaty recreation and rain-soaked boredom.
But not if Bacon Boy was protecting your camp experience.
“Bacon Boy?” you ask. Who else could guard campers from evil villains Captain Boredom, Sleepy Sally and The Swelterer?
Welcome to the world of Centri-KID at Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center near Lynchburg, Va., where Bacon Boy, a red-caped superhero, made sporadic appearances to give announcements, lead kids in fellowship and save the occasional camper who wasn’t having quite enough fun.
Centri-KID is a children’s camp provided by the same folks who introduced Centrifuge youth camp at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tenn. The newest of the LifeWay camps, Centri-KID seeks to introduce children to the message of Jesus Christ through group Bible study, worship services, church group devotions and other camp activities.
“Our prayer is that these kids leave here changed,” said Sam Davidson of Nashville, who is serving as this summer’s camp pastor. “We want them to realize how big God is and to gain a deeper understanding of him.”
Taking third- through sixth-graders to a deeper level is not something many people venture to do. But the 22 inaugural staff members of Centri-KID at Eagle Eyrie have sought to pave the way.
“We want these kids to know that our God is their God,” said Davidson. “Our Bible study leaders talk to them on their level. We try not to see them as young and immature, but as children who need to know who God is so that maybe one day they’ll look back on camp and remember how much God loves them.”
“I just try to put myself where they are,” said Shantra Bolek, a student at Palm Beach Atlantic College, West Palm Beach, Fla., who served as Bible study leader. “We’re just like a big group of friends hanging out together. Sometimes they ask some of the same questions that I have, and we just talk things out.”
“Get Up, Get Going” was the 2001 camp theme, and campers and staffers alike took it literally. By 8:30 a.m., the auditorium was full of flying beach balls, loud music and enough energy to power a small nation. And that was before the campers had even arrived.
“The Centri-KID staff has been incredible,” said Lisa Fox of Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton, Va., who attended with a group from her church. “They’re such good role models for the campers. They eat meals with them and just hang out with them. They just have so much energy, and the kids love spending time with them. It’s good for children to see young adults having a good time in the Lord.”
Camp days were packed with opportunities for kids to have a good time while glorifying God. Campers went from morning celebration to Bible study and recreation time. After lunch they were able to choose two tracks, which ranged from cooking and camping to sports and swimming.
“The kids have a lot of choices,” said Connie Waters, a parent from Bethel Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va. “They get to feel independent, while we feel confident that the Centri-KID staff is there if they need them.”
Staffers are careful to not let the games and fellowship overshadow the real reason camp exists.
“I want them to take more away than just the games and the track times,” said David Bridges, a camp counselor and student at the University of Maryland at College Park. “I want them to be able to take Jesus home with them. I want them to know how to talk to God and how to reach others with that message.”
Each evening there was a camp-wide worship time, which consisted of music, drama and a Bible message.
“Worship at Centri-KID is both age appropriate and non-manipulative,” said Davidson. “We aren’t providing worship for the staff or the adults, but for the kids. Though we hope that everyone will get something from worship, our main goal is the children. We’re also careful not to play on their emotions to get them to make the decisions we want them to.”
“I am constantly amazed at how much I have learned about worship from the kids,” said Kelly Jones, worship leader and student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. “They’re so real with God. They’re just like ‘God, you’re cool. I like you!'”
“It’s been really neat to see kids worshiping and to see kids excited about Bible study,” said Kristi Lemoine, camp director. Lemoine is an editor in children’s discipleship at LifeWay. “It was wonderful to see kids have the gospel presented to them in a way they could understand and respond to.”
In addition to Virginia, Centri-KID camps were also held in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Mississippi. For more information on Centri-KID, or how to get involved, call 1-877-CAMP-123 or e-mail [email protected].
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MORE THAN GAMES, WORSHIP LEADER, WITNESSING OPPORTUNITY and COOKING AT CAMP.