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Centrifuge: ‘uniquely geared for life change,’ leaders say


GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Come to LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center during a Centrifuge week and you might think you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Although the conference center is nearly always bustling during the busy summer conference months, it takes on new life when Centrifuge participants set foot on the campus. It’s loud, and the hours are not only punctuated by the tolling of the church bells at Holcomb Auditorium, but the shouts, squeals and sounds of Centrifuge recreation.

Sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Centrifuge is a Christian camp for teens in grades seven through 12.

The seven-day camp includes Bible study, church-group devotions, discipleship, recreation and worship, all of which are designed to help students grow in relationship with Jesus Christ.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill church camp, complete with songs by the campfire and crafts. No one could ever accuse Centrifuge camps of being boring. Worship at Centrifuge leans more toward interactive than traditional, usually featuring a contemporary band complete with drums and a thumping bass line.

Centrifuge involves having fun, but its primary focus is on teaching students how to minister in the world, said Lance Howerton, managing director of the student events department at LifeWay. That’s why LifeWay’s Centrifuge section takes such care in selecting staff members, he added.

“Centrifuge is unique in that we believe life changes happen best in the context of relationship,” Howerton said. “We hire great staff — college and seminary students — who invest in teens unlike any camping program I know of. The one-on-one contact and the ratio of staff to student is uniquely geared for life change.”

While increasing a student’s biblical knowledge is important, teaching them to model Christianity at camp, home and school is just as important, said Todd Maupin, Centrifuge camp director at Glorieta.

The goal of Centrifuge staff is “to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in the way we act, the way we teach, the way we interact with students,” Maupin said. “Showing a living lesson of Jesus Christ lived out makes a difference to these students.”

The Centrifuge concept began in 1979 as an alternative camping experience for seventh- through 12th-graders. It was designed to mix teens and youth leaders from across the nation in fast-paced Bible study, recreation, worship and soul-searching before separating them out to return to their own churches and homes with renewed spirits and strengthened relationships.

Centrifuge began at two locations with 7,500 youth participants. In 2002, there are nine stationary camps, three traveling teams and five special teams serving more than 40,000 teens in 77 camp sessions throughout the summer months.

“It’s a great experience to have so many Christian kids together,” said Daina Sangkhabos, a youth leader from First Baptist Church in Las Vegas. “The way the program is set up, it’s geared toward growing them as Christians and having the support around you.”

Sangkhabos attended Centrifuge Mega Week camp, July 27-Aug. 2. Regular Centrifuge camps handle about 500 to 600 people, said Jason Ellerbrook, a Centrifuge coordinator for LifeWay. Centrifuge Mega Weeks are larger events with attendance running between 800 and 1,200, he said.

“[Centrifuge] takes kids out of their comfort zone,” said George Box, a youth worker from First Baptist Church, Goliad, Texas. His wife, Raechel Box, agreed, but added Centrifuge can offer help to non-Christians as well.

“You can bring kids who aren’t saved, and there are activities they can participate in where they are immersed [in the gospel],” she said.

Centrifuge activities are specifically planned with that goal in mind, leaders say.

Bible study and different track sessions mix students from different youth groups, and recreation is designed not so much as a competition but as a way to learn important lessons about God.

“Recreation is not a bunch of games,” said Josh Caldwell, recreation director for the July 26-Aug. 2 Centrifuge camp. “It’s spiritual application through recreation.”
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(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TEAMING UP and LEARNING THE ROPES.

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  • Mandy Crow