RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–If you’ve ever sent a child to a CentriKid camp or attended as a chaperone, you probably know that “fun” is a common theme.
But showing kids a great time certainly isn’t the only goal.
CentriKid director Trent Creason recapped the Fuge vision statement with parent volunteers and church leaders on the opening night of CentriKid at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina in June.
“As God cultivates our faith, we blend our gifts as a team to impact culture through life-changing camps and events, believing such ministry takes place best in the context of relationships,” Creason said.
The “fun” parts of CentriKid only enhance a camp experience; the larger purpose is to touch campers’ lives.
“With kids, you have to take the Truth and put it in a form that can get into their hearts,” CentriKid camp pastor Ryan Coatney said. “I hope they have fun, but I also hope they see Jesus in a different way and that they learn something.”
CentriKid, designed specifically for students who have completed third through sixth grade, is part of the larger Fuge camp system of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This year’s CentriKid camps, scheduled throughout the country during June and July, featured a Hollywood theme that encouraged campers to understand the Bible as a script outlining the role God created each person to play.
“Know your script, know your script, know your script,” Coatney urged 450 campers during evening worship. “It’s the story of us sinning, and it’s the story of doing things our way instead of God’s way, and it’s the story of God bringing Christ into the world for us.”
Rhema Hedgpeth, a second-year attendee from Red Oak Baptist Church in Red Oak, N.C., said her favorite part of camp was the worship sessions because they provided an opportunity to learn more about God. Lee Gunter, a rising sixth-grader from Brookwood Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., said he enjoyed the fun parts of camp, but he came to “learn about God and why God is here.”
“Some kids here, not many but some, don’t believe in God and they [CentriKid staff] help you find Him,” Gunter said, speaking of the invitations offered after evening worship to which numerous campers responded.
Camp worship leader Jeff Slaughter, who led worship before Coatney offered a lesson each evening, said his aim was to impact the way campers view worship.
“I want there to be a sense of the Lord moving in them and pulling them closer and giving them a hunger for more,” Slaughter said.
CentriKid may seem serious and intense at key times, but the idea of “fun” was present even for Slaughter as he led singing for the campers.
“I love to teach them about freedom in worship and freedom in expression. Worship can be fun, and I want these kids to see the full range of relationship that is possible with the Lord,” Slaughter said.
While evening worship and Bible study time provided opportunities to help the kids better understand God, CentriKid counselors regularly found opportunities to teach biblical truths.
Each day, campers hiked to the recreation field at Ridgecrest’s campus under Hollywood-themed team banners such as “Cuecards,” “Stuntmen,” “Cameos” and “Sequels.” Once there, the campers played creative games and mastered team-building activities. As groups rotated through each station, counselors often found ways to relate the activity to biblical lessons such as supporting one another or working together.
“I like the way they do camp here,” said Cindy Bailey, children’s minister at St. Mark’s Church in Burlington, N.C. “It’s fun, but the kids learn something. It gets them interested in the Bible and interested in Christ and makes them want to come back.”
At least one of Bailey’s students, along with campers from several other churches, accepted Christ after the evening service Saturday night.
“I feel wonderful,” Jacqualine Faith, a camper from First Baptist Church, Joelton, Tenn., said after speaking with one of the CentriKid counselors and making her decision for Christ. “I gave my life to God and when I die I get to go to heaven.”
It’s moments like that that keep Slaughter coming back to lead worship for children. “I don’t want to be the aloof worship leader who shows up on stage and sings. With kids, it’s about relationships,” he said.
For Coatney, those relationships should lead to authentic changes in kids’ lives that then benefit the churches they attend.
“Camp is good because it helps the churches,” Coatney said. “Kids are real believers. The real Holy Spirit is living in their hearts. They can do real ministry and they can serve their churches in real ways.”
Brooklyn Noel is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information about CentriKid and other LifeWay Fuge camps, visit LifeWay.com/fuge.