INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Elementary school children figuratively became princes and princesses while older students climbed Mount Kilimanjaro during the Southern Baptist Convention and the preceding Pastors’ Conference in Indianapolis June 8-11.
Nearly 200 children ages 4-12 attended the children’s camp led by Children Conferences International, based in Madison Heights, Mich.
As part of the theme, “The Sword and the Soap,” the boys and girls learned how to be knights and ladies in God’s Kingdom. Knights in shining armor, court jesters and two goofy servants, “Scrub” and “Squeaky,” joined with the “King of Bath” for fun-filled Bible learning.
The high-energy children’s program, held at the Indiana Convention Center, included dramatized stories, singing, a ventriloquist with a dragon puppet and Scripture memory exercises and games, said James Bonjour, CCI’s director.
A typical day was divided into eight segments, including four large group sessions and four small group activities. Teams of 15 to 20 children moved through relay races, crafts, stories and a larger than life inflatable obstacle course.
In one large group segment, leader Nikki Stark noticed a sword on the stage. Fellow leader Stephen Leckenby said he was ready to sing about the sword.
“No, no, no! That’s not the right sword,” Stark said, asking the crowd of kids to help her. “You’re pastors’ kids. You should know what sword we are talking about.”
She paused and then smiled at the answer regarding the on-stage sword. “Apparently this sword was the one Peter used to cut the soldiers’ ear off!”
Explaining that the true sword is God’s Word, she led the children in a memorized, hand-motioned version of Hebrews 4:12. On the first day, the enthusiastic children already had memorized the Scripture.
LeighAnne Kittrell of Maybank Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., said the CCI program was wonderful for her two children, Madison, 6, and AnnMarie, 4.
“They came back to the hotel singing, loving it. They didn’t want to leave when it was time to pick them up,” Kittrell said.
Kittrell attempted to take her children to one of the SBC annual meeting sessions, but when they saw a clown preparing to take the stage, the girls convinced her to let them stay.
“I urge every parent to try it,” Kittrell said.
Meanwhile, nearly 120 students in grades 7-12 gathered at the Westin Hotel for “Fuge,” a discipleship camp sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.
The Centrifuge-style camp included small group Bible study, team-building adventure recreation, fellowship and worship, Troy Wilson, this year’s director, said.
The Fuge theme was “Kilimanjaro: Kingdom Secrets,” based on Matthew 13:16. Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in Africa. Located in northeastern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is an inactive volcano that offers climbers every type of climate on earth.
In nightly sessions, longtime Fuge staffer Jonathan Denton, student minister at First Baptist Church in Picayune, Miss., taught students to take hold of their calling, take hold of the cross and conquer whatever mountains hold them back from God.
“When you get to the top, there are remarkable things waiting for us,” Denton said, urging the students to focus on the journey up the mountain.
Denton said ultimately he hopes the students will have a greater understanding of God’s Kingdom and be able to impact their communities for Christ.
Scott Kerlin, a music and youth pastor from Dawson, Ga., led the teens in worship.
Meanwhile, local volunteers from Indiana churches and from a Florida Baptist Convention disaster relief child-care team cared for 122 nursery and preschool children of SBC attendees.
Unit leaders Dot Smith and Sylvia Johnson led 15 Florida volunteers to minister not only to the children but to the parents, said volunteer Sue Johns, preschool and children’s consultant for the Florida convention.
“We are the hands and feet of Jesus, showing His love in everything we do, from smiling to playing with the children, so that their parents can enjoy everything,” Johns said.
Michelle Mullenix of Chapelwood Baptist Church in Indianapolis and Kathy Gibbs of Calvary Baptist Church in Greenwood, Ind., organized this year’s child care.
The activities included crafts, age-appropriate Bible teaching from LifeWay’s “Bed Babies” and “TeamKIDs” curricula, developmentally appropriate learning centers and a large indoor playground.
“We’ve planned all these things to teach that Jesus is love,” Gibbs said.
Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.