ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Adam and Laurie Wyatt and their daughter Abby attended their first Pastors’ Conference and Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Because of the preschool childcare offered by the SBC, Adam did not have to come to the convention alone.
“This is enabling my wife to be a part because we both get to go to the Pastors’ Conference,” said Wyatt, pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Mendenhall, Miss. “If it hadn’t been for the daycare, I was going to just come by myself. Now I’m going to be able to turn this into a retreat for our family.”
Wyatt was pleased with the security procedures he encountered in the childcare area. With his 15-month-old daughter in a secure, caring environment, Adam and Laurie were able to enjoy the speakers at the Pastors’ Conference and annual meeting sessions.
The Wyatts and many other families are able to make the convention a family trip because of the programs for children and youth. In addition to the preschool childcare for infants up to 3 years old, the convention hosted an action-packed children’s conference for children ages 4-12. For youth, the ‘Fuge camp offered worship, games and evangelism training.
Care for the youngest children was led by a unique group of volunteers, the Florida Baptist disaster relief childcare teams. Normally, the highly trained group of volunteers works in conjunction with a disaster relief feeding unit, providing childcare during disaster responses. Their service allows parents to begin the recovery process.
While the context of the convention was much different than an emergency response, the goals of the team remained the same.
“We are trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Sue Johns, preschool and children’s consultant for the Florida Baptist Convention. “We are trying to show not only the children, but we are showing the parents that we love these kids and we love Jesus. And that’s why we are doing it.”
Johns, along with a team of Florida children’s ministers and disaster relief leaders, planned and coordinated the preschool childcare and managed a large group of volunteers. In all, 114 volunteers cared for nearly 150 infants during nine sessions of the Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting.
“I can’t say enough about the volunteers,” Johns said. “They are so giving, such servant hearts.”
The volunteers traveled to Orlando at their own expense. Rather than staying at expensive hotels, they brought their cots and camped in the gym at Delaney Street Baptist Church in Orlando.
Johns was quick to point out that the preschool childcare was not merely babysitting. Her team of volunteers was committed to age-appropriate teaching of biblical truths as well.
“We are using the Mission Friends curriculum,” Johns said. “Each room has a core team of four [volunteers] who have prepared and studied that Mission Friends lesson and they are provided direction for that room.”
The conference for children ages 4-12, led by Children’s Conferences International of Detroit, Mich., included games, obstacle courses, Scripture memory activities and fun teaching times.
“What we enjoy most is what we teach on stage,” said James Bonjour, director of CCI. “We write original music each year for our theme. This year our theme is ‘Star Patrol,’ talking about our God who is our Creator and knows and holds our future.”
The stage show included music, skits and Bonjour’s ventriloquism talents. About 450 children attended this year’s conference.
For teenagers attending the annual meeting, ‘Fuge offered a challenging discipleship program focused on character and integrity. Worship, seminars and personal evangelism training sessions were key components of the camp. The theme was “KAIROS: Defining Moments.”
“We’re focusing on love, obedience, character, sacrifice and integrity,” said Kevin Spratt, recreation specialist and student events coordinator for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Spratt said nearly 200 teenagers were involved in this year’s ‘Fuge program.
‘Fuge participants also had the opportunity to spend a day at the Universal Studios theme park.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.