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Church’s focus on youth camp yields 60-plus new believers

SKIATOOK, Okla. (BP)–At this church, summer youth camp is having a year-round impact.
Granted, youth from First Baptist Church, Skiatook, Okla., were at Oklahoma’s Falls Creek Baptist Assembly from just Monday through Saturday in late July.
“This was my third year,” pastor Kelly Chronister said of accompanying the church’s youth to Falls Creek, “and each year has built on the year before.
“It has not been a two-month or a six-month high, like I have seen before, but a year-long experience. It is a growing process, not just a one-time event.”
This year: “We had well over 60 saved in that seven-day span, and have baptized 56 in a five-week span,” Chronister noted. “That is more than we baptized all last year.”
During their time at Falls Creek, nearly 50 of the church’s 75 youth at camp made professions of faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Back at the metro-Tulsa church the following Sunday night — in a three-hour service which included 39 baptisms, a stream testimonies and praise songs — another 13 young people were saved.
Chronister noted the Sunday evening service served as an outreach tool to draw “a lot of parents we had never been able to get here before.”
Skiatook’s youth group is on fire, with 60 to 70 attending services Wednesday nights. A “Good Morning Skiatook” breakfast is held from 7-8 a.m. every Friday during the school year and “Fifth Quarter” services are held after home football games.
In church services, Chronister said the youth fill up the first five to six rows of the auditorium.
“They are very responsive to the invitation,” he said. “They come forward praying with friends, praying for friends and for family members. They realize that they are part of the ministry.”
The same happened at Falls Creek, said Ken May, associate pastor of education and administration, recounting that adult counselors were kept busy talking with converts won to the Lord by church youth.
“We would get two to three kids, take them outside to counsel them, come back and two to three more would be waiting for us,” May said.
“The Holy Spirit just swept through in an eventful way,” Chronister added.
At the end of Falls Creek each year, the pastor said he leads the youth to gather in a circle, holding hands. He has six drop their hands and move out of the group, then tells the youth to think about what six people they will get to fill those holes.
“It gets them to realize that our group is inclusive, not exclusive,” Chronister said. “They exist not for themselves, but to bring other people in.”
Scott Bodley, the church’s bivocational youth pastor and a local insurance agent, said many churches expect the youth pastor to minister to the youth, but he believes he is there to “equip young people to minister to each other.” During the Falls Creek service, for example, he said several young people took friends to the altar to confront them with their lostness.
Chronister said another sign of growth among the youth is their ability to worship God. That began in the post service when they sang “Holy Ghost” by contemporary Christian artist Brad Riggan.
“Those kids were worshiping God,” he said. “They were not singing to people; they were singing to the Lord. It was so awesome.”
“One mother said she had attended church all her life, but it was the first time she had been so moved to tears in a service,” Bodley added.
Chronister said the church does not have any magic formula for reaching youth; it just takes hard work and preparation.
“There is no formula, no one-two-three-step process, it’s a relationship with God,” the pastor said. “God works through you to bring about his will. We are blessed and fortunate to be part of that.
“Our youth leaders start in January preparing for Falls Creek,” Chronister explained. “Most of what we do in our youth group focuses on Falls Creek. The day Falls Creek ends, we begin praying for next year’s Falls Creek.
“Our whole congregation is committed to Falls Creek and to our youth. A lot of our youth don’t have a real home life to go home to, so our adults help provide a sense of home life here.
“When we go to Falls Creek, we hit it pretty hard on Monday night,” the pastor continued. “We don’t want our kids making decisions because they are tired and emotional. And our kids know what they’re there for. It’s going to be a spiritual experience.
“God is sending blessings upon us because of old-fashioned work,” Chronister reflected. “I would be afraid to count the number of hours we put in — we have so much planned for our kids, they don’t have a chance to get bored.”
May said the youth are divided into “family” groups, each led by an adult from the church. “The adult prays with them, prays for them,” he said, “and a special bond develops between sponsors and kids.”
“Our sponsors get time one-on-one with every young person in their family,” Chronister added. “Every kid we take gets confronted one-on-one on his spiritual condition.”
The encouraged all pastors to go to camps like Falls Creek with their youth.
“If a pastor does not go, he is missing out on a fantastic blessing,” Chronister said. “Many young people are afraid to talk to the pastor, but this makes you approachable.
“Now, when I see them in the community or at football games, they will talk to me.”

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  • Dave Parker