While many young people are still trying to figure out what they want to do for the summer, some local churches are trying to encourage children to spend part of their summer in a retreat with God at church camps.
Forest Avenue Baptist Church in Sherman, First Baptist Church in Sherman and Trinity Lighthouse Church in Denison recently held youth fundraisers to help offset the cost of camp.
“We want to remind parents that time with children is fleeting, so it’s important that we take time with them now,” Trinity Lighthouse Youth Pastor Kody Emmons said. “We want to spend the money to get this experience that can last a lifetime.”
Trinity Lighthouse had a garage sale fundraiser at the end of April.
“We made $400, and we had a lot of community participation and a lot of support,” Emmons said.
In the coming weeks, the youth of Trinity Lighthouse will host a barbecue luncheon and drawing.
“The luncheon will be free, but we will be accepting donations,” Emmons said. “We will be doing a drawing for a new 32-inch television, a free photo shoot with a professional photographer, and a Netflix bucket with a Netflix gift card and popcorn.”
Trinity will be sending about 20 children to Discovery Camp in Columbus from July 10-13.
“Camp gives the youth time to connect with God away from technology and other things,” Emmons said. “They get to have a one-on-one experience. Youth have a lot on their shoulders. This camp helps to make things 100 percent about him. He will be with them always.”
Emmons said she has seen youth make a confession that they believe in God and they repent of their sins. She has also seen youth get baptized in water while at church camp.
“We have seen people who would not normally be the outgoing ones that want to pray with others, pray with others,” she said. “When the young people are away from home, they are away from their phones. The sermons at camp are geared towards their age group. They are talking about bullying, jobs, abuse, peer pressure, but also have the opportunity to disconnect.”
When people have the opportunity to disconnect from technology, Emmons said, “they can begin to utilize their brains.”
“It helps us to think for ourselves,” she said. “We do not let technology do the thinking. We get to play. We have a tug-of-war, tag and classes based on the interests of the young people.”
At Falls Creek Church Camp in Davis, Oklahoma, children can zip line and play sports like volleyball and softball. This is the second year that Forest Avenue will be attending the camp.
“They have other recreational sports too,” Forest Avenue Baptist Church Pastor Brian Taylor said. “If adults could go to a camp like this, I am sure they would want to go too.”
About 14 children will be going with the Sherman church to the camp from June 12-17.
“It is one of the largest church camps in the United States,” Taylor said. “They are open for about eight weeks every summer, and there are about 500 children that attend the camp each week so the camp sees around 40,000 children every summer. The children come from all over Oklahoma and Texas, and some travel from further.”
Forest Avenue recently held a garage sale fundraiser, and in February held a Valentine’s Day banquet fundraiser for camp.
“A lot of our children are from south Sherman and economically it’s hard for families to send children to camp,” Taylor said. “But, church camps are a great get away for them for a while. We try to send anyone that would like to go. We send kids that really may not hear about the Lord in another way. It is also a time for children to be children.”
Taylor said that the June trip will be a good time to introduce the children of Forest Avenue to other Christian youth.
“Church camps are a great way to get away for a week and focus on the Lord,” he said. “It is a great time to expose Christian youth to others like them. It is also a wonderful time to focus on relationships with others. It can be really beneficial.”
First Baptist Church in Sherman held its dessert auction fundraiser this past weekend at the church. The youth will be attending Student Life Camp from June 25 through July 1 in Estes Park, Colorado.
“Vacation Bible schools offer an amazing opportunity to young people to grow in their local church,” First Baptist Youth Pastor Austin Lambert said. “But, for teenagers, camp offers a unique opportunity to see a different part of the county. It gives them the opportunity to leave mom and dad and the comforts of home. It is about beginning a new season with the Lord and refocusing priorities back on him.”
This is the second year the church has made the trip to Colorado. About 30 to 40 young people from First Baptist Church will attend the camp.
“Church camps provide a time of spiritual growth that is modeled through the Bible,” Lambert said. “God’s word teaches us to make time for rest, to break free from the daily routines of life and to purposefully reset our focus on him. Church camps ultimately provide an excellent opportunity for reset priorities.”