Day camp!! Child care or ministry?
Yes I did actually ask that question. Every summer we hold a summer day camp for 10 weeks. This is a camp where children come to our church campus and have programming from 9:00 AM until
3:30 PM. We have parents that sign their children up for the whole summer as well as children who may only come one week. Our campers are taken on trips, do cooking activities and play games. Upon explaining our program I was recently asked by a parent, "So it's childcare then, right?"
Anyone in Children's Ministry cringes at those two words, CHILD CARE!!
So what makes what we do different than babysitting? I have been evaluating this question as I have been asked to train several other churches to develop their own camp. I have decided that while we do offer the basic form of care to the children in camp, that's simply a given or expectation for where we start. Our goal is for every child to experience the following while at our summer day camp:
- The Gospel - most of our campers are unchurched, and this is a time to share
- The love of Jesus - for obvious reasons
- Strong positive role models - our counselors are highly trained and ministry minded
- Bible memory - our campers are taught a weekly verse and life application
- FUN! - If they throw a fit because it's time to go, my job is being done well!
- A safe atmosphere - counselors are background checked and safety trained
- Friends - often times, long time friendships are formed
- Active fun - because kids need to move
With these things in mind we put on an experience that give children the ability to feel like even though mom and dad had to work all week, the kids were on vacation. They have so much fun, build relationships and often times we get to pray with these young campers to receive Christ.
In all of this busyness is also the underlying ministry of leadership. Our counselors are usually college age students that have a desire to have a future in ministry. We watch our counselors grow and become so creative with the camp.
We have come to the conclusion that our summer camp is a ministry of leadership, outreach, mentoring and spiritual growth and development. I am excited every year to see these campers return, and ecstatic when they find a home in our congregation as a result of it.