Connect Camp 2017: Making Camp Better

connect-camp-blogWith hearts full of both excitement and apprehension, First Baptist Church Eastman launched the very first Connect Camp in July of 2015. FBCE’s children’s ministry (M4G Kids) created the camp seeking to develop deeper relationships with the children who attended FBCE’s Vacation Bible School program.

Connect-Camp-Stats-and-ReflectionsPrior to the Camp’s creation, FBCE saw little to no conversion from VBS into FBCE’s kids ministry. Both teachers and the children’s Pastor, Peter Witkowski, actively invited kids to come to FBCE’s Wednesday night Bible studies and Sunday school.

But, few families responded to the invitations. And those that did walk back into Children’s Ministry Center usually came for only a week or two before drifting off.

Seeking to find a better way to connect to families to FBCE and to Jesus, M4G Kids’ hosted the very first Connect Camp at FBCE’s Campus in 2015. Forty-three kids attended that first day of camp. Connect Camp 2015 went on to average forty-five campers over its four week time spawn.  Almost half of the children, forty-five percent were visitors (children from other churches or with no church home).

Since that great start, Connect Camp’s numbers have declined. The camp averaged thirty-three campers in 2016 and thirty-four campers in 2017. Though M4G Kids was excited to see its attendance bounce up nine percent in 2016, the ministry was expecting a more substantial bounce as Connect Camp added a Kindergarten class for the first time. Even with an extra-class, the 2017 numbers fell short of the 2015 numbers.

IMG_7126Though the Connect Camp numbers could be better, the camp still outpaces all other M4G Kid’s camp actives. The church took fourteen kids to Centrikid. And M4G Kids had also been transporting an average of three to four kids to Winshape Community Camps.  Connect Camp reached 47 different children during the month of July. And forty-nine percent of those campers were visitors. As summer camps go, Connect Camp is doing well.

Though Connect Camp is doing well on many fronts, M4G Kids will need to spend some time pondering how to improve the Connect Camp experience.

Over the last three years, Connect Camp has taken place on Thursday mornings from 8AM-Noon in an effort to accommodate working parents. Given kids propensity for sleeping in during the summer, perhaps having a 9AM or 10AM start time would resonate with IMG_6990more children. Or perhaps we should shift the camp to PM hours? Perhaps we need to shift days and move the camp to a Wednesday or Sunday context? Or perhaps, M4G Kids needs to rethink its follow up strategy and move in a different direction. What do you think?

If you have served or have had children attend Connect Camp, M4G Kids would love to hear your thoughts about how we can improve Connect Camp and about what things you think Connect Camp is doing well.

Please leave your feedback below in the comment section.

Don’t Sink Your Kids’ Ministry; Plan!

kids planning blogWithout Planning, our kids’ ministry will drift about aimlessly until it runs aground. When parents and various organizations pitch things to us, we will not know which way to steer. Do we go to this camp? Should we have a lock-in? What about the summer? If we have no strategy, we will answer these questions differently every year. Or perhaps an even worse thing will happen.  We will start digging a ministry rut, refusing to change anything. “After all we did it that way last year,” we say.

If we continually flip flop on what we do, we will exasperate the moms and dads in our ministry, losing the very trust we need to cultivate. But if we keep doing the same-old, same-old, we will wake up one day and discover that we our exciting new ministry is showing 20 year-old VHS tapes. Neither is good. And both extremes can easily be avoided with some planning.

First Comes Vision

But to plan well, we must have vision. We must have strategic goals that we are trying to reach. At FBCE my goal is to reach kids with the gospel, to equip parents, and to foster godly relationships through discipleship. Every curriculum I pick, every outing our kids go on, and every camp we attend is chosen because of it helps FBCE reach one of these goals.

For example when I came to FBCE, our kids attended a Winshape Day Camp. The 15 kids who attended loved camp. The last year we went to Winshape, only 3 kids hopped on the church bus. At FBCE, we average around 100 kids in attendance every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Only three were going to camp. We were not reaching kids with the gospel.  Consequently, I decided that FBCE’s kids’ ministry would stop attending Winshape. In it’s place, we decided to start our own day camp, Connect Camp. Through Connect Camp, we have reached an average of almost 40 kids each year. We have gone from 4 to 40. Ultimately what lead me to make the decision to try something new was my strategic goals. Since Winshape was not helping us accomplish any of our mission,  we let it go. I am not against Winshape. I think it’s amazing. But the camp was not working for the families of FBCE because of logistical reasons. A change had to be made.

Before we can thoughtfully set our calendars, we must have strategic ministry goals that will help us chart our course. And then we must plan.

Then Comes Planning

Yes, it is good to always be flexible. It is good and helpfully to be able to cancel, reschedule, and create new events as needed. We are not God. And all who depend on him, must be humble and must be open to God reworking their plans. As proverbs 19:6 says,

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

If our plans become so protected that we sin to get them and/or sin to ensure they go happen, we do not have a calendar. We have an idol, and we need to repent of it.

But trusting God does not relief us from the responsibility to plan. Often the only way to implement our strategic goals is to plan months (if not years) in advance. It takes time to mobilize volunteers, to collect resources, and prepare teams. It takes more than one event to reach kids with the gospel, to equip parents, and to foster Christians relationships. It takes years. And we need to plan accordingly. We need to wrestle through our calendars and decided which curriculums, events, and groups will help us advance the gospel in our community.

Today, I am doing many things that I first thought of back in August of 2012 when I first arrived. The ideas have morphed and changed to meet the needs of FBCE. But they would not have happened without intentionally planning and prayer. We as the leaders need to be making hard decisions well in advance so that we can guide our people and our kids. In short, the only way to prevent ministry drift and stagnation is to plan. Whose ready?

Connect Camp: 2016 Review

Connect-Camp-BlogAnother exciting month of Connect Camp has come to a close. With the help of over thirty committed adults and youth, First Baptist Eastman was able to put together an amazing day camp that featured everything from Baseball to praise band. During the months of June and July, we connected with forty-five different kids. Each day of camp, we averaged almost 35 kids. We peaked on the first day of camp when 41 arrived. Our lowest attendance occurred on the last day of camp -Thursday, July 14. We hosted 30 kids and 53 kids and adults for our family day luncheon.

Each day, the kids kicked off camp with a worship rally at 8 AM. Next, they participated in two track-times (activity times) of their choice before coming inside to cool off with a snack. Then, they rounded off the morning with a small group Bible study, another track time, and a brief closing worship rally that concluded at noon. FBCE kids’ ministry loved hosting the kids. And I am confident that many of the kids liked camp. It takes a lot to convince a grade schoolers and middle schoolers to wake up early on summer morning. Plus, I received a lot of positive feedback from parents, kids, and volunteers.Connect Camp by church

I truly believe Connect Camp this year fulfilled its mission of connecting kids to Christ and of connecting unchurched families to our church. The gospel was preached every day during both the worship rally and the small group time. Seed was sown. And by having parents and kids attend camp all month long, we got to know at least two new families.

Connect Camp Attendance ChartOur numbers did trend down a little from last year’s Connect Camp. Last year we averaged 40 students. This year dipped down to about 35 per day. I am not sure why attendance dropped slightly. Perhaps our number were hurt by the Dodge County School schedule, perhaps Camp went down because it started two weeks after VBS, or perhaps we simply encountered a sophomore slump. Regardless, Connect Camp still reaches the largest number of kids of any camp run or attend by FBCE. Lord willing our numbers will rebound next year!

And as always, we loved using the Zip curriculm published by Lifeway. It was easy to use, fun, etertaining and gospel filled! Without Zip Connect Camp would still be just a concept. But with the curriculm, FBCE has seen its dream of reaching the kids of Eastman become a reality!

Not it’s your turn! What was your kid’s favorite part of camp?