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.

FBCE Loves Centrikid; You Will Too!

centrikid-blogIf your kids love shaving cream, water balloons, silly dancing, doing cannon balls in the lake, and weekend trips filled with dancing they need to come with FBCE to the 2018 Centrikid Weekend Camp. All the kids and chaperones who risked a bus ride with their children’s pastor this past year loved camp. And for good reason.

IMG_3557Centrikid hums along like a well oil diesel motor; it has more fun games, classes, and activities than all-inclusive party at Chuck Cheese; and, it has a laser focus on the gospel. I love the Centrikid Weekend Camp experience.  I highly recommend it for your kids.

From the moment our kids where greeted by pool-noodle waving staffers until the moment they piled back slowly back onto the bus with autographed T-shirts, the Centrikid staff was all about our kids. They seamlessly processed all of FBCE’s paper work. The Centrikid team took time to talk with and play with all the kids. They were also quick to answer adult questions: “When is lights out?” And when six of our campers felt threatened by an anonymous white guy, the camp director, Meg Brown, and the Camp Pastor, David Pearson, responded quickly and graciously. Thankfully, everything checked out. But their care and concern for us reflected the whole feel of the camp. The Centrikid staff strikes that amazing balance of both keeping a tight schedule and of caring for all the campers. Consequently, I think Centrikid is amazing!

IMG_3582Though us pastors and chaperones appreciate Lifeway’s ability to deftly handle the logistical challenges of caring for several hundred kids, our campers go to camp for camp. And Centrikid Camp rocks camp. Centrikid offers a great assortment of track times ranging from muddy slip-and-slides to fingernail painting. The kids also have a blast playing games they selected. But, camp has only just begun.

Our campers highlight this year was the grand, final game, Organized Mass Chaos (OMC). Our kids loved entering the OMC playing field, racing through the pool noodle tunnel and screaming out their team cheer for the whole world to hear. When the game started, our kids went crazy smashing water balloons, making silly face, putting shaving cream on people, and holding impromptu dance parties as the valiantly pursued victory. For the kids of FBCE, OMC is the game of all games! Hence, they and I think Centrikid is amazing!

We veered over to the Shocco Springs location this year. We loved our new digs. The rooms were a definite upgrade. We all loved having a private bathroom. The amenities Shocco Springs were great.  The camp offered bazooka ball (a twist on paint ball, kayaking, and a blob on their lake. We quickly burned through our free time barely finding time for the all-important trip to the snack shop. Thus, I think Centrikid is amazing.

IMG_3436Most importantly, we loved Centrikid’s commitment to the Gospel. From the opening celebration to the closing celebration, the Gospel remained at the forefront of camp. The kids went to four different Bible studies throughout the weekend. They heard the gospel connected back to their track time games during water breaks. And, they heard the gospel clearly articulated from the stage by Pastor David. Our chaperones were also resonated with Pastor David when he illustrated God’s free gift of salvation by giving away candy to one blessed camper. Because the Gospel ebbed and flowed throughout every aspect of camp, the chaperones and I had multiple opportunities to talk with our campers about the gospel. For this reason most of all, I think Centrikid is amazing.

We loved Centrikid this year and cannot wait to go back next year! The only question remaining is: “Are you coming?”


3 Reasons FBCE Loves Centrikid

Centrikid-BLogI’m not sure how long Camp recovery is supposed to take. But I know it does not take long to realize that the kids of First Baptist Eastman had a great time at Centrikid. I am increasingly a fan of the Centrikid camps for the following three reason.

3 Reasons Centrikid Is Amazing:


The camp is all about the gospel. I appreciate that Centrikid takes the teaching of the gospel seriously. They have pastors lead the main worship time. Our Norman Park camp pastor, Stephen Makcen,  did an excellent job of discussing Ephesians and Romans with illustrations that the kids could relate to. I mean who hasn’t played playing football on their bed? And the small group times were built around practical application that links directly back to the main worship times. I am thankful that Centrikid calls our kids to follow Christ during all three days of the weekend camp.


The camp fosters relationships. By scheduling hangout times, facilitating church group times, and encouraging quiet times, the kids and the chaperones get to build meaningful relationships. We have the chance to play basketball together, to spray each other with water bottles, and to tell jokes over breakfast. But more importantly, we get the opportunity to share our testimonies and to talk about the how the gospel shapes our lives. I greatly appreciate that Centrikid does not just whisk away our kids and pretend to be the church for a few days. I love the fact that the Centrikid Camp is designed to support the relationships already being fostered in our kids’ ministry and church family.


Centrikid camp is just outright fun! Sure, we had one poor guy get stuck on his first OMC card for almost 10 minutes. We had another camper drink a Mellow Yellow at 10:30PM. And, I may have given more than one unintelligible instruction during the weekend. But despite all that and some home sick tears, our kids had a blast. They loved doing the Monkey Shuffle, sliding down the slip and slide, and getting covered in shaving cream! And by Sunday morning, even the previously home sick campers were all about coming back next year! As one guy said, “I wasn’t sure about it, but I did it. I survived!” Centrikid was amazing.

I am very thankful for all the staff that make Centrikid possible and for our three chaperones! We can’t wait for Centrikid  2017! Are you guys ready?