Despite all the interruptions to normal life this year, one thing is staying the same this year: volunteers from many CBOQ churches are gearing up to share the love of Jesus with children from their communities. How they do has changed, but the vision remains unaltered.
I had the privilege of speaking with four of the leaders from our family of churches that are working hard to prepare. All four ran programs last year, and hope to provide an experience for children this year too. Here is a little of what they shared:
Wyoming Regular Baptist Church
Last year, Wyoming Regular Baptist Church (WRBC) offered a Drama Camp (1 week), a Science Camp (1 week), and a Music Camp (1 day/week in July). Staff and volunteers are ready to welcome community members with enthusiasm. This year, camp is moving over to Zoom. Certainly, things are a little different, and no one can predict how many children will log on. Videos will be pre-recorded and posted to YouTube. Zoom calls will account for time together. Crafts and experiments will still happen, albeit differently. Volunteers, who are prepped to go the extra mile, will deliver supplies to the kids so they can work on the same things and share this experience as much as possible, though figuring out how to do the “mud bowl” events will be a new challenge for Pastor Darryl.
The challenge WRBC faces remains the same every year. They need volunteers. Weekly, teachers host 12-20 children, but come summer, those numbers climb to 50-75 children. They ask that we pray for God’s guidance on moving in the right direction so they can reach kids for Christ.
Immanuel Baptist Church, Blind River
Pastor Patrick Garrett describes the Summer 2019 program as a “hyped up VBS”. Previously, children would gather at the church each morning, load onto a bus, and drive to a local campground. There they would spend the day engaged in Bible study, crafts, archery, songs and more. This summer, it is still uncertain whether any program can move ahead or not. The team is waiting and watching to see what directive the government will offer, and continue to live in hope that camp will happen at all—be it in person or online. Pastor Patrick adds that they feel they have an advantage: being a smaller community, space for physical distancing is not an issue.
Difficulty promoting and planning so quickly may pose a challenge for Immanuel Baptist Church. This experience is usually promoted to families in the community through other activities, like the local soccer league, all of which are canceled due to COVID-19. In spite of all the obstacles, their prayer is this: that they would remain mindful of the families and children that may get missed without such widespread promotions. Their desire goes beyond the Summer; to start strong in the fall ministry season, connecting with parents and children.
Queensway Baptist Church, Brantford
Kids Camp, in 2019, was a half-day program that ran for one week. Volunteers from Queensway Baptist Church (QBC) poured energy, resources and care into approximately 150 students. In 2020, (like everything else,) Kids Camp is going to look quite different. Some of the elements include: pre-recorded opening assembly videos announcing themes, Zoom calls for age groups a couple times during the week, craft videos with a secure online place for kids to share what they have done and a live stream at the end of each day for leaders to react to what the kids have shared and remind them of the key Scripture. A returning Summer Student has been given the lead and is shining.
One more new element to Kids Camp this year is a separate group of volunteers that form the “Parents Connection Squad”. Details are being worked out about the best ways for this squad to connect with parents, but the goal is to make sure all the parents know they are welcome in the arms of God and at QBC.
Pouring all their resources and efforts into one week of program can sometimes leave this team wondering, “Would we reach more children if we divided our resources and offered Kids Camp for more than one week?” Sometimes it is hard to be sure how to maximize our opportunity for sharing Jesus with our neighborhood. We can support QBC by joining them in praying that God will guide them to two families they can connect with, in relationship, and that those families will come to know Jesus personally.
Logos Baptist Church Miliken, Markham
The summer program offered by Logos Baptist Church (LBC) ran for six weeks in 2019: Monday to Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm. The children’s track is grades JK-4; the leadership track is grades 5-8. As things shift to online platforms, the hours are changing (10-12am, 1-3pm), and so are the lessons. Bible teaching will be condensed to 20 minutes. So that games can remain active, they may look more like a challenge or suggestion for kids to take a small break and go outside. Each day will still have four components: games, Bible teaching, crafts, and life skills.
One of the challenges facing the LBC team is a lack of training for working with children with special needs. The team is young with little experience, and this year they are unsure what they will need to do to support those children online. Please pray all the kids will accept Christ’s love and that the team will have wisdom in reaching out to parents, too.
So… if summer 2020 is such a challenge, why not wait until 2021? The answer to this question is clear in the replies I was given when I asked about the joy each of these ministries brings.
“…to see kids joyful in learning about God.”
“… getting dirty with the kids, having fun, seeing community kids experience God’s love!”
“…it is in offering children a safe, personal experience of fun and Christian education.”
“There are so many! The joy is being with the kids; youth discipleship opportunities when kids graduate from this into the youth group; planting seeds of the gospel; being trusted by our community; training youth to lead; and seeing the church serving for Jesus.”
Whatever it is your church is or is not planning for this strange Summer season, I hope these churches will inspire you to ask, “Is there a way I can share the good news of Jesus in my neighbourhood?”