Writers: Butch Blume and Scott Vaughan
Summertime is camp time, and upwards of 22,000 teens and children will spend a week or more at one of several South Carolina Baptist Convention-related camps in June, July and August.
And while all the camps offer fun and recreation, they also provide intensive Bible study, discipleship instruction and opportunities to serve in missions. Lives are changed at summer camp.
The settings are varied — at Camp McCall in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Upstate, at bustling college campuses in Anderson, Tigerville and Charleston, in the peaceful wooded remoteness of Camp La Vida, at the state convention’s White Oak Conference Center near Winnsboro — but the purpose is the same: to provide a safe environment for young people, in the company of their peers, to experience Christ in a focused and affirming way.
“Our goal is for camp to be fun, yes, but it’s also a discipling experience,” said Steve Rohrlack, who directs the SCBC’s Summersalt (for youth) and Kidsalt (for children) camps at White Oak. This summer, the two camps are expected to reach almost 3,700 young people with the gospel.
“What we want to do is stimulate thinking about the New Testament church and our calling to be missional and evangelistic,” said Rohrlack. Campers will study “Pray, Care, Share (3-2-1)” a strategy for evangelism taught by Lee Clamp, evangelism team leader for the SCBC. Students will be asked to identify three people for whom they will pray; from those three they’ll choose two to serve in a tangible way, then they’ll choose one for sharing the gospel.
At Camp La Vida, located next door to White Oak Conference Center, 1,300 girls and boys ages second through 12th grade will attend one of 10 weeks of camp. La Vida is operated by South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union and includes a healthy dose of missions programming (with global and stateside missionary speakers), but traditional camp experiences like archery, hiking, recreation, drama and crafts are also to be found in abundance.
Cindy Skelton, WMU associate, is camp director, and says this summer’s Bible studies will “focus campers on seeing God at work, knowing Jesus, salvation and God’s love.” Last year, 45 La Vida campers made first-time professions of faith in Jesus, she said.
Camp McCall, located off Highway 11 near the small town of Sunset in Pickens County, has provided a mountaintop Christian camping experience for nearly 129,000 boys during its 57 years of existence.
This summer, under the theme, “Every Life Saturated,” camp director “Spinner” Allen and his staff of college-age staffers will serve more than 2,000 1st-through-12th-graders over 12 sessions of camp. Contrary to conventional wisdom, campers don’t have to be RAs (Royal Ambassadors), said Allen. “We want every church to feel welcome here, whether they have RAs, Awana, something else, or nothing at all,” he said.
Allen spent summers at McCall as a boy and served as a staff member while in college. (That’s when he got his nickname — an unwritten requirement for all McCall staffers.) In 2015, he was tapped to head the operations at Camp McCall.
“What I’ve really been discovering since I’ve been back is the incredibly powerful way God has been changing lives, restoring relationships and calling boys, young men and men to Himself for over five decades,” he said. “My expectation is that He will continue to do that this summer.”
South Carolina’s three SCBC-affiliated colleges are also offering Christian youth camp opportunities this summer. North Greenville University and Charleston Southern University will host “Fuge” camps, which are sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Anderson University will offer six weeks of camp under the direction of evangelist Clayton King.
At North Greenville, more than 7,000 teens from South Carolina and other states are expected to participate in Centrifuge camps, where they will be divided into groups for recreation and Bible study based on age and will take part in creative, active, performance and classroom-based activities.
About 3,000 teenagers and adult leaders are expected to attend M-Fuge camp at CSU, where, in addition to recreational activities, they will focus on missions learning sessions as well as hands-on mission opportunities, leaving campus each day to serve in missions work around Charleston.
At Anderson University, close to 5,000 campers and their leaders will take part in Crossroads Summer Camps, where the aim is clear: “to preach the gospel and make disciples.” In 22 years of Crossroads Summer Camps, more than 70,000 6th-12th-graders have attended, said King, and more than 9,000 salvation experiences have been recorded. In excess of 140 churches are expected to take part in this summer’s Crossroads camps at Anderson University.
— Butch Blume is managing editor for The Courier. Scott Vaughan heads Scott Vaughan Communications, helping churches effectively convey themselves to their communities, and writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.