Evangelism is the act of publicly sharing the good news of Jesus Christ by our words or actions. The Seventh-Day Adventist church holds strongly on public evangelism to the adult market, but what about the children? We have programs for kids such as Sabbath school, Vacation Bible School, day cares, summer camps, and even our Christian educational system. These are powerful programs that the church has grown and developed over time. We see them as ministries, but do we truly see them as “Evangelistic”?
Several years ago, God placed on my heart to be intentional on the evangelistic side of my personal ministry which is summer camp. Camp is a powerful evangelistic tool that the church must use in order to connect children with God and Nature. He placed on my heart that every camper needs to be given an opportunity to not only hear about Jesus, but to see Jesus in every aspect of camp and in their counselors’ actions, not only their words.
I began seriously dissecting my camp program. All the way from marketing, to training the staff, programming, activities, music, and every other aspect of the camp experience. As I began dissecting, I found many things that were not intentional with sharing Jesus with kids, this doesn’t mean we were doing things bad, we just weren’t being intentional. It had become somewhat of an entertainment system rather than an evangelistic system of intentionally sharing Jesus in everything we did.
We took 2 years to redesign our program, taking all these things into consideration and left an open mind thereafter for God to lead in the decision-making process and keep that evangelistic ideology at the front of our decisions. Some of the things we did was to be intentional with all the times we had to verbally share, such as:
· Cabin devotion times – we realized that some counselors were stronger than others in their devotional lives therefore the kids experience would be reflected by that level of strength. This find helped us design a cabin worship book that gave more consistency in the devotion time that the counselor had with the kids. We also realized that the cabin was not a great place for this to happen because getting ready for bed would sometimes trump a solid devotion. We moved this time to after campfire where the pastor would speak and called it small group time so they would have a dedicated time in a controlled environment.
· Programs and activities – We dissected our program and activity times, if program times were not being intentional, we changed them. We understand that kids want to have fun and it is ok to show the loving, fun side of being with God when we live in His light. We feel that it is important to show campers what living in His light can bring us. There is peace in our lives when we play together and have fun together in God. Teaching good sportsmanship, taking time to explain why in love and not in frustration helps children learn how to act and behave in challenging situations. This is where staff training comes into play.
· Staff training – I believe as a church it is imperative to train our teachers, pathfinder directors, summer camp counselors, and even our volunteers on how to help our kids learn new behaviors. Many times, this is where everything falls apart because we are so thankful just to have someone who is willing to take on a roll of leadership that after nominating committee is over, the hiring process is complete, or the volunteer is obtained, we as leaders, move on to the next hot item and the new volunteer/’employee is left to fend for themselves and is never really trained. One of the things we intentionally do is to teach our summer camp staff on looking for times to evangelize. How many times can you find each day/week to sit down with each camper and ask them about their relationship with Jesus. When was the last time a teacher took the time to stop a math lesson and ask a student about their relationship with God? Same with Pathfinders, same with summer camp. If we are not stopping and asking children “do you know God and how can I help you know him better” then we are not truly being evangelistic. Train your staff to ask these questions and feel comfortable about it.
Ray Queen is the Executive Director of Camp Blue Ridge, Potomac Conference of SDA