Originally published in Western Recorder – www.westernrecorder.org
LOUISVILLE—Excitement fills a worship center as 700 students make their way into “Morning Cel.” Music is pumped through the speakers and summer staff dances and cheers in the aisles, their energy spreading throughout the crowd. The morning is off to a good start with breakfast having already taken place an hour earlier. It’s another day at Crossings Camps.
Minutes into the program, a T-rex rushes onto the stage for a “T-rex dance party. The sounds of laughter from the room full of students echoes. More time is spent explaining the students’ events for the day, announcing the youth minister of the day, and hyping the kids up about camp, Jesus and missions. Soon after, the 700 voices join in worship.
The atmosphere calms some as the high schoolers gather for Bible study. In keeping with the theme “Outsiders,” the camp pastor for the week walks the group though a passage of scripture, setting up what will be discussed during small group time afterwards. The junior high schoolers are already there.
Soon after, the lunchroom floods with students and excitement. “I’m a moose! I’m a moose! I’m a moose!” is exclaimed across the room. Everyone within earshot replies, “Yeah you are!” and all involved return to their food. This is just one of the activities known as “Lunch Games.”
Next, the students rush to their connect time with their groups or their POIs (points of interest). On one side of the campus, a friendly game of bazooka ball (a less painful version of airsoft) takes place. Across camp, students zipline through hills and trees. On the blob, a junior higher is propelled into the air by a senior. The junior higher splashes to the safety of the lake. Those who have gotten “out” in an intense game of “GaGa Ball” cheer on their friends and rivals from outside the small wooden arena. Organized chaos ensues.
Even during the hubbub of activities, though, staff can be seen pointing campers to Christ, drawing connections between games and the gospel.
Those at connect time are scattered across the campus with open Bibles, journals and hearts. Many group leaders designate this time for personal quiet time. Others use it as time to discuss what they have learned and how they have been challenged.
After a short bout of free time, the dining hall fills up for dinner. This time, there are no games and the atmosphere is marginally more peaceful.
All 700 campers, their chaperones, leaders, camp staff, and interns return to the worship center. The sermon they hear is saturated with and centered around the core of Crossings Ministries, the gospel. The service ends with the voices joining together in praise to the Lord. They are dismissed to “Checkpoint,” a time to talk with and pray with their youth groups and make or share decisions.
The evening ends with shack time, where the summer staffers make a point to connect with each student in their small group and talk gospel. If the student wants to make a decision that day, whether it be answering a call to salvation, the ministry, or some other decision, the staffer takes them to a church chaperone or their group leader. This is part of Crossings push for discipleship and goal to be church-centered.
A typical day at Crossings Cedarmore campus in Bagdad feels much like this. Their Jonathan Creek (Hardin) campus’ day looks very similar.
One of Crossings’ main focuses is discipleship through the church, making everything they do church-centric. This is why, instead of an altar call per say, they have time for each church group to come together and discuss decisions and what God is doing in their hearts directly after the close of the service. The same approach is taken when a staffer shares the gospel with a student, and takes them to a church group leader to talk through each decision.
Seth York, associate director of the Cedarmore campus, tells group leaders at the beginning of each week, “We know week in, week out, you’re sitting here, giving truth to these students. Then they are going to go and sit in a classroom with one of these 19 year-olds, and this kid is going to say something to them, and they’re going to go, ‘This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Why has nobody told me this?’ That’s going to happen, I’m sorry about that.” He shared that this is where Crossings finds it key to point the student back to a group leader.
Trevor Atwood, lead pastor at City Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., cites the church-centric discipleship focus of Crossings as his reason for returning for the last few years as camp pastor for a week.
“I love their emphasis on continual discipleship for the students that goes into their local church. I’m not going to partner with any camp that doesn’t put the emphasis on students connecting with their church, their youth leaders, and their pastors for discipleship. Crossings does that in a great, great way. Everything is toward the local church, toward discipleship, and there is not just an emphasis on a camp experience. That’s why I love coming up here,” Atwood shared.
Cody McLellan, a summer staffer for the last three summers, who also spent a week each summer in high school as a camper at Crossings, agreed with someone he once heard who called his job, “The hardest job I’ll ever love.”
McLellan continued, “It’s tough. But being able to see different students every week and pour into their lives and hear their story, there’s nothing better. It’s like being on the mission field, but they’re bringing people to you.”
“More than a camp”
Despite all the gospel-centered fun that is to be had at Crossings Camps, it is so much more than a camp, Jeff Darlymple, president of Crossings since 2016, shared.
“Last summer alone, Crossings gave $1.25 million to missions. By the close of the 2017 camp season, the ministry will have seen around 13,500 campers and their chaperones come through both campuses combined this year,” he noted.
“Regionally we’re best known for our summer camp ministries, but outside of that, Crossings wants to produce resources equipping and encouraging those serving in youth ministry and family ministry,” Darlymple said. “Summer camp is just one of several opportunities that we provide to serve and partner with the local church.”
Other ways in which Crossings is seeking to serve the church and reach and disciple young people besides their traditional teen and kids summer camp is through “focus camps,” including Truth in Public, for older high school students to “engage the public and shape worldview;” Crossings Underground, a “leadership style camp for students that are already believers;” and Crossings on Mission, a “missions based camp in Chicago and Eastern Kentucky,” Adam Tait, Crossings marketing and communications specialist, shared. These opportunities are available either this year or next.
Additionally, a defining component of Crossings is its missions focus, particularly their partnership with Baptist Haiti Mission. Crossings sends several short-term teams to Baptist Haiti Mission to serve the church there in evangelism, outreach, and work projects.
In a “Crossings Says Thanks” type campaign, the ministry is looking to use scholarship money to make the camp experience available to adoptive/foster care children, active military children, and missionary kids for only $25 for the week.
Initiated by a generous donation by a lady who had a passion for the ministry of Crossings, Crossings is starting a scholarship fund to offer to students who typically would not be able to afford camp, in order to “diversify our ministry and reach more students with the gospel,” Darlymple shared.
In addition, York says his favorite part of the ministry at Crossings is the internship program. “My favorite part is the time that they get to spend in our homes throughout the year,” York said. He appreciates the way that he and his wife get to invest in them as a pair and that the interns get to experience family life.
Each year, interns are hired, typically right out of college, who spend time contributing to the team at Cedarmore, Jonathan Creek, or the central office in the Kentucky Baptist Building. In addition to their day-to-day work, once a week they video conference with the intern teams from the other sites for training. The purpose of the internship is to provide practical ministry preparation. Many of the interns were once summer staffers themselves.
Crossings purpose and goal
Referencing John Dickerson’s book, “The Great Evangelical Recession,” Darlymple cited the statistic that two-thirds of students who grew up in the church will never return after graduation. “That statistic is alarming. It should be a wakeup call for the church,” Darlymple commented. “Those are some of the reasons that lead me to Crossings, because I think as the evangelical, cultural landscape is changing, the church needs to step up, not back down from the gospel, to play out the gospel.”
Darlymple continued, speaking of the future of Crossings, “We need to equip churches for the discipleship that I talk about. It’s not a new program; it’s not a new curriculum. It’s just good ole’ discipleship that Jesus did. We’ll continue to offer camp as we’ve always offered camp, but we want to provide more discipleship opportunities for students and for churches in the future to reach that next generation.”
For information on how to partner with Crossings in reaching students and ministering to their parents and leaders or for more on the camp experience, visit www.gocrossings.org. (WR)
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