Few things are more universal in churches than summer camps. They vary in size, location, and amenities, but almost every church goes to a camp of some sort. I wasn’t able to ascertain exactly when camps started, but I can say for certain that they have evolved over the years. An older lady at my church told me they used to take live chickens with them to camp in order that they could have eggs all week. The big treat of the week then came at the end when they had fried chicken. While many churches still have cooks who go with them to prepare meals, I doubt there is any slaughtering of livestock.
One of the biggest summer camps in the world is located less than an hour from my church, Falls Creek Baptist Campgrounds. A ministry of Oklahoma Baptists, it has been meeting for more than 100 years and sees thousands of students come through each summer. In addition to 8 weeks of youth camps, there is a week dedicated for Native American churches, children camp hosted by local associations, and recently it began hosting the national collegiate week camp. This summer over 50,000 (yes you read that right) campers will come through the gates at Falls Creek. This past summer there were over 3,200 children, students, and adults come to know Christ. In addition to that, there were hundreds who surrendered to ministry, and countless more who repented and got their lives back on track with God. At the 100 year celebration in 2017 it was said that over 60k people had professed faith at Falls Creek.
Over the years Falls Creek has progressed from sleeping outside in tents to a new modern and spacious indoor tabernacle, and from a choir and orchestra to modern bands. Change is inevitable at summer camps, but it was all made possible through the support of local churches in Oklahoma. Many notable Baptist leaders preached at Falls Creek, like Herschel Hobbs, John Bisagno, and Baker James Cauthen, the former head of the International Mission Board. You can listen to Cauthen preach on at Falls Creek on the SBC History Podcast.
It’s impossible to know the impact of camps in Baptist life, and most everyone has a place that is near and special to them. From Glorietta to Ridgecrest, Baptist’s have been working together to make sure that students hear the gospel and have the chance to give their lives to him for more than a century. What summer camp did you go to growing up, or what camp does your church go to now? Take time to pray for all those students who went to camps this summer as they return to school, that God would work and solidify the decisions they made this summer. Summer camps are just another way that Southern Baptists work together for the spread of the gospel.