One of the highlights of summer for me is getting to speak at children’s camps. I love the energy. I love the worship times. And I love talking with so many different churches and hearing what God is doing in their communities.
This past week, I was at a camp in Smackover, AR. If’ you’ve never been through this booming metropolis, you’re missing out. It has one stop-light that is anchored to a cement pylon in the middle of Main Street intersection. It is definitely a site to see.
The town and most of south Arkansas for that matter has been hit really hard by the economic downturn. And that has greatly affected churches. But God is still doing some awesome things. As I went through the week, I noticed a few things that were very encouraging.
First, I noticed that these churches have instilled in their kids a high value for the Word of God. These kids were quick to open to the Scripture that I was speaking from and they were eager to read along and make notes as we discussed. It was awesome to see this generation so passionate about Scripture.
Second, I noticed that these churches are eager to minister to preteens. Most of the churches in this region are rural, small, and old. They average attendance is definitely well under 100, and most of the congregation is probably over 50. Even if the majority is under the age of 50, the over-50 population is definitely footing the bill for ministry and thus making it tough to try new things. But even still, these churches were open to new ideas and trying new methods to reaching the preteens in their community. I sat down with the leadership of one church and discussed their ministry to preteens. They wanted to ask me some questions and get some advice, but I definitely walked away feeling like they had taught me a thing or two. Despite their size and their age, they had ventured into preteen ministry and were having huge success. They were running a preteen worship service that was growing to be about 60% of their church population. And they weren’t resting on that accomplishment! Instead, they were asking “how do we take these kids and get them involved in Sunday School/Small Groups?” It was awesome to see this passion for preteens.
And last, I recognized that God uses all ages to minister to preteens. The awesome part of camp is seeing those that God has called into leadership at churches. In one group you’ll have the 20-something college student who is full up bubbling energy that is like a super-hero to the kids, and in another group you’ll have the 80-something grandmother who is pouring out pounds of love on the kids in her group. And God is using both of them to impact the lives of preteens. I quickly realized that there is no “target demographic” when you’re looking for preteen leaders. This age group responds well to young and old, and God will definitely use both to speak into their lives.
I had an awesome time last week at camp. I’m still recovering from the camp food, but I can’t wait to do it all over again next week!