Summer is a universal fun time that means sun, sand and sleeping in late.
In the Christian Life Center at Shades, summer means one thing – KidsKamp! KidsKamp is an outreach of the recreation ministry that serves families in and around our community by offering affordable childcare for children who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade. What started nine years ago with a small group of 10 kids for three weeks of the summer has quickly grown into a gregarious gathering of 130 kids for 10 weeks each summer.
Our kids come to the CLC each day for rotations of art, Bible and recreation with afternoons filled with a range of activities from archery to cooking, watercolors to slip n’ slides. Throughout all of the fun, there is one pivotal thread that runs … the Good News of Christ.
Our kids come to us from all sorts of backgrounds, including faith backgrounds. We like to think that life is easy for kids, but in reality many are exposed to things at a young age that would keep adults up at night. For some of our kids we are a place to play and be silly, but for others we are a safe place where they are loved and receive food and care that might be difficult at home.
This summer we were honored to love on kids from foster care, Urban Purpose, divorced homes and traditional homes and the Lord - in His goodness - gave us the privilege of pouring into these kids and sharing Gospel Truths with them, many for the first time. In our nine years we have had over 100 new brothers and sisters added to the family of God! This summer was no different! Several children made decisions of faith to accept Christ or make the next step of obedience in baptism and many others received Bibles for the very first time.
I was raised by a single mother and spent a great deal of time in daycare while mom worked to keep food on our table and a roof over our heads. It wasn’t difficult for me to look around and realize that my daily life looked very different from my friends. I knew that God loved me and Jesus died for me, but I had trouble understanding, at times, why life was hard for our family.
In the afterschool program I attended, it was clear that Catherine, the program director, was there because the Lord called her to share the Gospel by loving on “her” kids. Catherine was a safe place to ask my questions and vent my frustrations. She was a disciple of Christ that was making me a little disciple with her consistent love and patience.
Twenty years later I can see how Catherine changed my life without me even noticing. When I joined the staff at Shades almost three years ago, I knew that I wanted to work with children but I had no idea how the Lord would continue redeeming my past by placing me in a place where I could serve the next generation of kids with questions and frustrations.
This summer we were home for 233 families and less than 20 of them are Shades attenders. Our staff gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the ways we play, act silly and share God’s goodness with kids and their families, even with simple things like meeting basic needs! We have had the honor of providing food and clothing to families in need, foster parents, single parents, incorporating them into our KidsKamp and even Shades family.
The work is not done, either. Starting this week we transition from summer silliness to school time structure with our After the Bell program. We’ll go from 130 kids each day to 70, but we will continue with playing and sharing the Gospel and replace our art projects with homework time.
Working with kids, as any teacher will tell you, is oftentimes a marathon where you hope for the best but don’t see results until much further down the road. KidsKamp and After the Bell are no different. Each day our kids hear a Bible story and a weekly Gospel presentation where they are given a chance to ponder and respond to what God’s gift of Jesus means for their life.
Please pray for our ministry as we rejoice in all the Lord has done this summer and prepare for this school year with After the Bell. May our counselors and staff know that they are adding to the Kingdom, even if it looks like dodgeball or helping with spelling words and math assignments. May we guard our tongues and attitudes so that we do good and not harm. May we heed the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-7; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”