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Oct26WedSouthlands Community Church, Winnipeg, uses its summer day camp to offer children and families the keys to the Kingdom October 26, 2011 by Carson Samson
In the days leading up to her fourth year as a camper at Southlands Community Church KidsQuest Day Camp in south Winnipeg, Brooke (last name withheld) had been overheard complaining. “She looked forward to camp every year except this year,” says Monica, Brooke's mother. “Brooke felt she was old enough to stay home by herself and enjoy the occasional sleep-in.”
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After her first day of camp, however, Brooke's outlook changed. She quickly realized that not only had she grown up, but so had her friends, and there was still plenty for an independent 12-year-old to learn.
Brooke also made new friends who invited her to attend Southlands' Wednesday night youth group events. Like many other campers, Brooke has become part of the Southlands Community Church family, and that's exactly what camp organizers enjoy seeing.
The KidsQuest Day Camp program was held July 4 to August 12 at the corps for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 6. It is an essential part of fulfilling the Southlands Community Church vision: Declaring the glory of Jesus Christ among the nations (Psalm 96:3). Southlands is dedicated to reaching and discipling the next generation of children, youth and young adults for Christ, with a hope that they will come to know, love, serve and be fruitful followers of him.
Leading by Example
Strong leadership is key to the success of KidsQuest Day Camp and husband and wife team, Ben and Christina Kroeker, dedicate hours of hard work to the program. They have a vision for the advancement of the Kingdom through the service and training of youth.
“The camp theme, 'Keys to the Kingdom,' references the parables of Jesus with new object lessons and small group Bible studies each day,” says Christina Kroeker, who developed the camp's curriculum. “Every camper is given a Bible and is encouraged to dig deeper into the Word by highlighting passages and taking notes.”
The lessons have an immediate impact on the children, as they quickly become involved in conversations and provide their own thoughts on the parable of the day. “While a lot goes into a program like this, the program isn't everything,” says Christina Kroeker. “Spending time with the kids has the greatest impact on them.”
After two years as camp program director, Ben Kroeker has come to value teamwork. “Each member of the KidsQuest leadership team has incredible gifts that must be utilized,” he shares. “I may be the director, but I also clean the bathrooms like everyone else. Camp is a team effort and I am part of a great team!”
Cultivating Future Leaders
Building the next generation of strong leaders has been a cornerstone of KidsQuest Day Camp since the beginning, with the Leaders in Training (LIT) program introduced when the camp opened in 2007. The program provides participants aged 12 and older an opportunity to expand their camping experience by taking on additional responsibilities. This next stage in the camper's spiritual maturity is reinforced by a clear, affirming message: Southlands is invested in your future and will not leave you behind.
Each LIT is responsible for leading a small group through various tasks and activities, but the leadership goes beyond formal duties. Young leaders build tight bonds with the campers, sharing similar experiences and challenges from their time as KidsQuest campers.
Kevin Reid has been a LIT for four years. He still gets a kick out of participating in camp games, but finds greater joy in watching the younger campers develop spiritually. “These kids really get into their Bible lessons. It's important that they learn from and about the gospels, and come to understand that they too can live for Christ,” he shares with an enthusiastic smile.
What We Learned …
At the end of the week, kids and parents gather in Southlands' gym for the closing program. New electives, fashion design and stop-motion video, were among favourite activities, while the elaborate puppet show proved kids not only grasped the art of puppetry, but also the parables of Jesus.
Everyone will take something away from KidsQuest Day Camp. For Brooke, it is the anticipation of coming back next year as an LIT, while others have new bracelets and new friends.
“I will remember the joy and excitement on each face,” says Ben Kroeker. “That is what I'll take with me as I leave here and pursue future ministry.”
For the many families who have been blessed by the ministry of Southlands Community Church, it is an understanding that they have a place to worship, a place where Jesus Christ is glorified among the nations, and a place that offers hope, encouragement and an invitation to accept the keys to the Kingdom.
Photos: Carson Samson