By TBMB Conference Centers Team
Carson Springs and Linden Valley are places of spiritual significance designed to provide a transformational experience for all who visit. Whether it is the 8-year-old away from home for the very first time or the high school senior who is enjoying her 10th annual summer camp, every one that attends Journey Camp or Impact Camp realizes that just being away from the busyness of life and in a place of quiet refuge creates an environment where the Holy Spirit can bring about transformation.
Journey Camp for Children and Impact Camp for Youth are camps provided for churches where the gospel is proclaimed, discipleship skills developed, and enjoying God’s nature is a full-time activity. These events and others are held at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport (near the North Carolina state line) and Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden (on the banks of the Buffalo River in Perry County). Both camps and both facilities are owned and operated by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“We want these events to be all about making a difference in these kids’ lives,” said Tim Bearden, senior manager for both conference centers. Referencing Romans 12:2, Bearden states, “The world in which these kids live today more than ever before seeks to conform them to something other than what the Lord wants them to be. Journey and Impact seek to be an instrument of transformation to a Kingdom perspective.”
The recording of several hundred decisions every summer is showing that such a transformation is happening. “Impact Camp is very intentionally evangelistic in our approach,” according to Jeff Williamson, Impact Camp coordinator. “We also know, though, that many of the youth who come want to grow in their faith and the exercise of their faith, so we spend a lot of time exploring the Scripture and applying that to their daily lives.”
Research has also documented that attending summer camps is often a lifetime transformational experience according to David Evans, TBMB evangelism specialist and baptism team leader. Evans quotes his doctoral thesis when he says “Student camps for children and teenagers were found to be significant when it comes to young adult church attendance for the past three complete generations. Environments such as camps were significant in the spiritual development of millennials. Moments in the child’s and teenager’s life that allow the individual to get away from the normal busyiness of life and concentrate on spirituality is healthy as pertaining to future church attendance.”
While future church attendance as young adults is important, the here and now is also very critical to many of the adult sponsors that come with the children and youth. “Getting away from the normal routine is what coming to camp is about and seeing the look in the youth’s faces when they are here solidify that this is where we are supposed to be,” according to Bill Mason from Estill Springs First Baptist Church. The intimacy of camp also creates an openness that doesn’t always happen on Sundays. Adam Stayer of Lantana Road Baptist Church, Crossville, notes, “Many of our young men dealt with issues they may not have felt comfortable speaking about in class. The camp environment was a blessing.”
Transformation will often look a little different with the children at camp. Julie Heath, Journey Camp coordinator, observes that childhood now is so different from 20 years ago. However, kids are still kids.
“At camp, children get to be kids — playing ball, fishing, playing games, swimming, going non-stop from morning to night — having fun! In the midst of that, we get children to a place where play and fun is alongside learning about who God is and how we can get to know Him better,” she continued.
“As we have the chance to touch the lives of the next generation, Journey Camp staff and church leaders teach campers the stories of Scripture, while helping them learn how to study the Bible for themselves,” Heath said.
She also added that “it makes me smile to see pastors, children’s ministers, and parents serving alongside one another as church sponsors.
“These adults give their time to be a part of transforming the lives of children. The children come to love and trust these leaders and it’s a beautiful thing to see a child walking outside the dining hall ask their pastor how to become a Christian,” she said.
Both Journey and Impact camps include worship, Bible study, fellowship, and a multitude of track times where the campers can participate in various games, crafts, swimming, kayaking, zip lines, and much more. A very important feature of both camps is the group time when each church group in attendance gathers and shares what they are learning and experiencing. This is often when decisions for Christ are made or shared.
These camps not only transform individuals. They also transform the groups that attend. Kyle Anson of Highland Park Baptist Church noted, “I was completely surprised by how much the Lord gave us a sense of peace at the camp. Our group truly unified with lots of Scripture readings, prayer, and fellowship.”
Amber Devore of Faith Church observed, “It was a great backdrop for getting away to reconnect with each other, with God, and to get to know other couples in our church better.”