NEWPORT — “Fun in the Son“ has been a tradition for children in Holston Baptist Association churches ever since 1993 when two church children’s workers wanted to begin a summer camp for kids.
The camp was the brainchild of Judy Bennett (now deceased) of Calvary Baptist Church in Erwin, and Lori Tackett, then a volunteer children’s worker at Antioch Baptist Church in Johnson City.
Dianne Woody joined forces with them two years later when she became the children’s director at First Baptist Church, Greeneville.
“The camp kept growing,” said Woody who is now a member and volunteer at Arrowhead Baptist Church in Greeneville.
“Fun in the Son” later became a ministry of Holston Baptist Association under the leadership of then director of missions Tal Thompson. The camp is under an associational team comprised of Woody, Craig Ponder, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church, Limestone; Tammy Ponder, New Salem; Scott Greene, children’s minister, Chinquapin Grove Baptist Church, Bluff City; and Terri Graham, Calvary Baptist, Erwin.
The camp team is grateful for the support of Holston Baptist Association over the years.
Troy Rust, director of missions for Holston, noted the association has chosen intergenerational relationships as one of its core values.
“In addition to the evangelism, discipleship and fun you would expect from a Christian children’s camp, ‘Fun in the Son’ provides our children multiple opportunities to be influenced by and to build relationships with a variety of leaders and guests who can add considerable wisdom and insight to their worldview,” he noted.
The camp has been held at various locations over the years. It has been at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport since 2013 except during the COVID-19 years between 2020-22.
“Fun in the Son” returned to Carson Springs in June with 119 children and leaders from eight churches, the largest attendance since 2019 when they had 165 participants from 11 churches.
The camp is for children who have completed third grade through sixth grade, Woody said.
“This gives kids an opportunity to get away for good fun and to be around Christian leaders and adults who love them and want to see them grow in Christ,” she said.
She added that the camp is geared for both children who already have accepted Christ and those who have had little exposure to the gospel.
Tim Thompson of First Baptist Church, Morristown, served as this year’s camp pastor.
A theme is chosen for the camps each year. The 2023 theme was “Army of The One.”
One of the activities included making cards to send to people who are serving in the military. Among the military members receiving cards this year are two former participants in the “Fun in the Son” camps, Ponder added.
The camps have been around long enough where the leaders are now seeing “a second generation” of campers, Woody said.
Ponder also noted that this year’s camp included two counselors who are now college students who attended “Fun in the Son” when they were children.
The kids look forward to camp, Ponder observed. “They develop memories.”
While the camps provide plenty of opportunities for fun and games, there is a strong focus on worship as well, Woody said “The fun stuff and the crazy games are the bait to get them here. Then they can be saturated with the gospel.”
She noted “there is nothing more rewarding for a children’s minister than to see their children worship. Their worship is so pure.”
Ponder agreed. As a former children’s minister, he especially enjoys a week of returning to “his roots.”
Though he admits that he “can’t keep up with the kids” like he used to, Ponder never gets tired of “seeing the light come on in the eyes of the children when they get it (the gospel).”
Ponder is pleased that this year’s camp has shown signs of recovering from the COVID years.
“I pray the camp will continue to grow in the years ahead,” he said. B&R