NASHVILLE — This summer, more than 87,000 kids and students attended Lifeway camps with more than 475 summer staffers providing fun and inspiring experiences at FUGE Camps, CentriKid Camps, Student Life Camps and Student Life Kids Camps. Summer camps are spiritually edifying not just for campers; they also provide the training, experience and passion for camp staff that develop the next generation of ministry leaders.
Tiffany Hudson served five summers with FUGE Camps from 2005 through 2009 and felt called into full-time ministry through her camp experience. Today, Hudson serves as the Baptist Collegiate Ministry campus minister at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
“The ministry experience I gained with FUGE Camps is immeasurable,” she said. “I began as a timid 20-year-old, afraid to have a conversation with my own camp director and graduated to a seasoned ministry leader because of the opportunities presented to me through FUGE to teach and lead others.”
Hudson credits the pre-camp training as pivotal in giving her practical skills to work with others, be a team player and build community.
“I learned so much about how to do ministry with excellence. I learned how to lead students, how to teach Bible study, but also practical life skills like intentionality, conflict management and interpersonal relationship skills. I feel confident that without the training and hands on ministry experience I gained through FUGE Camps, I would be half the campus minister I am today,” Hudson said.
“Camp is exhausting but it’s the best kind of tired — the kind where you’ve poured yourself out physically and spiritually,” she continued.
“I quickly learned the importance of community and teamwork. I worked on teams where we welcomed anywhere from 800-1000 students and leaders to camp on a weekly basis. The only way for a camp staff of mostly college aged young adults to run a camp with that many participants is with a lot of Jesus and teamwork.”
She noted that many of those camp teammates “are now real-life friends that I continue to live in community with daily. My church pastor is my former camp pastor. My next door neighbor is my former camp roommate from the summer of 2005. We live life together, trade kids, encourage and pray for one another all these years later.
“Camp was a season of ministry for which I am forever grateful. It taught me about life and ministry,” Hudson affirmed.
Joe Hicks, manager of FUGE Camps, sees the value of summer staff experience for future ministry leaders.
“In the course of a summer with camp, a summer staffer will get many opportunities to teach a Bible study, lead small group recreation and be part of a ministry team,” he said. “All of these areas, when done well and to the best of their ability, will set them up for success in future ministries.”
Brandon Pisacrita was a teenager when he first attended MFuge – FUGE Camps designed to give students missions experience: “MFuge was my first experience of Christian service,” Pisacrita said. “I vividly remember that week being so eye opening, growing my faith. Later, God opened opportunities for me to serve as a FUGE Camp staffer for eight summers.” After working at FUGE Camps, Pisacrita became a teacher and served bivocationally as a worship and youth leader in his church.
In 2013, Tim Wells began working at CentriKid Camps as a Bible study leader.
“I fell in love with camp that summer,” Wells said. “During my next summer, I began thinking and wondering if I could do ministry full time investing in kids, but I just downplayed that thinking.”
After two summers, he became a camp pastor, and almost every week, leaders from other church groups were asking him if he was going to pursue full-time ministry.
“I would respond no, but I sensed the Lord calling me into it,” he said. “I eventually surrendered to the call and have been in full-time ministry for five years now.”
Wells is now the junior high minister at First Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas, where he uses the skills he honed at camp to help students grow closer to Jesus.
Jeremy Echols, manager of CentriKid Camps, said not all camp staffers have intentions of serving in full-time ministry as a career. “But my hope is that all staffers leave camp viewing their life and career as a ministry opportunity,” he said. B&R