Deeply desiring outreach ministry to their community, Rhyne Memorial UMC in Red Springs, NC, utilized the Living the Word program to help reach their goal. Living the Word is specifically designed for developing collaborative outreach ministry with other churches. Their outreach project – a summer camp – was a hit with campers and parents.
Known as “Living the Word,” the camp operated weekdays, June 18 – July 27, from 9 am to 2 pm. About 60 children attended from Red Springs and the surrounding area. The age span was wide – 5 to 18 years old – and about evenly divided between elementary-aged children and middle-high school teens.
Camp planning started with community publicity and ground rules. Word got out via flyers, newspaper, and radio. Interested children and their parents attended an orientation at the church where they learned camp rules, dress code, and conduct expectations.
Camp design was based on children’s responses about what they wanted in a summer program: prayer and devotion, tutoring in reading and math, arts and crafts projects, and recreation. Breakfast and lunch were part of each day, and on Tuesday and Thursday – field trips!
Some field trips were just plain fun, like swimming, skating and bowling outings. Others, like a visit to the Robeson County Museum, were educational, too. And some…well, they were life-changing.
Teens benefited from guest speakers and field trips that helped them develop positive goals for their lives. High-school youth toured area universities (Pembroke, Methodist, and Fayetteville State), learning about scholarship opportunities, required GPAs, degree majors, and sports.
Teens also saw with clarity how risky behavior can derail achievement of these positive goals. One day was particularly poignant, focusing on the path to criminal behavior and its harsh consequences. A member of Rhyne Memorial gave a powerful testimony about his past drug use and association with the wrong crowd – a lifestyle that landed him in prison. His road back was hard but, thanks to God, he is living his second chance. Then came the field trip – older campers toured the Robeson county jail. This first-hand look at life behind bars had an impact on many of the boys who seemed to change their outlook on life.
Community and congregational collaboration was critical to the camp’s success. The list of community leaders who shared their expertise is long: police chief and officers, fire chief, town mayor, town manager, county health department staff, and hospital staff. Campers learned about CPR, fire safety and prevention, dental hygiene and –for older youth – STDs and dangers of premarital sex.
Area congregations representing various denominations pitched in to help with the daily workload. Volunteers offered devotions, provided reading and math tutoring, created arts and crafts projects, led recreation activities, staffed the kitchen, purchased supplies, chaperoned field trips, drove vans, kept track of registration records and… just offered extra hands. Church staff and members from Rhyne Memorial UMC worked alongside volunteers from Jones Missionary Baptist, St. James AMC Zion, Zion Baptist, and Walls Chapel UMC.
And the high school sophomore who said the camp changed his life? He has remained in school and attended the church on an irregular basis. Both, most certainly, are signs of hope …and a powerful God.
More about Living the Word: Living the Word helps churches to develop community ministries that reveal God’s love in action. It utilizes coaching as a strategy for a cohort of churches to develop a collaborative outreach ministry to their community. Living the Word is a program of the NCCUMC and is coached by Dr. Micheline Ridley Malson, independent consultant, and Steve Taylor, outreach ministry team coordinator for NCCUMC. Living the Word-Red Springs is a collaboration of Rhyne Memorial UMC, Red Springs Presbyterian Church, Trinity UMC, Walls Chapel UMC, and Mt. Zion UMC.
Article is adapted from a story that appeared in the North Carolina Conference Christian Advocate (October 2012) by Micheline Ridley Malson, a Living the Word coach, and Deidre Gales, coordinator of evangelism and outreach, and summer camp director at Rhyne Memorial UMC.