by David Reneau/ January 17, 2019
I have led vacation Bible school (VBS) almost every year of my ministry and had participated in VBS for as long as I can remember. When I first heard about MEGA Sports Camp (MSC), I was resistant, because I was very happy with the curriculum I was using. I had systems and procedures in place to put on a large VBS without having to reinvent the wheel every year.
However, over the past few years, I’ve seen a shift in my area. I was doing some well-known VBS programs, and our church was just one of many churches in my town doing those same programs. I also kept seeing the same kids from other churches come to our VBS without experiencing any real life change. I knew I had to try a different curriculum.
A ministry of my church takes place at a private school that serves kids from six weeks old to twelfth grade, and that has all the sports facilities and equipment I needed for MEGA Sports Camp. Hosting the camp seemed almost like a no brainer, so I decided to give it a shot this summer.
The following are the top five things I learned from my first MEGA Sports Camp experience:
Provide sports basics for younger kids. In years past, I’ve offered VBS for preschool as well as elementary. For the sake of simplicity and resource management, I decided to offer only preschool VBS to volunteer kids. They did a modified Sports Basics module and had great success. What this meant for the rest of the camp is that I had four-and five-year-old kids trying to learn the sports with the other kids. Some of these kids did great, but a lot of them struggled to focus and participate. Since most of my equipment and facilities were made for high schoolers, they couldn’t practice like the other kids. (Basketball was a struggle.) Next year, I will offer Sports Basics to upcoming kindergartners and first graders, separate from preschool, so they can learn how to play as a team, and really decide what sport they would like to play the following year.
As the three-hour plan called for, I put a ten-minute break between sports sessions one and two. In years past, we’ve been in classrooms where I could ring a bell to tell the leaders to move to the next session, but since we were spread all over the campus with many of the sports outside, the bell wasn’t an option. I trusted the coaches to keep track of the time, and as a result, many of the sports didn’t have small group time the first night. The sports sessions ran into each other and everyone took their break at snack time. I found myself throughout the week walking to each sport and making sure they took the break for small group time before snack time. Next year, I plan to do a two-and-a-half-hour program and incorporate small groups with snack time. In addition, I will have only two sports sessions, bookending snack time/small-group time instead of having three sessions. This way all the small group leaders will have a defined and focused time to spend with their group, and the coaches will be free to run their sessions as they see fit.
Mega Sports Camp is a lot less work than other VBS programs I’ve used. I said before that I used VBS materials before trying MEGA Sports Camp, and I still appreciate these programs. However, some VBS programs focus a lot on decorations, and this requires extensive work for small groups. As a result, I had regularly scheduled seven three-hour workdays, spread over several weeks, with some informal groups working in-between days. It was a lot of work, and by the time VBS rolled around, my team and I were exhausted. With MEGA Sports Camp, I decided to reduce my work days to four, because I didn’t need to decorate that much, and the small group time was discussion based instead of activity based. After the first worknight, I sent everyone home an hour early and canceled the rest of our meetings except for the Saturday before MSC. I planned for us to work for three hours or more on that day, but I sent everyone home after an hour, because we were finished! We went into the week of camp fresh and ready to minister instead of exhausted and almost burned out before we registered the first kid.
Head coaches loved it, long-time small group leaders were on the fence. Our head coaches were fantastic. Many of them had never participated in our VBS, but when I asked them to serve, they jumped at the opportunity. They had questions and ideas and loved every minute of their work. They were incredible, and honestly, this was the easiest recruiting job I’ve ever had for station leaders. However, my long-time small group leaders, who really loved being with the kids and building relationships, weren’t big fans. Because of the lessened time to talk and do activities with their kids, they didn’t get to know their group. Next year, not only do I plan to make the small group time more focused; I’m going to expand their time, and maybe add an activity, so relationships can really form throughout the week.
Mega Sports Camp has the best salvation call of any program. If you’ve run a five-day VBS, you know that Thursday is the big day. It’s salvation night, and the climax to everything you’ve been doing all week. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different salvation calls suggested in the curriculum. Some worked, some completely flopped, some were weird, and some were excellent. With some I saw a ton of kids respond, and with some I wasn’t sure if they were paying attention. One of the kids who came to our MEGA Sports Camp told his coach that he had never heard of Jesus before Monday. By Thursday, he was in tears, and responded to the call with repentance and gladness. Almost every kid in the room filled out a salvation card, saying they had accepted Christ or rededicated their life to Him. I even ran out of response cards, instead of having to throw away a third of them blank. I was very wrong and pleasantly surprised. No other program I’ve used has given us this kind of response.
If you’ve been thinking about using MEGA Sports Camp, I would encourage you to give it a try. The material was simple to put together and recruiting was easy. We offered all the sports, because we had the facilities and equipment; but even if we had done only one sport, I think our week would have been a success. I did have some families concerned about their kids who don’t like sports. However, many of those kids jumped into a sport anyway, and loved it. (My largest group was cheerleaders.) Next year I will consider adding some more tracks that are not sports based, to cater to these kids, and hopefully reach even more for Christ.
Have you done a Mega Sports Camp? What did you learn?
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