HIGH SPRINGS (FBW)—As “Staycations” began to replace vacations the past few years, youth leaders from First Baptist Church in High Springs looked for an alternative to taking their youth to a wilderness campus in North Carolina the last week of July.
The idea for “Camp Re_Set” was born—a home-grown youth event bedding students on the floor of the church’s gym, organizing recreational times, and utilizing DiscipleNow weekend material.
“Camp Re_Set” is now one of the highlights of the church calendar for First Baptist teens and their unchurched friends.
When Billy Stephens was called as First Baptist’s youth pastor seven years ago, he began the tradition of taking the youth to a wilderness camp in North Carolina during the last week of July. The 2010 summer camp in the mountains was “the best ever,” he said, although he began thinking that he may eventually try something different.
When “camp push” time came in January 2011, the list of youth signed up for summer camp was a tenth of the usual 60. Stephens talked with parents and discovered the national recession was hitting home. The $400 per student price tag was too much for parents to manage, especially for families that had several children wanting to attend camp.
“We had to re-evaluate. We were saying, ‘We just can’t not have camp.’ What we found out is that this was a momentum builder—a real catalyst for growth,” he said.
Stephens and camp leaders, including recreation director Heath Brannen, small group director Kevin Brill, and kitchen coordinator Amanda Humphries, decided to design their own camp, roughly on the pattern of DiscipleNow weekends, in which college students teach small groups of teens. They named the event “Re_Set” with a nod to teens’ knowledge of electronics.
“If something goes wrong on your device, you can hit the reset key and it will go back to the way it was designed to function,” Stephens said.
For several years the church had designated the Wednesday night supper profits as the camp bus fund, so Stephens asked the church to change the designation to simply “camp.” With the cost savings of staying in High Springs for camp, the fund brought the cost per student down to $50.
Youth leadership, however, chose to set the price at $100 and tell those who register they could bring an unchurched friend at no charge. Sixty teens—church kids and their unchurched friends—attended in 2011.
“I used to hear kids saying they missed camp in North Carolina, and I’d have to tell them that God is in High Springs, too. With staying locally, we don’t hear that. The kids identify their God-moments with their hometown,” Stephens said.
The 2012 “Camp Re_Set” grew to 96, and Stephens said the camp was “one of the greatest movements I’ve seen of the Holy Spirit moving in students.” Six months later the group “was still fired up,” he said.
The 2013 “Re_Set: Update” event, July 21-25, saw another 50 percent increase; 136 students slept on the floors of the church’s two gyms and rose to study and play together. Afternoon recreation included a rotating schedule of laser tag at the church, a movie in Gainesville and tubing down the Ichetucknee River. Adults from First Baptist—not the camp staff—stayed overnight in the gyms with the students.
“The camp staff has to sleep,” he said.
Members of the church staff, including Pastor Derek Lambert, spoke during worship times in the mornings and evenings, and small group studies were led by students from the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville. The small group times were “lead-ins or follow-ups to God’s Word that has been spoken in worship,” Stephens said.
The 2014 “Re_Set: Feedback” will be under the direction of Youth Pastor Nick Carter since Stephens was named pastor for spiritual development the first day of “Re_Set”. Stephens said he depended on Carter this year for many of the administrative responsibilities, and he does not envy the coordination it will take if the camp continues to grow by 50 percent in 2014.
“It’s a lot of work, but it is a joy to see God work in their lives. It’s incredible to see how God has communicated with our students,” he said.
Each year students are asked to post their personal testimonies on a camp Facebook page within 24 hours after the close of Re_Set. Here are three of dozens of responses:
“That boy on the front row got reborn a year ago tomorrow … God took this rebel, this liar, this church boy and made me brand new … I’m not ashamed to talk about how He saved me from myself and made me more into the creature He intended me to be. First step is to let go and let God do what only He can do.”
“Re_Set changed my life… I felt like everyone else was catching a glimpse of God but me. But really He was waiting for me to realize that I am nothing without Him. I have been Re-Set with Jesus Christ!!!”
I Peter 4:1-2 “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
“My prayer for all of us!”
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