Lindsay Poppell, 23, has gone to Warren Baptist Church’s summer camp since she was in middle school.
Each year, she said, students would travel to the beach and stay in a nice hotel. They’d have worship in the mornings and evening, but spent most of the day on the beach, enjoying the wind and waves.
“We were just going to the beach,” she said. “It was about our swimsuits and the boys and us getting closer to the Lord.”
This week, that changed.
Warren Baptist is doing summer camp differently this year with a new outreach-focused camp called the Kingdom Project.
“We are staying here in Augusta and impacting our community,” said Shane Padgett, the student evangelism pastor. “In the past, Warren has spent $300 per kid and gone to the beach, so this is a huge cultural change for Warren and the students.”
Padgett and Student Pastor Grant Janik came up with the idea.
“Grant and I talked about what it would look like if we took all our resources and, instead of spending it on gas to get to the beach every summer, to invest in having an impact on the community?” Padgett said. “We’re trying to teach our kids the reason God has given you resources is for the kingdom.”
This week, more than 180 students are running a vacation Bible school program for kids at the Broad Street Ministry Center, a soccer and basketball sports camp in Grovetown, and a carnival at the Columbia County Library.
The students are camping out in the Washington Road church this week. Their morning begins with a devotion, then teams head out into the community to work. They return for dinner and worship at night.
It costs far less than the beach trip’s $300. Middle schoolers pay $60, and high schoolers pay $130, a fee that covers food, T-shirts, books, and odds and ends.
Beyond a more wallet-friendly price, Padgett said, the format teaches kids that there can be joy in serving.
“We’re wired to serve,” he said. “When we walk in the footsteps of the Lord, there’s a joy in that.”
At the Broad Street Ministry Center, groups of teens arrived Monday to canvass neighborhoods with invitations to Bible school.
The group returned this week each morning Tuesday through today to pick up children for a half-day camp, with arts and crafts, music, singing and dancing, recreation time, Bible study and lunch.
“Our dream would be to have VBS every week this summer because no child should spend the day alone,” said Kaye Morris, the director of the ministry center.
Emily Albrecht, 17, a senior at Greenbrier High School this fall, and Tate Mitchell, 15, a junior at Greenbrier, ran kickball games for the youths Wednesday.
“It was crazy. There were kids everywhere. It’s so fun just to play with them,” Emily said. The experience was eye-opening, Tate said.
“We take attention for granted. You give a kid a piggyback ride for 30 seconds and they don’t forget it,” he said. “I hope it would be an inspiration, and that it would be eye-opening and people would be called every week to come do this.”
Emily said she doesn’t think most teens will miss the beach.
“The Bible says to go serve,” she said. “When you think of going on a mission, people tend to forget about Augusta. The cool thing about the Kingdom Project is it allows you to serve the community.”