“Camp brings hope and positivity to the kids.” Pastor Thomas Wilder, Bethel Baptist Church

This summer we have had an incredible opportunity to dig in a little deeper into several of our city-wide partnerships. One door that the Lord has opened is through summer camps for kids! Working with True Vine Evangelical Church in Inglenook and Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville, we are producing two brand new summer learning camps for Kindergarten through 8th graders. Local church leadership, interns, and CSM summer volunteer groups from around the country are mobilized and joining hands together to create a safe, healthy, and exciting learning environment. Both camps have focused on reading, writing and math with a lot of physical education to go along with it!

Each site has at least two CSM summer interns working as a strategic part of these two churches’ staff. Our interns are intentional about deepening the relationships each church is developing in the communities that they serve through Camp Hope and Camp Bethel. We interviewed Pastor Thomas Wilder to get his perspective on the new summer camp at Bethel Baptist:

Both camps have focused on reading, writing and math with a lot of physical education to go along with it!

What has fired you up to start a kid’s camp here at Bethel Baptist?
Kids need something to do in summer because that means that they are less likely to get in trouble. The camp also offers a chance for the church to extend our ministry to the kids while they are at the camp. This allows the kids to be in a positive environment outside of just Sunday. Also, there at the kid’s camp, the kids are getting up to date on what they are learning in school, if they are behind, and if not, then it reinforces what they learned that year so that the kids can be ahead of the curve when they get back to school in the fall.

Do you see this as a part of your strategy for community development?
Yes, absolutely. Part of community development effects culture and not just the visible neighborhood. Building a building in three months doesn’t change the culture. Changing culture takes longer than throwing up buildings. To change the culture, you have to develop the people in the community.

Do you feel this is making an impact?

Yes. The kids even come up and say that it’s making a difference. One time, 40 years ago, a man who attended Bethel and helped with VBS at the church, wrote Bethel a check to keep the VBS program running because it was making an impact. We are here to introduce people to Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with Him and also to see the possibilities in the world. There was a young girl and a mom who attended Bethel and one Sunday the mom told the young girl to go to church. On the way to church, the young girl’s mom overdosed back at the house and was taken to the hospital. Years later, the young girl was able to earn her Master’s Degree and continue to move forward because of the positive influences she found at Bethel. We want camp to bring hope and positivity to these kids.

Thanks to Pastor Wilder for sharing his heart with us. We are privileged to partner with him. Next newsletter will feature Pastor Ralph Garth’s review of the new summer camp results at True Vine. Stay tuned!