[SUMMER 2020] When COVID cancels summer camp you make your own

CABOT, Ark. – Summer across the natural state looks a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With some restrictions being lifted, the time to make a call on summer camps has come and gone with many having to close their gates for the summer. However, churches are continuing to support and encourage their children and student ministries despite summer activities being cut.

Robert Jose, the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Cabot, decided to engage his students with old tactics adapted to new ways. “I don’t know where we’re going to be in August, and I don’t know when we start again if I’ll have 50 of my students or 100 of them,” he said. “I can’t wait to recapture them though. I have to do it now.”

First Cabot is planning to hold their own summer camp on campus for senior high and junior high students. The week-long camp will be broken up between grades. Junior high students (7th-8th grades) will meet Monday, July 27 through Wednesday, July 29 at noon. Senior high students (9th-12th grades) will meet Wednesday afternoon, July 29 through Friday, July 31st.

Jose said the structure is going to be a lot like Super Summer with kids being divided into groups and staying in those designated groups and areas the entire time.

He noted that they wanted to bring in local leaders/guest speakers so housing them wouldn’t conflict with existing guidelines. Worship will be led by Matthew Sparks from First Cabot in the morning and Jason Goodwin from Faith Baptist in Cabot in the evening. Jeremy Jones from Little Rock will be the speaker for both sessions.

“The kids haven’t been on the church campus much, so they’re pretty excited,” Jose said. He’s been really challenging his students and student leaders to be the church now, even when they couldn’t meet. “This ministry has always been above me,” he said. “It’s got to be all of us. We’ve got to quit doing church the way we do church, and I think this is the perfect time to rekindle that.”

Many churches’ student ministries have been engaging students in unique ways to keep them encouraged. Robert created ‘Hangin’ With Jose’ a few years ago, where he would have students come to the church to eat lunch, participate in a Bible study lesson, do an activity such as a service project or go somewhere, and just hang out with one another.

Now that churches are beginning to open their doors, Jose has adapted adapt ‘Hangin’ With Jose.’ Through May and June, he’s met with small groups based on grades. Seventh and eighth grades meet Mondays from 12-2, ninth grade meet Tuesdays, tenth and eleventh grades meet Thursdays with the end of the week being for seniors. He’s also held a Zoom call around noon each day for students that couldn’t attend.

“It’s been cool to see the kids who weren’t necessarily regular attenders before COVID reaching out to connect more now,” he said. The plan, depending on how phase two goes, is to switch in July to meeting all together again for ‘Hangin’ With Jose’ every other week and extend the time to noon to 4 p.m.

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