Just a few miles south of Siloam Springs, Arkansas sets a camp that has had a life-altering impact on Arkansas Baptists for nearly a century. Founded in 1923 by what was then the Arkansas Baptist Assembly, now the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Camp Siloam exists to offer churches a high quality, yet affordable camp experience. Almost 100 years later, in 2020, COVID-19 took that option from Camp Siloam forcing them to cancel their summer camp plans.
However, the story does not end there. With summer on the horizon, Camp Siloam has big plans for camp in 2021. In fact, those plans began in June of 2020. According to Jason Wilkie, Executive Director for Camp Siloam, the staff focused on the safety needs of the four main aspects of camp: worship services, meals, housing, and recreation. Wilkie said, “We are doing as much as we can to make camp look like it did in 2019, while we consider how we can also keep people safe.”
Although COVID-19 numbers seem to continue to fall, Camp Siloam has adopted safety guidelines aimed at allowing a great camp experience while keeping campers and staff safe. For example, campers are encouraged to follow strict social distancing 14 days out from camp and monitor daily temperature checks 7 days out. Additionally, several activities will allow students to remain distanced and outdoors where masks are optional. However, indoors masks will be required. Wilkie added, “We have planned for worst- case scenarios, because we can easily lift restrictions and requirements.” The camp remains optimistic that if numbers continue to trend in the right direction, they will be able to lift some of the restrictions and requirements already in place.
For more information regarding Camp Siloam’s COVID protocols, visit their FAQ page.
While the camp staff aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they are also praying and preparing for the Gospel to be shared and spread each week. The camp theme for 2021 is “Wanted,” with a look into the life of Gideon. Wilkie said, “With Gideon, the lesson we are trying to emphasize is that God is with you.” He emphasized that this will be a timely focus based on what students have been through over the last 12-18 months. Most importantly, each time campers come together for worship and teaching, they will hear a clear Gospel presentation with the opportunity to respond. This commitment to continually presenting the Gospel has resulted in 3,781 campers professing faith in Christ in the last decade at Camp Siloam.
For many, Camp Siloam is a familiar name that brings back fond memories. For others, Camp Siloam is an undiscovered gem that offers incredible potential and options for Arkansas Baptist Churches. Camp Siloam has designed and programmed their summer camps to serve churches of every size across the state and beyond. They offer separate camps for students in third grade through sixth grade as well as sixth grade through high school seniors. These camps, called “Blast” and “Forge” respectively, happen during a variety of week-long dates through the summer. Additionally, Camp Siloam offers “Infusion” for three different weeks, a camp for students in third through twelfth grade. This simplifies camp options for churches who may find it difficult to send groups to a different camp for children and students. At “Infusion” many activities are designed for the whole church group, but there is also specific programming and activities for smaller groups of students closer in age.
Regardless of which camp week your church might choose, the Camp Siloam experience will include meaningful times of worship, teaching and group time with a heavy dose of fun and recreation. Wilkie said the camp is planning to unveil a new game this summer called “Socto Ball” a variation of the popular game “gaga ball” that adds a soccer spin. The fun won’t stop there.
They also plan to offer “S-Core” this summer, a two week intensive that’s designed for older students to experience camp serving alongside camp staff to develop servant leadership traits modeled after Jesus. “If you’ve got a student in your youth program you feel like is an emerging leader, this is a great place for those students to get a leadership experience that will begin to shape them,” Wilkie added. While all other camps at Siloam are designed for church groups, “S-Core” is aimed at individual high school students.
If you’ve moved past the days of summer camp, Camp Siloam has offerings for groups of all ages and sizes during the 37 weeks and weekends apart from camp season. They offer facility rentals to groups and ministries for retreats, meetings and other gatherings. If you have a need for meeting facilities, Camp Siloam can likely meet it.
After the last church vans pull onto Highway 59 passing under the long-standing arch marked with “Camp Siloam,” Wilkie looks forward each summer to a few days of reflecting on what’s taken place during the camp season. As he walks the camp grounds, he reflects on,”how each week of camp was done with excellence, how the Lord moved, kids were saved, the kingdom was increased, and churches grew closer together.” He added, “I missed that last year and that’s what I’m most looking forward to this year.”
If your church is looking for a summer camp option, visit campsiloam.com for more information.