Children play hockey during one of five church camps conducted by Fellowship Baptist Church in Witcherville. Additional photo below article shows children and volunteers gathered for activities on the church's parking lot.
Church hosts five sports camps in one summer
WITCHERVILLE – Fifteen years ago, Fellowship Baptist Church in Witcherville sought an alternative from vacation Bible school (VBS), a traditional route
taken by the majority of churches.
“We were introduced to sports camp by what appeared to be a mistake,” said Gary Martin, senior pastor at Fellowship. “We now know it was the hand of God that set us on a great adventure that is still going on day.”
During a VBS mission event in Pennsylvania, Martin received a call from a mission team on a Sunday night. A group from Georgia was conducting a sports camp near Philadelphia, but their bus broke down. They were going to miss the first day of their camp.
The mission team leader asked Martin if members from his church could fill in for his team for one day and if he knew how to run a sports camp. Martin answered yes to both questions. When he finished his phone call, he turned to his team and asked, “Does anyone know what a sports camp is?”
The team quickly made up plans for the next morning of what they thought a sports camp would be.
“According to the Georgia folks, we were way off, but the kids loved what we did,” said Martin. “From that day, we decided that sports camp was for us.”
Over the years, the camp has grown from one week to five weeks. This summer Fellowship hosted three camps in Arkansas at First Baptist Church in Plainview, First Baptist Church in Danville and First Baptist Church in Witcherville, and the church hosted two camps in Wichita, Kan., at Midway Baptist Church and Emery Gardens Apartments.
The five camps had more than 500 children in attendance, and 143 children made Christian salvation decisions.
“For our church, sports camps are like a church-wide revival,” said Martin. “Our community looks forward to this event, and many inquire at the beginning of summer so they can plan their vacations around it.”
Fellowship had 110 workers this summer helping lead the sports camps. Some volunteers worked the games; some taught the gospel, and some made snacks. Some volunteers brought their bass boats to teach fishing; others brought their horses to give rides.
Each night, children grouped by ages rotated through 14 different sports and had a Bible study. On Friday night, the church hosted a family night, which included a revival and cookout.
“Our church is well known for events like these,” said Martin. “Most of the kids in our local schools recognize me through our sports camp.”
Along with the sports camps, Fellowship staffed children’s church camp for Ouachita Baptist Association and Buckner Baptist Association.
“Gary Martin does a fantastic job of leading Fellowship to reach those in their immediate community through intentional evangelistic events like sports camp,” said Marcus Brown, team leader for Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s evangelism and church health team. “In addition, Fellowship has developed a culture that is very intentional about impacting the unreached beyond their community by partnering with other churches in Arkansas to help those churches reach out to the unreached around them.”