LifeWay’s Jeff Pratt carries a three-by-five-inch card in his Bible. He pulled it from an interactive worship station where FUGE participants had clipped the cards to chicken wire. The theme of that worship station was life struggles.
With just four words, one of the more than 54,500 FUGE camp participants expressed some deep hurt: Dad left, step-dad left.
“It broke my heart,” Pratt said.
Much of his ministry has focused on students, both during his nine years at LifeWay Christian Resources where he now serves as the FUGE director and previously in local church youth ministry.
Pratt knows intuitively that every student who attends a summer FUGE camp has a story to tell. For a week of summer camp in a retreat setting, those students escape struggles back home for a time of recreation, missions, fellowship, worship, Bible study, and reflection.
They also hear a clear presentation of the Gospel through a well-planned worship experience.
Pratt served as camp pastor for one week of Centrifuge at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, North Carolina, which is where he collected the card he now carries. Interpreting the theme “Alive and Free,” throughout the summer of ninety-seven camp weeks in twenty venues, camp speakers saw God do a deep work in the life of students, Pratt said.
A creative worship event they called Night Life included a reflective element. The feedback from youth ministers affirmed the objective.
“That was an anointed event,” many youth leaders told Pratt.
By summer’s end, FUGE camps recorded more than 1,100 professions of faith at camp and 174 on MFuge ministry sites with the community. Nearly three hundred students yielded to God’s calling to vocational ministry. Likewise, at LifeWay’s CentriKid camps, 650 of the 28,000 children and adults attending made first-time professions of faith.
CentriKid and FUGE campers also donated more than $400,000 in mission offerings to International Mission Board and North American Mission Board projects.
CentriKid Camps started in 2000. Jeremy Echols is now the LifeWay CentriKid camps manager, and a former CentriKid and FUGE camper and later a summer staffer. He knows churches value the safe camp environment for their children, and that their children will hear the Gospel in an age-appropriate way.
“Being away from home and out of their normal schedule, they see things and hear things a little differently,” Echols said of the children. “Unplugged from all their devices and out of their normal routine, they are more engaged with what’s going on around them and who they are with.
“They aren’t hearing a radically different message from what they are hearing in church,” Echols said. “Our goal is to support the church leaders in what they are teaching the kids.”
The CentriKid and FUGE camps differ from scores of other children and youth camps because of their evangelism and discipleship objectives. Annual themes drive the worship, Bible study, and even recreation to reinforce an evangelistic disciple-making outcome.
FUGE camps interpreted “Alive and Free” in 2015 as the students learned that a commitment to the Gospel results in knowing Jesus. Each believer can be alive and free in the context of the Gospel, Pratt said.
The 2015 CentriKid theme was “FIT: Faith in Training.” Children learned spiritual practices to grow in their faith.
Lisa Miso Kim serves as the SugarKids (children’s) minister at Sugarloaf Korean Baptist Church in Suwanee, Georgia. This past summer was her sixth to take third through fifth graders to a CentriKid Camp. They attended the first week at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.
“We really like their program,” Kim said. “The kids enjoy the various activities in terms of tracks. CentriKid has designed their format and structured the camp so that everything relates back to the main Scripture and theme.
“Year by year, I can see a change in the kids and adults that go,” Kim added, who keeps CentriKid fresh for her children by attending a different venue each year.
Neither Pratt nor Echols have an empirical study about the long-term life impact on campers. But they do know children and youth ministers respect and trust the LifeWay resources.
“They trust LifeWay resources every week in their small groups and kids curriculum,” Echols said. “They trust us in our camp experience, too.”
CentriKid and FUGE camps hire summer staffers, many of whom formerly attended one or both camps, to support the week and serve the students.
“In the FUGE world, we believe life change happens in the context of relationships,” Pratt said. “We are intentional about our staff building relationships with students.
“Our youth pastors feel we serve them well,” Pratt added. “We serve churches in their mission of making disciples.”
FUGE began in 1979 at Ridgecrest and Glorieta as a camp designed by the former LifeWay church and recreation department. With much emphasis on activities including low-ropes courses, the model began to grow.
Pratt says the core formula has not changed much in more than thirty years while hosting more than a million people. However, he says the production value has improved in terms of the worship experience.
In 1995, LifeWay added MFuge, which is a hands-on week of mission projects that allow participants to serve the communities they visit, including Charleston, South Carolina.
The mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this past June happened just days before an MFuge camp at Charleston Southern University, a South Carolina Baptist school. Several mission sites were near the church. Pratt flew to Charleston to meet with participants on Monday morning of their camp week.
“We were resolute in coming here,” the church leaders told him. “We felt that more than ever, we needed to be here to be a presence of the Gospel in this community.”
The Charleston campers made an impression on Pratt.
“I saw something on their faces that was different from the rest of the summer,” Pratt said. “They felt it was a God-ordained moment that they were there in that week to serve a purpose.”
For students who have completed sixth grade through college
At Centrifuge, students are divided into groups for recreation and Bible study based on age ranges by grade completed. Each activity serves a specific purpose and is debriefed so students can make application in their lives. Students also participate in Track Times—they are divided into “tracks” based on a list of activities they indicate during the registration process. We offer creative, active, performance, and classroom-based activities during these times.
At MFuge, you will jump into ministry with local communities and serve people in need. During the day your students will be challenged and stretched as individuals; in the evenings, you’ll have an opportunity to build group unity over dinner, worship, fellowship, and church group devotions. MFuge is designed to give students a mission experience that opens their eyes to similar opportunities they may have to serve in their own communities, learning to live everyday life on mission!
Want to do your own camp but don’t have the time or energy to plan it all out? You can meet us in the middle at XFuge. We’ll take care of all the big stuff: camp pastor, worship band, fun fellowship, lodging, food, and even Bible study curriculum. Your group joins everyone in the morning and evening for camp-wide services and fellowship; then you get to choose your experience for the rest of the day. At XFuge, participate in on-campus team building options or head out for some group adventures.
XFuge on Mission
XFuge on Mission is a customizable mission trip for your students built into a camp experience. Every morning starts with camp-wide worship before your group heads off to a ministry site chosen just for you. XFuge on Mission gives your students the opportunity to serve side-by-side and build group unity.
Registration for 2016 now open at FUGEcamps.com
For students who have completed third through sixth grade
CentriKid is an overnight camp for students to experience the time of their lives and learn more about the message of Jesus Christ. From the future sports star to the young scientist to the rising chef, every kid gets to participate in exciting activities of their choice. Kids take part in Bible study, recreation, Track Times, and worship.
Registration for 2016 now open at CentriKid.com
Jim Burton is a photojournalist living in Cumming, Georgia. He served twenty-five years in mission education and mobilization through the Brotherhood Commission and the North American Mission Board.