NASHVILLE (BP) -- When Meghan Dukes first visited a LifeWay summer camp as an elementary-aged child, she returned home telling her mom she wanted to work there one day.
Several years later, Dukes made good on her intentions, becoming a LifeWay camp staffer. This July, she'll come full circle -- chaperoning 18 kids from Redeemer Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., to a CentriKid camp in Linden, Tenn.
"I'm so thankful for how the Lord has used LifeWay camps in my life from childhood to the present," Dukes said. "I've been influenced by the gospel-focused intentionality of camp as a fourth grade student, as a staffer and now as a children's ministry director."
Dukes' journey illustrates how Christian summer camps and mission projects can often link generations of Christ-followers. A 2018 LifeWay Research study on predictors of spiritual health in young adults found 44 percent of Protestant churchgoing parents of 18-30-year-olds sent their kids to church camps and retreats when they were growing up.
This year, LifeWay anticipates more than 122,000 kids and students will attend one of their summer camps or mission projects. Expected enrollment in camps represents approximately 5,400 churches from more than 40 states.
"Lots of people think of summer camp as a milestone experience," said Logan Meek, team leader of Student Life For Kids. "Many times, summer camp is the place where God causes children and students to have 'lightbulb' moments about concepts parents and church leaders have been teaching them all year. These spiritual moments can become faith markers we look back to for the rest of our lives."
Here's an overview of LifeWay's 2019 summer camps and mission projects.
An overnight camp experience for 3rd-6th graders. Camp staffers lead Bible study and activities in which kids interact with children of the same age group from different churches. This gives church leaders and chaperones the opportunity to focus on building relationships with kids and making every moment count.
Churches who participate in CentriKid often transition kids to FUGE when they enter into student and young adult ministries. The 2019 theme for CentriKid is "All Access" and focuses on God's wanting to be known. The key verse is John 17:3.
-- Student Life For Kids
A camp for 3rd-6th graders in which church groups remain together and church leaders facilitate small group Bible study sessions with their kids. Many churches enjoy the discipleship opportunities that flow from this format.
Churches who participate in Student Life For Kids often transition kids to Student Life Camp when they enter into student and young adult ministries. The 2019 theme for Student Life For Kids is "Transformed" and focuses on 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Offered in two formats: Centrifuge and M-FUGE. The former is a camp environment where students are divided into groups with students from other churches for staff-led recreation and Bible study. M-FUGE is focused on missions and allows students to jump into ministry with local communities to serve people in need.
The 2019 theme for FUGE is "Restored," focusing on how God sent the perfect Savior as the remedy to repair what was once broken.
-- Student Life
Offered in four formats: Rec, Beach, Smokies and Mission. Beach and Smokies Camps are location-centric and accommodate free time for church groups to explore area attractions. At Mission Camp, church leaders guide their group in a service project and small group Bible study.
The 2019 theme for Student Life is "Access," focusing on how students have access to a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. The key verses are Romans 5:1-2.
-- World Changers
Students dedicate a week to serving on mission in cities in North America. Group leaders can choose from ministry projects involving construction or church planting. Students dedicate the entire day to these projects and are trained by World Changers staff to share the gospel message with the people they are serving. Locations include 34 cities in 18 states and Puerto Rico.
-- Access International
International mission trips designed to help students fulfill the Great Commission by partnering with missionaries already serving in those communities. Locations include 10 countries on four continents.
-- Camp Ridgecrest for Boys and Camp Crestridge for Girls
These gender-specific camps for 1st-10th graders allow kids to spend from two to eight weeks learning from college-aged, Christian role models. Combining discipleship and adventure, these camps offer a traditional summer camp in the woods experience located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
An emphasis on the gospel and missions
As Dukes prepares to take her kids to CentriKid this July, she says she appreciates the care and intentionality LifeWay camps put into communicating the good news about Jesus.
"They connect everything back to the Gospel," she says, "and provide a setting in which friendships are formed and built on the trust and love of Jesus."
In addition to proclaiming the Gospel to campers, LifeWay camps also collect offerings to support missions in North America and around the world through the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Last year, LifeWay collected more than $637,000 in mission offerings through its camps.
More information about LifeWay summer camps and missions projects can be found at www.LifeWay.com/Events.