A New Summer Outreach: Music Camp at Gwynn's Island Baptist Church
How one church tried something different and had a great experience
by Ed Jordan
Several years ago I was visiting my friend who pastored Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville. That week they were doing an Arts and Music Camp. We toured the classes, and I loved the creativity of the idea. But how could a small, rural church in Virginia pull off such an endeavor? This year, the kairos(God-appointed) time arrived.
For many summers we had done a traditional VBS; but in our area, VBS has become more like a childcare service. Each summer, the kids who attended our church’s VBS had already been to several VBS weeks at other churches, all using the same curriculum—so the kids were bored. But this year, one of our deacons, Jerry Ligon, felt God’s tugging for our church to try to do a music camp. I thought it was a great idea, and he took the lead on planning and implementation.
Over the last few years our church’s music skillsets have been expanding, as God brings more and more musicians to play in Island Praise (our praise band), to do special music in our weekly Drive-in Services in the summer, and to lead in our indoor church services in the fall and winter. We currently have a pair of 14-year-old twins who are both very gifted in music.Hunter Owens sings and plays guitar, and his brother Hayden is a good percussionist. Jerry recruited them to lead classes in guitar and percussion during Music Camp.
Autumn Jenkins, now a high-school senior, is a good vocalist who has been singing with us since fifth grade, so she led the vocal class. We wanted to offer ukulele lessons, so Jerry asked our neighbors, who do not attend our church, if they would teach those classes. They are both music teachers in public schools and were excited to be asked. We also wanted the kids to be able to play kazoos and just have fun making music, so we supplied each person with a kazoo.
God brought together the music instructors and resources we needed, along with lots of amazing helpers from the congregation. We enlisted at least two people per class to help during the small-group sessions.
Classes began on Sunday evening and went through Friday evening, from 6:30 until 9:00 pm. We had a15-minute large-group time, singing the songs we were learning to play. Island Praise led them the singing, and then the students followed their teachers to classrooms to begin practicing anew song each day. All the songs were in the key of C, so they would be learning and using the same chords all week for ease of learning and consistency.
To facilitate learning, Island Praise played and sang each of the songs that we would be learning and playing that week and recorded them ahead of time. We gave each attendee a USB drive with all songs on it, so they could play and listen to the songs over and over at home, or on the road, during the week.
We provided healthy snacks between small-group meetings each evening, and we concluded each night in the auditorium/sanctuary by singing a few songs together.
Some highlights and takeaways from our experience:
We agreed ahead of time to try to make this a God-encounter for whoever came, and we weren’t going to judge the camp’s success based upon how many people attended. Our major goal was to have kids and parents or grandparents come, have fun, learn music, and make memories together. In this regard, the MusicCamp exceeded our wildest dreams. Parents and kids interacted together as they learned music. The bonding effect was beautiful.
We encouraged parents to stay and learn to play an instrument themselves, which was great. In one case, a whole family came and was learning music together.
Parents were the biggest fans of the camp. Many of them came to learn as well. Some people who had a guitar, but who had never sat down to practice, came to learn to use their instruments.
People in our church loaned their personal guitars for people to use in camp to learn to play.
We used Bible songs as the curriculum, knowing that very few people (especially kids) attend church today. We wanted the kids to learn not just music, but Bible verses that God would bring back to their minds at important times in their lives.
The participants wanted to be there. Having so many youth leading classes helped the kids to realize they too could learn to play an instrument or sing.
We met lots of new people, and they made lifelong memories of music, God, and personal accomplishment.
Ed Jordan is senior pastor of Gwynn's Island Baptist Church, a BGAV-participating congregation.