by Shelly Roark Posted Apr 23, 2019
Rebecca Ross was brand new to the ministry staff at North Metro Church in Marietta, Georgia, when she heard about a kids outreach that was, well… different.
“It was my fourth day on the job when a friend of mine called me and said, “There’s this camp you need to learn about,” Rebecca recalls. At the time, it was a fairly new concept of bringing Pine Cove’s summer day camp experience to urban areas called Camp in the City.
Rebecca was already trying to learn the ropes as the new Next Generation Pastor. Exploring a brand new ministry option was not in her plan at the time. But God had His own plan.
“It was so hectic, but I felt like the Lord was saying, ‘You need to make time for this,’” she says. Rebecca is glad she did. North Metro Church took a leap of faith that summer to host Pine Cove’s Camp in the City and never looked back!
The on-site day camp that started out with 83 kids five years ago has now grown into a community favorite that impacts just over 350 children and their families for Christ each summer.
Today, the church is looking forward to a sixth summer of Camp in the City, and Rebecca says summers would not be the same for the community without it. In fact, the demand is so high that North Metro Church runs two simultaneous camps, or a “double stack,” to reach more kids.
“Last time, spots sold out in just 16 hours after registration opened,” Rebecca shares. “We have families planning their summer vacations around our Camp in the City.”
Rebecca says the anticipation in the weeks and days leading up to the camp grows until the “camp” and the counselors arrive. Sponsor churches are transformed with climbing walls, water slides, laser tag, and bungee trampolines.
“We would have to shut down so much of what we do during the year in order to even try to prepare for something like this,” she says. “We couldn’t do it. We bring in Camp in the City because we can’t replicate it, especially the college staffers.”
Enthusiastic college counselors descend on the community to lead campers in life-changing Bible study and worship. “These college age kids are gold to our church,” Rebecca says. “We actually have a waiting list of families who want to host the counselors during the week of camp because the impact on their children is so great.”
Rebecca says Camp in the City allows the church to help grow the faith of children who attend North Metro and share the light of Christ with children in the community who don’t yet know him. As a result of Camp in the City, children accepted Christ, families started attending church, and others developed a hunger for time with God.
“I think of the single mom who for years devoted herself to teaching her child about Jesus, but was never been able to get her daughter to crack open the Bible up on her own. She comes to Camp in City and asks if her mom will start having quiet time with her,” Rebecca shares.
“In another family, the mom was going through breast cancer. It was a really rough time,” she says. “The four kids all attended Camp in the City. They needed that. They needed time with camp counselors. It was just a beautiful thing for that family.”
It’s amazing to watch the transformation in children, Rebecca says. “The first day is my favorite day to watch. For kids who have been, it’s like the gates of Disney are about to open. But those who have never been wonder why people are shouting out words that rhyme and why do they have camp names. After lunch their guard is down. By day two, that same child is greeting the counselors and other kids like long-lost friends.”
Rebecca says something incredible happens during the week of camp that cannot happen on Sunday mornings alone. “We get an hour a week with them. But the continuous impact of a weeklong, intense camp is a catalyst. The kids want to go to their Bibles at night. They want to start having quiet time with God on their own. We celebrate every step closer to God. I think something about getting the kids outside and incorporating faith in games and activities like rock climbing shows them that their relationship with God is relevant and real in every different setting.”
Rebecca describes the partnership between Pine Cove and the church as “a beautiful marriage with both of us reaching out to families.”
Find a Camp in the City location near you here.