Ministry Article: Camp Alpha – Launch and Life Change

April 27, 2023 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

 By Rhyne Armstrong
 Rhyne Armstrong  

It was early Monday morning. I'm not used to being up before 8:00 am so, I can only guess that it was around 7:30 am and I had been up for at least two hours. I walked around the Children's Education building at 44 Academy Street, marveling at the amount of work that went into planning, decorating, and generally getting prepared for the first ever Camp Alpha at First Baptist Church Alpharetta.

Camp Alpha is FBCA's answer to the traditional Vacation Bible School that has been popular for so many years. "Vacation Bible School has always been perceived as outreach." says Johnnie Hall, Associate Pastor of Children, "But, in essence it has become more of a service for families in the area, mostly who already have church homes." Historically, VBS has accounted for fully a third of the Ministry's budget but, very few un-churched children were coming. Attendance has always been high for VBS but it hasn't been what the Pastoral staff felt was the best use of the money. Their goal is to not only reinforce what the children hear at church on a regular basis but to bring the message of God's love to those who don't always get the chance to hear it.

As someone who was a part of FBCA's Camp Alpha and as a parent who has experienced VBS at two different Churches, I can say that while there are similarities between the two formats, there are also many differences. First is the way the day is started. At Camp Alpha, we started the day with a thirty minute long worship rally that was led by those of us doing the drama and introducing the Praise and Worship songs to the 'campers.' This was an incredible experience for me and for the others who helped start the day at camp. Other differences were more subtle but, the differences will grow over time. "We kept a fairly familiar schedule this first year but, in the coming years, we will be able to make the differences greater and more substantial." Johnnie said, "It's all about creativity and where God leads us."

When asked why he decided to make the switch from Vacation Bible School to Camp Alpha, Pastor Hall said, "Sometimes you have to step out and say, 'Let's try it' and see what God does." And if the success of the first year is any indication, God truly blessed the staff and their decision. "We reached 100 more un-churched kids this year than last and thirty more total than last year," he said. "It has as much to do with the area we are in as anything else." The term "camp" just has more appeal here in Alpharetta than the traditional term Vacation Bible School does.

Perhaps more important than the motivations that brought them there are the children who were led and entertained by the dedicated group. "When we went into this, I told everyone involved that we would follow three rules: be relational, be evangelistic, and be happy! If our workers couldn't be those things, we didn't want them there." Johnnie said. The 100 plus volunteers who helped make the camp a success were the driving force behind what went on. Pastor Hall said that one of the reasons we went to a camp atmosphere was that we would have the freedom to use new ideas and to tailor the lessons, the entertainment, and the atmosphere based on the talent of the people who volunteered.

As the week ended, I felt truly blessed to be a part of something that my children and all of the children who attended this first year will always remember. "That's why we do this," Pastor Hall says, "that's why we put so much effort into the decorations, the music, and the drama we show the kids. We want to help them remember the lessons they learned and the people they met for their entire lives." It has been a week. The Camp Alpha CD is still in the Mini Van, and my kids are still talking about the lessons they learned. I for one am looking forward to Camp Alpha 2007.


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