DAVIS – Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center is a place of uncommon tranquility and frenetic activity all at the same time. The terrain of the Arbuckle Mountains screens the modern world away from those who pass through its gates by providing a new place to exist, if only for a week.
Each summer, the camp becomes home to thousands of young people, summer staff and church leaders who live life in week-long segments as church youth groups come—some now for decades—to experience Falls Creek. The lure and legacy of the place captures something unique to Oklahoma that often marks the lives of many far beyond the days of their youth.
Ask most anyone about Falls Creek and you will discover that the camp is a denominational treasure of Oklahoma Baptists, held by both young and old alike as a revered and protected resource for ministry. When W.D. Moorer and J.B. Rounds founded Falls Creek in 1917, it was seen as a cutting-edge ministry strategy and a great risk. Would young Oklahomans come to a camp such as this dedicated solely to Christian teaching? The young people who first travelled by wagon across rough territory to Falls Creek were immersed in the tenants of the Christian faith as Moorer and Rounds taught the Bible to many who had little or no exposure to a Christian church or even a basic understanding of the Bible.
As part of a 21st Century comprehensive youth ministry strategy, Falls Creek remains one of the best evangelistic tools for local churches. More than 17 percent of those who attend each year have no connection with a local church. A personal invitation to attend Falls Creek, therefore, is often the path toward introducing many to the Gospel.
“This makes it very important that we share the Gospel clearly because so many who are there will have never heard the truth about Jesus,” said James Lankford, Falls Creek program director. An intentional effort has been made to train fellow campers as peer counselors for those who respond during the time of invitation each evening “in order to make leading someone else to Christ an experience that will hopefully become something that they do over and over again.”
“We realize Falls Creek is one week out of the year, and that Falls Creek as a place cannot be a substitute for what happens all through the year in local churches and youth groups,” Lankford said. “We want the experience to be an encouragement for everyone who attends, but we hope also to put in place some ideas and activities that will continue well beyond the week that they are here with us.”
Each day of the week has been carefully designed to be a combination of prayer, personal discipline, Bible intake and instruction, corporate worship and community. Small groups remain at the center for in-depth biblical teaching, where each person encounters the answers to a series of questions ranging from What is the Gospel? to Why connect with a local church? Lankford believes many personal friendships are void of any talk about Jesus or the spiritual disciplines which must accompany the growth of every Christian. To change that, “this curriculum has been designed to encourage relationships and growing friendships in Christ where it is not awkward but actually okay to speak of spiritual matters with your friends,” he said.
Taking into account many of the trends surrounding youth ministry in the 21st Century (such as the rise of social media Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), the Falls Creek curriculum is supplemented with an interactive CD-Rom providing four weeks of Bible studies for new Christians, as well as resources which encourage Christians to maintain the spiritual disciplines they experienced (some for the first time) at camp.
Lankford is quick to state that Falls Creek is not some sort of spiritual drop-off service where professionals take over the responsibility of parents or local churches. Falls Creek is a ministry partner providing spiritual help and guidance to those who have never heard the Gospel and to those Christians who are growing in their faith to live their lives in obedience to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
The 2009 report shows professions of faith rose from 1,548 last year to 1,782 this year, an increase of 235. Total decisions for the summer were 6,246, up from 5,453 last year, an increase of 793. Those included 398 for assurance, 2,770 for restoration, 420 for special needs and 876 for special service.
Total registration was 51,390, down 3,600 from 2008’s total of 54,990. Weeks seven and eight surpassed the record of 6,800 for one week set last year. Week seven saw 7,582 campers filling the tabernacle, and week eight recorded 7,039.
The number of full-time campers was down 946, from 41,983 in 2008 to 41,037 for 2009. The number of churches attending camp totaled 887 —down from 926 from 2008. Non-BGCO churches attending camp was 168 for 2009, compared to 174 in 2008.
The all-time record high for decisions was 7,600 in 2007.The total number of adults and students trained as decision counselors was 3,100. The Offering for the eight weeks was $59,633.10.