This week, I had the joy of introducing the staff of one of our newest Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) churches to Falls Creek and CrossTimbers. Taking people on tours of our conference centers is one of the greatest joys of my life. During these tours, I do not try, or need, to sell the highlights of our camps, I just let the group experience what God is doing.
People are always interested in “why” these camps have enjoyed such support and spiritual success across the years. The answer is not complicated. These camps are successful because Oklahoma Baptists cooperate. The BGCO serves the churches, and the churches cooperate together.
The key to Falls Creek is the involvement of the local church and the commitment of the convention to serve the local church. Andy Harrison, Falls Creek program director, said it very well recently, “Our mission is to assist churches in the ministry of the Gospel, and we strive to provide the best camp experience possible spiritually, relationally, or otherwise, for students and leaders to encounter Jesus.”
The BGCO provides the facilities, staff, and programming for each of the eight weeks of Falls Creek summer camps, which is a cooperative effort aimed at serving the churches. But make no mistake, the heart of Falls Creek is the local church—small and large.
The local church recruits and invites young people to attend Falls Creek. In many cases, the local church not only invites, but also provides scholarships for some young people who attend summer camp with their church.
The local church prays for the students and sponsors who attend Falls Creek. I have often said that the spiritual power unleashed in a week of Falls Creek is directly related to the fact that the churches are on their knees praying for each young person by name, as well as praying for the sponsors, preacher, and band who will be leading the week their youth are at camp.
The local church takes responsibility to supervise and care for the youth while on the grounds. The local church sets the rules for their students in compliance with general guidelines established by Falls Creek. The ministry of the sponsors in listening, caring, and sharing with the youth in their cabin cannot be overestimated. Those late night, one-on-one listening sessions and prayer times help shape the dramatic spiritual experience of students.
The local church leads afterglow services, where students are challenged again and given the opportunity to process, share, and respond to the work of God in their hearts. Only eternity will reveal the number of decisions made in the cabins that are never recorded in the tabernacle. And it’s OK, because they are recorded in Heaven!
Perhaps as important as the week at The Creek is the responsibility of the local church to walk students to maturity in Christ. That task begins at Falls Creek through helping students process the decisions they have made, and continues when they arrive back home. Every student needs follow-up and instruction regarding baptism. Students need people who will come alongside them and get them started on a lifetime of spiritual development. Youth who commit to vocational ministry and missions need encouragement, opportunities to serve, and guidance in preparing themselves for a lifetime of ministry and missions.
The Falls Creek experience will fade if the local church does not aggressively follow-up and stoke the spiritual fires that were lighted during those days at The Creek. Young people are not baptized by Falls Creek; they are not discipled by Falls Creek beyond the week of attendance, and they can’t join Falls Creek. Each of these important responsibilities is the God-given task of the local church.
The genius of Falls Creek is the unique and remarkable partnership between the convention and its churches. The BGCO serves the local church and expands its ministry through providing Falls Creek and CrossTimbers. After all, the convention is just an expression of the united and cooperative ministry of the local church.