Most Oklahoma Baptists know that Falls Creek is unlike any other camp. In fact, there are multiple reasons why people consider Falls Creek so unique.
In many ways, the sheer size of the camp sets it apart from others. Every week, for eight weeks, there are 5,000-plus people on the grounds at Falls Creek. For many camps, 5,000 people are more than they will see all summer, much less, in a single week. Falls Creek is also unique in that nearly 110 churches each week will attend and have a unique camp experience in their individual cabins, while having a collective experience on the grounds and in the tabernacle with all who attend.
Falls Creek is also unique because the camp staff does not work with the students individually or in small groups. The camp staff at Falls Creek facilitates camp activities, while the bulk of the spiritual input and individual attention in the lives of the students is provided by the sponsors each church brings with their group. For this reason, it is imperative that churches understand the gravity and importance of the sponsors who attend with their groups.
Camper safety and the facilitation of spiritual matters are of utmost priority for Falls Creek. Therefore, we have provided some guidelines for churches to follow in the selection of sponsors. Every church is required to appoint a lead sponsor. The lead sponsor serves as the church contact person during the week and can be the pastor, youth minister or a lay person. Churches must also provide a minimum of one sponsor for every 10 youth, with at least one male and one female sponsor.
Adult sponsors attending Falls Creek Youth Camp should adhere to the following expectations:
• They should set the moral and spiritual example for the group.
• They should model and enforce the camp code of conduct and dress code.
• They should be responsible for the attendance of their students at BOTH tabernacle experiences each day.
• They should use every moment during the week to equip and encourage students to follow Christ in their daily lives.
• They should spend one-on-one time with students in their cabin to hear their salvation story and/or to share Christ with them.
Churches need to take these expectations seriously and enlist sponsors accordingly. Sponsors set the tone for the week. If a sponsor has a great attitude, students will have a great week at camp. If sponsors are godly role models and use their influence wisely for the kingdom, there will be more spiritual impact during the week. It is vital for churches only to recruit and take adult sponsors who encourage their students toward the goals of camp.
Also, churches should make camper safety of paramount importance. We strongly recommend that each church perform a criminal background check, including a check of the National Sex-Offender Registry, on each adult sponsor over 18 years of age, attending with their group. A resource available to churches is Volunteer Screening through Trak-1 Technology found at www.trak-1.com. Trak-1 Technology is an online national data company that provides a discounted rate on individual background checks for any BGCO church. Churches must set up an account with Trak-1 before using any of their online services. Oklahoma churches can also contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) to screen people through their criminal records check at www.ok.gov/osbi. Both OSBI and Trak-1 charge a nominal fee for their criminal records check.
It is not enough to just show up at camp with a group of students. Churches must be diligent to protect and provide for those students placed in their care at Falls Creek. This is the first and most critical step of godly stewardship in the lives of those entrusted to our care. And it is something that every church needs to know.
Andy Harrison is Falls Creek program director and student ministry specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.