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Cullman church hosts first Connect Day Camp program in nationcomment (0)

August 2, 2007

By Brian Blackwell

Six months ago, Connect Ministries founders Ken Thomas and Gabe Norris felt a burden to start a children’s day camp that would connect the local church to the community somehow.
After much prayer and deliberation, by mid-May, they knew the destination for the first-ever Connect Day Camp — Northbrook Baptist Church, Cullman, in East Cullman Baptist Association, led by Pastor Steve Britt. 
And nearly a month after serving as the camp’s pilot program July 9–13, the congregation still is reaping eternal rewards.
The weeklong camp — led by Connect Ministries staff members and Northbrook Baptist youth — included a Christian emphasis in every activity from sports to arts to Bible study and worship for the 75 campers.
In the end, nine campers accepted Christ as their Savior. 
Additionally the camp’s Friday Family Day allowed Northbrook prospects — including many who rarely attend worship services — to tour the facilities and learn more about the church’s mission.
“After my first meeting with the staff, I knew this camp was going to be just what the name says — connect,” said Truett Brown, director of preschool and children’s ministries at Northbrook. “I connected with the staff, the staff connected with our church and children and the staff helped our children connect with God. … Connect Day Camp helped our church to reach out to our community and introduce them to the love of Jesus.”
For Norris, the camp at Northbrook was one of the “best things to ever happen” for Connect Ministries, which held a second camp recently at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas. Twenty-seven camps are scheduled for 2008.
“What an awesome moment to be a part of lives that are being changed,” said Norris, vice president of Connect Ministries. 
Nine-year-old Northbrook camper Lacey Barrett said the highlight of her week was participating in dance and gymnastics activities. 
“I really enjoyed the leaders because they were fun and helped me whenever I had trouble in the activities,” Lacey said. “But I also learned from them how much Jesus loves me and that He always will love me for who I am.”
Norris said that’s what it’s about — impacting campers as well as parents who are able to stand on the perimeter and see the difference God is making in their childrens’ lives through the events of each day.
“Parent after parent mentioned that they can’t wait for their younger children to grow up so that they can send them to Connect Day Camp as well and they don’t have to send them two hours away for them to have an excellent camping experience,” he said. “It’s right in their own community.”
The camp was such a success at Northbrook that Connect Ministries recently announced a partnership with Chick-fil-A restaurant’s WinShape Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a goal of helping “shape winners” through camps, marriage enrichment retreats and a college scholarship program. Next year, the day camp will change its name to WinShape Camps C3, an acrostic for Connect, Community, Camp.
In each of the communities where camps will be held next year — including Northbrook’s — the respective local churches will have the full support of their area Chick-fil-As. This will include a full-fledged marketing campaign featuring flier and poster distribution and registration kiosk setup. Chick-fil-A also will hand out free lunches and stuffed cows during Friday Family Day.
Though the camp program is in its infant stages, Connect Ministries has been in operation since September 2006, when Thomas and Norris shared a vision to help churches move outside their buildings and in front of new people. 
The duo had previously co-sponsored 3on3 basketball tournaments in churches throughout the South, which they incorporated into Connect Ministries. With the success of the basketball tournaments came the idea to expand the ministry’s offerings to include day camps.
“We want to continue specializing in excellent programming so that local churches can be set free to build trust relationships with people in their own community,” Norris explained. “The first camp ever at Northbrook was a tremendous success. … This pilot year was only a glimpse of how excellent this camp will be in the years to come.”
For more information, visit www.connectdaycamp.com. To host a camp in 2008, contact Norris at 615-776-7674 or gabe@connect3on3.com.

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