Digital M3 Camp: free resource now available online
June 22nd, 2020 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
GRAPEVINE Summer church youth camp means swimming, campfires, Bible study and, for many young people, their first meaningful encounter with Jesus. But what happens when a global pandemic cancels camps?
To help student ministers and churches fill the gap caused by COVID-19 cancellations, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has created digital M3 Camp—a flexible, free resource to assist youth departments in providing a camp experience for 7th graders to graduating seniors when traditional camp is impossible.
Youth directors know that youth camp, properly done, changes lives.
“Every summer, God uses youth camps. Teenagers are saved at youth camps. Teenagers are called into ministry at youth camp,” Shane Pruitt, NAMB director of next gen evangelism, told the TEXAN, adding: “I am so thankful that in this unique season, people are finding unique ways to still do camp.”
M3 Camp: online, flexible, free
This March, as traditional youth camp started looking like a no-go thanks to the pandemic, the SBTC’s student ministry department began working on digital M3 Camp to provide churches with an alternative. Their work proved timely, because when the initial May 18 (revised June 3) minimum standard health protocols for reopening camps came from the Texas governor’s office, regulations advised the separation of groups, negating the cross-congregational bonding that is a hallmark of Baptist youth camp life.
The digital resource launched online June 15, coinciding with would have been the first week of M3 Camp at Highlands Lake in Spicewood, Texas, said Nathaniel Kuhns, SBTC student associate.
Digital M3 Camp features eight 20-28 minute stand-alone videos on Colossians accompanied by devotionals and small group activities.
Main session speakers include Pruitt, Ryan Fontenot of R.A.G.E. Ministries, Dallas Christian comedian Jason Earls and Christian hip hop artist Dillon Chase, all presenters popular at M3 Camp in normal times.
Each speaker also recorded a 7-minute training video patterned after a TED Talk and designed for student pastors, focusing on practical ministry. Crosspoint Community Church worship leader Nick Gainey contributed training videos on using student interns and starting a student praise band, too.
The digital M3 Camp resource also includes a downloadable leader’s guide with discussion questions, recreation ideas and mission project suggestions. The site even features a link to Lone Star Threads, a t-shirt company.
“We wanted to create as diverse a resource as we could,” Kuhns said.
Pruitt said he was “honored” to be included in the project and applauded its flexible design which lets churches offer overnight camp at their facilities or follow day camp formats. Others plan to do weekend events akin to Disciple Now, while some will use the resource as curriculum for weekly small groups, Pruitt said.
Brandon Bales, student pastor at Northeast Houston Baptist Church, advised the digital M3 Camp team and will use the resource at NEHBC July 5-8 as the church offers in-person and online camp for 75-100 youth.
“It’ll be M3 Camp condensed into three hours a night for four days,” Bales said of the plan.
About 50 youth are expected to come physically to the church where they will watch the videos, participate in small group discussions, do worship indoors spread out across the large worship center, and have recreation and closing rallies outdoors, practicing social distancing throughout. Other youth will participate online.
“There’s other platforms out there, other digital youth camps,” Bales said. “We decided on M3. We trust the quality of speakers. They stick to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. They are aligned with us doctrinally. As student pastor, it gives me confidence to know my students are going to be given a good dose and a healthy dose of God’s Word.”
Bales said he would encourage other youth ministers, Southern Baptist or not, to consider M3 because they could trust its quality.
“It’s designed with the student pastor and local churches in mind. It’s free, which makes it great,” Bales said. “They put us as student pastors first.”
The digital M3 Camp resource lacks one typical camp element: music, the addition of which would have been cost prohibitive due to royalty fees, and time-consuming, requiring additional editing, Kuhns said.
Accessing digital M3 Camp
M3 Camp is available free to any interested church or ministry, not just SBTC churches, Kuhns said, noting that congregations from Colorado and Arkansas had planned to send student groups to the physical M3 Camps this summer before COVID-19 interfered.
Student pastors or staff can access digital M3 Camp resources by filling out a Wufoo form at https://sbtexas.com/church-ministries/student/camps/m3-camps/. They will receive a password to download videos, the leader’s guide and other resources.
Kuhns and Mitch Tidwell, SBTC lead student and collegiate associate, expressed hope that the digital resource would enable churches to include kids who wouldn’t come to camp or couldn’t afford it, noting its cost effectiveness for churches in the tenuous COVID-19 financial climate.
The choice of Colossians as a subject was appropriate, Kuhns and Tidwell also said, calling it “a timely message of hope during these times,” and a book “all about the supremacy of Jesus.”
“We just wanted to say, ‘Thinking of you, helping you get through this time,’” Kuhns said of the free resource.