Pinelands Center will partner with Barefoot Republic for a multicultural camp experience focused on building unity within GNJ Middle Schoolers. Photo provided

Next Gen Camp Partner Advances Mission

January 18, 2018 | | News, Youth and Young People

BROWNS MILLS – A Christ-centered, multicultural summer camp experience is coming to Pinelands Center in 2018. Next Generation Ministries, GNJ’s strategic partnership of youth, camping and campus ministries will partner with Barefoot Republic Camp in a new and exciting experience focused on building unity within the Body of Christ for rising 6-8th graders.

The Barefoot Republic camping model was started by Tommy Rhodes in the Nashville region during the early 1990s. The camp’s focus is to create an experience that reflects the reality of the Kingdom of God.

“Too often camps are largely homogeneous; the kids who attend usually come from the same socio-economic background and experience more of the same,” said Rhodes. “Barefoot Republic creates a camp experience where kids come from different economic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and nationalities, and grow up in urban, suburban, and rural contexts.”

The partnership between Next Generation Ministries and Barefoot Republic will provide GNJ the opportunity to hold camp in Pinelands Center at Mt. Misery for middle schoolers for the first time in three years.  While the staff at Pinelands Center has been busy hosting retreats and school programs, Barefoot Republic’s program allows Pinelands to reinstate weeklong overnight camping for 2018 .

“I am excited for this upcoming middle school camp because of the creative partnership between Next Generation Ministries and Barefoot Republic,” said Ryan Clements, Next Generation Coordinator.  While the leadership team will be from Barefoot Republic, staff and counselors will be from GNJ, making the camp a ministry of GNJ’s Next Generation initiative. “I’m excited for the relationships that will form at this camp between campers from different churches and between campers and counselors from different churches. Campers and counselors will then have the opportunity to reconnect at IGNITE a few months later!”

“This camp is an important step in making us a more connectional church  where our youth ministries do not stop at the doors of our churches, and where our next generation of leaders and disciple-makers feel like they belong to a ministry that is larger than themselves or their towns,” said Clements.

Barefoot Republic uses a model focused on passionate worship including large group worship jam sessions and small group “story-ing” time: an opportunity for students to learn scripture through storytelling.

“Each day, a passage of scripture is introduced to the kids in the form of an oral story,” said Rhodes. “During story-ing time, kids hear the scripture story three times and are encouraged to repeat the story back to the counselors. Throughout the day, there are other opportunities for students to tell the scripture story to counselors with the result being that at the week’s end, each kid has several passages ingrained on their hearts.”

Rev. Brandon Cho of Morristown UMC, President of the Board of Directors of Next Gen Ministries expressed thrill at the vitalization of this forward-thinking initiative.

“I am particularly excited about our partnership with Barefoot Republic for the summer of 2018,” he said. “It offers a unique and innovative multicultural camping experience for our young people. I envision that our youth will come to appreciate and celebrate unity in diversity in Jesus Christ through this camp.”

In light of GNJ’s current cultural landscape, Cho sees the need to develop Christ-centered inclusive young leaders among the next generation who can build bridges among various cultures and classes.

“I believe transformational experience for our young people through camp is a powerful way to achieve that vision,” he said.

At the beginning of camp, campers will choose a specialty which may include sports, arts, or music. The specialty will be worked on throughout the week as campers discover that they share a passion with other campers who do not look like them or come from the same background. These specialties allow kids who may have thought they had nothing in common to connect and develop counter-intuitive friendships.

“This initiative will bring new life and meaning to camping ministry in GNJ,” said Pastor Waleska Trinidad of Primera Iglesia Metodista de Wesley in Trenton. “By participating in this multicultural camp, children will have the opportunity to grow spiritually, develop their social skills, find a sense of independence, and an opportunity to learn from their peers. They’ll have a chance to explore, express themselves, and make connections with others through music, art, and sports. They will experience God’s love through the diversity of the body of Christ and it’s our hope that they will be able to make lasting memories that will impact their lives and they’ll share at home, church, and in their communities.”

Clements concurred. “Barefoot Republic will truly give campers a sense of the Kingdom of God that will continue after the closing session through other initiatives of Next Generation Ministries.”

Additionally, a senior high leadership camp will be held in July to grow leadership skills through active spiritual formation, hands-on mission training and opportunities, and leading for change. Students will leave equipped to start projects and initiatives at their churches. In August, Ninos Para Cristo & Jovenes Para Cristo camp will be held for all ages in an inclusive program for campers of all backgrounds to come experience God’s presence through the celebration of Latino heritage and culture