Affordable Camp: Pasadena Texas Church Reaches Out to Community
By Roy Maynard - En Español
It’s not exactly a traditional Vacation Bible School, but FUMC Pasadena’s KidzNMotion program has some similarities. There’s singing, there’s scripture, and there are plenty of activities, arts and crafts. It’s all just on a much larger scale.
“It’s really a mini-camp,” says J.T. LaRue, who serves as FUMC Pasadena’s Director of Nex/Gen Ministries. “It’s our way of reaching out to the community. And the rewards have been very, very great.”
KidzNMotion starts its sixth season on June 24; the five-day-a-week afternoon program will conclude on July 19 (they’ll take July 4 off, of course). And in those four weeks, FUMC Pasadena’s leaders and volunteers hope to make real connections with kids and families near the church.
When it began, KidzNMotion was designed to be a sports-oriented outreach effort, LaRue explained.
“It didn’t really replace VBS, which was really for church families,” he said. “KidzNMotion is for the community.”
About 100 kids participated in the first year; last year (its fifth), 150 area children were signed up, with an average daily attendance of about 135. This year, the goal was to sign up 200; the church had to cut off sign-ups—even for the waiting list—at 300.
“On May 1, the first day to sign up, we had people lined up before we even opened,” said LaRue. “That tells me that families really look forward to it.”
The typical day at KidzNMotion begins at noon; children (from kindergarten to fifth grade) gather in the church sanctuary, then soon head to the fellowship hall for lunch.
“Feeding kids is a big part of this,” said LaRue. “It’s part of what we’re able to give to the community, to meet needs.”
Parents can drop off their kids and know they’re in a safe place, eating well and participating in positive activities.
Throughout the day, those activities include some sports, but—new this year—some academic pursuits, as well, including STEM activities.
“The mind needs to be in motion in the summer, too,” said LaRue, who came to FUMC Pasadena in January. “That’s why I wanted to bring in more arts and crafts, and also drama and STEM projects. We even plan to include some computer coding.”
The whole camp comes back together in the late afternoon for some singing, a spiritual message and to await parents.
Making it all happen takes a lot of people and a lot of commitment, LaRue said.
“I have about half my people hired,” he said. “We have leaders for each 10-person group, then also a co-director, a kitchen lead, a music director and an arts person. Each group will have one (paid) leader, and two adult volunteers.”
Fundraising begins in the fall.
“It costs us about $200 per kid,” LaRue explained. “We used to have just a registration fee, but now we have a program fee of $40 per child. I worried at first about that. But parents know the value they’re getting—half a day, every day, for four weeks—and no one blinked an eye at the cost. We even had some scholarships ready for any families that wanted in but couldn’t afford it; only one family has asked.”
LaRue is looking to college students and recent graduates to fill out his roster of leaders.
“For someone pursuing a career in elementary education, this is ideal,” he said. “And it’s way better than the unpaid internships that are out there.”
For Nikki Gray, FUMC Pasadena’s Director of Worship Arts, KidzNMotion is all about the community.
“For us as a church, KidzNMotion has opened our eyes to look for avenues to be the community church—a part of the community, not just a building here,” she said. “And for me, it’s wonderful just seeing 100 or more kids, all singing and praising God together in joy.”