Across America, parents spend millions of dollars every year to send their sons and daughters to a sports camp. So, it’s little wonder that when churches offerfor a fraction of the cost of a typical sports camp (sometimes even free), it catches their attention.
But what churches are finding even more exciting is that through MEGA Sports Camps, kids are not only honing their athletic (and sometimes other) skills, they are hearing a compelling message about Christ’s love. Even more impressive is that incredible percentages of kids are giving or rededicating their lives to Christ!
David Richards ofin Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, is the executive pastor of family ministries. He’s been involved in putting on MEGA Sports Camps for more than a decade at various churches.
“Our goal is not to have MEGA Sports Camp as a rotation for VBS for church kids,” he says. “We wanted it to be a venue for families in our community to have their kids involved in something during the week.”
In order to appeal to a wider variety of kids, once again the church expanded the typical MEGA Sports Camp to include more than just sports, offering three categories: Play It (soccer, volleyball, flag football, etc.), Create It (cartoon drawing, crocheting, watercolors, etc.), and Perform It (musical performance, drama, and others).
Richards says the church averages about 2,100 on Sundays, and this year they made a big push to up the percentage of unchurched kids attending the camp. They were successful. Richards says 20 percent (up from 5 percent the year before) were unchurched. In other words, out of 438 attending, more than 80 were unchurched.
“We had 35 first-time salvation decisions and 67 rededications,” Richards says.
An average of 200 kids attended the MEGA Sports Camp held this June at(AG) in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where the average Sunday morning attendance runs about 400.
Children’s pastor Corey Sullenger says nearly 70 percent of the kids attending the camp were not from the church and 42 of the kids wrote down that they didn’t attend a church at all.
“It’s just amazing watching how this works,” Sullenger says. “The lessons the kids are learning in the sports skills tie together with the Bible story so well. Kid are constantly learning, listening to the Bible.”
“We had 47 kids dedicate their lives to Christ for the first time, and 38 rededicate their lives,” Sullenger says, adding that he’s seen a 25 percent increase in attendance at the camp each of the last four years.
Steve Davis, children’s pastor at, with an attendance of about 400, says about 95 kids attended their MEGA Sports Camp held in June.
“About 30 to 35 percent of the kids attending were church kids, the rest were community kids,” Davis says.
More than 40 kids made decisions for Christ during the Painesville AG camp, but what was also exciting for Davis was seeing several new families attend for the first time over the following few Sunday morning services as a result of the camp.
Davis expresses great appreciation for the MEGA Sports Camp materials. “It’s a very dynamic discipleship and equipping tool,” he says. “It allowed our volunteers to use their gifts and ministries while actively sharing Christ.”
For the past five years, Dan Vanderbilt, children’s pastor at(AG) in Muncie, Indiana, has offered MEGA Sports Camp to their community.
Glad Tidings averages about 750 on Sunday mornings, but saw nearly 200 kids show up each day for the five-day camp — nearly 75 percent of them being kids who did not attend the church.
“We offer a quality sports camp that includes soccer, flag football, volleyball, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, and choir,” Vanderbilt says. “Kids know our program and know it’s going to be high quality, so through word of mouth, we draw a lot of community kids to the camp.”
Vanderbilt says that he partners with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) groups at the local colleges and high schools to bring in coaches and players to speak to the kids as well as share their expertise.
“Around here, sports are huge — parents spending crazy amounts of money to send kids to sports camps,” Vanderbilt says. “But because we can draw coaches and athletes (through FCA), it’s a big draw to kids (and their parents) and we’re able to use youth sports as a springboard to talk about God — MEGA Sports Camp is a great tool.”
Although MEGA Sports Camp is produced by the Assemblies of God, many non-Pentecostal Bible-believing churches also use it with similar results. “Our goal in developing MEGA Sports Camp is to provide a quality tool that kids and leaders want to be a part of. We believe in meeting kids by using activities they are already interested in and connecting that with the message of the gospel.” says Mark Entzminger, senior director of Children’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God. “Each year we spend time praying for God’s direction regarding the message of each of the sessions to make sure we are in tune with what He wants to do in the lives of the children.”
Recently, River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, conducted a MEGA Sports Camp. The results were stunning. Not did only hundreds of kids attend — participating in everything from soccer, basketball, and baseball to karate, fishing, and Frisbee golf — but the message of Christ was effectively communicated. ROCC reported 254 decisions to follow Jesus!
Richards shares an example that gives a glimpse into the impact of the camp. “An unchurched foster boy went home from camp and told his foster mom he knew what he wanted to be for Halloween this year — MEGA Man, the MEGA Sports Camp mascot,” Richards shares. “When asked why, the boy said, ‘Because he loves to have fun and he tells me about Jesus.’ What’s remarkable about that is, the MEGA Man character is masked and never talks — he just spent some time with the boy on the soccer field.”
Richards, Sullenger, Davis, and Vanderbilt all agree that through interacting with kids as they participate in the activities they enjoy, sharing the truth that God loves them, and explaining how Jesus can be an epic part of their lives every day, churches are seeing kids responding, families engaging, and communities changing.
“The message sticks with kids because they come to understand what the lessons are all about and put them into action,” Sullenger says, “so when they leave, it’s something they take with them and tell their friends — and family — about!”