Instead of sitting in classrooms to study the Bible, these children are playing and praying.
Ranging in grades from pre-school to sixth grade, the Westside Church of Christ on Stockdale Highway is holding this four-day sports and Bible camp — Mega Sports Camp — to reach out to their neighbors.
“We’re very interested in reaching a different audience,” Student Minister Bryan Fojtasek said. “We’re trying to put a new spin on [Vacation Bible School].”
He added that a lot of people in Bakersfield love doing sports so this a way to give back to their neighbors.
Being a “good neighbor,” Fojtasek said, is being part of the community and giving something back that’s beneficial — like use of the church’s gymnasium and offering a free, four-day camp so parents can take a break.
More than 100 children, whose families are not all affiliated with the church, will play football, soccer, volleyball and basketball from Sunday to Wednesday. There’s also cheerleading, and the youngest kids will learn the basics in athletics.
In addition to snack and water breaks, the children meet in small groups to pray and talk about what they’ve learned so far as they played.
Mega Sports Camp cheerleading coach Rhenana Grimes said she thinks it’s a good way of attracting people to the church.
“It definitely is a great outreach to the community to see the relationship, atmosphere, community of the church and want to be a part of it,” she said.
Almost half of the children at the camp have no prior connection to the church, Mega Sports Camp program operators said.
Shepherding Minister Merv Rash said holding Vacation Bible School like this is a good change for the church.
“I’m hoping reaching out to the community, we’ll instill some godly principals,” the minister said. “It’s something that’ll stick with them.”
Each of the four days have a theme built around a verse from Romans, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” For example, the first day was “I can conquer the day when I practice with purpose.”
The day finished with church member Ian Nickell telling the story about David and how he practiced using a slingshot to defend his family’s sheep.
“It’s not always going to be fun,” Nickell told the kids about practicing, “but that’s what it’s about: getting better.”
Over the next three days of events, children will hear the rest of David’s story and learn about various players, like Lex Gillete in track and tennis player Roger Federer.
“It can bring that aspect to kids when they’re in sports,” Grimes said. “They’ll be, ‘Oh, I can bring God in sports.’”