Fellowship of Christian Athletes hasn’t taken the summer off since 1956 when its Summer Camps first began. This year’s camps promise the same rigor of athletic competition and spiritual development as ever before expecting a total of 25,000 participants at the Summer Camps, themed “One Mission: Get it, Got it, Give it.”
Started in 1954, FCA celebrated its 50th year anniversary earlier this year. The scripture theme verse chosen every year for FCA Summer Camps will be the same as it was in 1956, taken from John 14:6.
FCA vice president of training and resources Dave Kubal explained, “We are continuing in the second 50 years of FCA with the same mission as our founders to reach athletes and coaches for Christ with the message that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light.”
Holding firm to the ultimate mission of seeing the entire world impact for Jesus Christ, FCA has been making tremendous leaps in the number of attendance for the camps. Last year, there was a total of 20,151 participants in five different types of Summer Camps offered: leadership camps, sports camps, youth sports camps, coaches camps and partnership camps. In 1995, FCA counted 13,048 participants in the camps while in 1997, that number jumped to 17,227.
The swelling numbers could be accounted for by the efforts of the ministry to accommodate an array of sport interests.
“We have been very intentional in meeting specific needs,” said Dan Britton, FCA senior vice president of ministries. For example, the ministry has been working on developing camps for extreme sports which include motorcross camps, skateboard camps, and surfboard camp. Britton is expecting the numbers for extreme sports camps and many others to double this summer.
One of the biggest initiatives of FCA is to promote the Youth Sports Camp or “Power Camps”, day camps at local high schools for the 8-12 age group. Around 5,000 attended the power camps last year but that number is expected to rise to 7,500, according to Britton.
A Golf Camp will be the first Summer Camp to kick-off on May 31.
Sarah Slonecker, a graduate from William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri, says “there is a huge difference” between attending regular sports camps and Christian-oriented sports camps. Slonecker has attended four other Golf Camps before attending her first FCA Summer Camp the summer after her senior year of high school.
“At the FCA Camp, you have Christ at the center and you are learning about your Christian walk,” she said. She found it encouraging to be around other Christians who could see the analogies between golf and Christ such as being “in his grip.” Meeting other people who “have similar struggles and victories throughout life” also gave her strength.
What is special about the camps is also the outreach opportunities they provide. “Athletes are driven to perform at a higher level all the time,” stated Britton, who was a profession Lacrosse player. “We take that desire built into the competitive heart of an athlete and rely on that to draw them.”
During the time athletes spend in their “Huddle groups” or small groups lead by a Christian college athlete, relationships are forged between Christians and non-Christians who also attend the camps, and “in the midst of all of that the spirit of God moves incredibly,” said Kubal, a soccer player while attending graduate school.
Christians will be able to serve as role models for non-Christians at the camps and witness to them by the way they play the sport, according to Slonecker. “They see that self-esteem, self-value does not come from whether you succeeded on the court or not,” she said. “You realize the game is something that God has blessed you with the ability to have fun. If you don’t win that’s okay. You still treat them with respect.”
By spending time to engage in common interests, students will also realize they other have things in common.
“You got a mission in life and you find that mission in Jesus,” agreed Kubal and Britton.