curriculum theme - "Join the Party"Shepherd’s Spring OMC
Coed Junior Camp, July 25-30, 2004
Program Details

see schedule

            According to author and popular speaker, Tony Campolo, The Kingdom of God is a Party. Our camp theme this year focuses upon joining this party. Not a political party (important to note in an election year), but space and time meant for jubilation. Real joy, not the fake variety. Of course, our adult ears might quibble with the concept. After all, it is a serious undertaking to follow Jesus. Our beginning "celebration" called Baptism is hardly a pool party. It involves dying to sin and rising with Christ, something our faith tradition refers to as an "adult" decision (not to be confused with "adult" entertainment, and a serious confusion of values). That special "party" (if you will) for Brethren, our Love Feast, is not undertaken lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-34). Yes, we splash around in some water, but it's on our knees (John 13:1-20), cleaning and being cleansed, serving and being served. In many a Dunker church, the fellowship meal involves absolute silence (though not necessarily), followed by Communion as a proclamation of Jesus' death (1 Corinthians 11:26). It's all pretty heavy stuff - as it should be.

            But it is a "party," nonetheless. "There will be more joy in heaven," Jesus said, "over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). A Party? You bet! "Quickly, bring out a robe- the best one - and put it on him," cried the waiting father in one of Jesus' stories we'll remember this week. "Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!" (Luke 15:22-24). Sounds like a party. As the curriculum we're using states: "God is giving a party. It is a party of goodness, a party of grace, a party of forgiveness, a party of new life! All people are invited to God's party..." (p. 16).

            Speaking of the curriculum, it’s built around six "discoveries," all of which call us to "Join the party!" Each one uses a passage of scripture as a focal point.

Discovery one - "You are invited! Join the party!" - Luke 14:7-24
Discovery two - "Remember this Day! Join the party!" - Exodus 13:3-10
Discovery three - "See what God has done! Join the party!" - Luke 2:8-20
Discovery four - "Welcome Back! Join the party!" - Luke 15:11-32
Discovery five - "All is ready! Join the party!" - Luke 22:14-30
Discovery six - "Go and Tell! Join the party!" - Matthew 28:1-10

            [By the way, Tony Campolo tells a wonderful story about an encounter with someone who needed a real party in her world full of false ones (see Agnes's story). It would be a great story for older youth, though not grades 3-5.]


            Singing is an important part of any celebration. The curriculum includes a good song written especially for it. I wrote another ("Come to the table") which at least our week at Shepherd’s Spring will use. Others are welcome to do so as well. The five verses correspond to the six discoveries, and will be taught one-a-day. As ours is a Sunday-Friday week, Discoveries one and two are combined. Thus, verse one links to the banquet story Jesus’ told (lines one and two), in which invitations first went out to a special guest list, and then to anyone on the "roads and lanes" who would come (Luke 14:7-24). This verse (lines three and four) also connects with the Passover celebration (Exodus 13:3-10), which commands God’s people to tell the story of their deliverance around the table.

            The scripture for day three (Luke 2:8-20), about the nativity party invitation the shepherds received out in the field at night, provides the background for verse two. Verse three links to day four’s story of the prodigal son - or should it be called the waiting father, or the disgruntled older son? (Luke 15:11-32). In the fourth verse, we sing the invitation as if from the lips of Jesus, who shared with his disciples that Passover meal which has become our central celebration as his followers (Luke 22:14-30). Finally, the resurrection message of both angels and the risen Christ (Matthew 28:1-10) is the basis of the final verse, which propels us to "Go and tell!"

            Written to both fit with the 2004 camp curriculum and serve as an invitation in a congregational worship setting, "Come to the table" in the refrain can be sung as "Come to the party." It’s a reminder that celebration and jubilation (remember the "jubilee" of Leviticus 25) are a necessary part of this "serious" business we are about as God’s people. In its truest sense, the kingdom of God is a party. Unleash the invitation!

Small Groups

            Every camper will be in two small groups. First will be his or her cabin group. There are 6 cabins. Each cabin has bed space for 10-11 persons, usually 8 campers and 2 counselors, plus a possible counselor-in-training (CIT). Initial "get-acquainted" time on Sunday evening is done as cabin groups. Nighttime and mid-day quiet time during the rest of the week are when this group is together. Formal (Wednesday morning watch, lights out devotionals) and informal possibilities for growth abound during this time.

            The other small group each camper will belong to is a K-group. The "K" is for the Greek word "Koinonia," which means "fellowship" or "community." The New Testament was written in "Koine" Greek (as opposed to "classical" Greek), which was the language of the "common" person. Following Pentecost, the early church in Jerusalem "had all things in common" (i.e. sharing possessions, Acts 2:44-45)... During our week at Shepherd’s Spring, campers and counselors in k-groups will seek "common" group with each other, discovering more about and with Jesus, together.

            There is designated k-group time every day. In some cases this involves no other activity, and k-group counselors are responsible for the time. On the other hand, other sessions are activity driven and done as a k-group, usually paired with another k-group, such as art, nature, and conflict resolution, which will be led by other staff. Caving is similar, but there will be time during this activity for curriculum development as a k-group. Party Prep, Scavenger Hunt, and News Scripting/videotaping (see below) are done as k-groups, with counselors providing leadership (with assistance). Make the most of your small group opportunities.

Welcome to the Party
Sunday night

Opening Skit

needed: an invitation for each counselor (who beforehand each come up with a funny and stupid excuse as to why they cannot attend the upcoming party).

            Once the camp is seated and quiet, Co-director 1 passes out invitation to each counselor, excitedly talking to each about how much fun this party is going to be. "Please, please, please, I really, really, really want you to come. Here’s the invitation." etc. When finished, this co-director sits in a central location and waits. One at a time, the counselors each come and deliver the bad news about them not being able to attend, and why (reasons should elicit groans from onlookers). The co-director’s countenance slips downward with each rejection. When all have finished, s/he just sits there a bit and stares at the floor. Then, in a noticeable shift, s/he stands and resolutely says: "They obviously don’t want to come to my party. But I’m still going to have a party, a wonderful party, a really fun time. If they won’t come, I’m just going to invite whoever will come!"

            With that, this co-director goes to one child and asks: "Will you come to my party? It’s going to take place this week at Shepherd’s Spring. We’ll have a blast playing games, swimming, hiking, meeting new friends, learning about Jesus, getting messy with artsy stuff, encountering all sorts of animals, baking bread, exploring a cave, etc. (a litany of the week’s events spoken with excitement). Will you come? You will? Wonderful!" Then s/he goes to the next child and asks the same thing, then to the next, and the next, and the next, until every child is personally invited and responds. The "litany of events" can be spread out over many of the children, so each gets a piece of the picture.

            Once done, the other co-director takes overs, saying something like this:

            "Jesus told a story like this about the kingdom of God. Listen. (Read Luke 14:15-24 dramatically). Now, just so you know, all of your counselors who acted like they didn’t want to come to this week’s party - they actually do want to be here. In fact, some are giving up a week of their summer vacation just to be here with you. They are excited about this week. Right, counselors? (Yee-haw! etc.) We will have a wonderful time together. How about we pray for this week, thanking God for inviting us to this party"... etc. A song before or after is appropriate.

            At this point, the gathering shifts over to summer staff leadership, either moving to another location, or staying in the same place, for their contribution - which includes "party rules" (which every party has). The above is adaptable.

Morning Watch & Vespers

            On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, the whole camp will journey via the "cowbone trail" to a spot in the middle of the field for a time of reflection to start the day. Hopefully this spot has been mowed throughout the summer to prepare the space (the same as has been used the previous years for Junior Coed camp). Unless logs have been spread out to make a worship area, as has been suggested, we will make newspaper "sit-upons" for this time. (p.s. Middler Adventure camp will need to be aware of our quiet space and not infringe upon it).

            The details are still being worked out for each morning watch (planned by the directors), but the intent is to create a separate time and space for us to "be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). The field provides a horizon beyond the trees to help us look beyond ourselves - an outer distance to assist in gaining inward spiritual perspective. The location of vespers will vary, depending on the day, and may be woven into other activities, such as a campfire.

Discovery One & Two

            With both morning watch and evening vespers, the directors set the stage for each day, which we are approaching with the Jewish concept of a day beginning and ending with sunset. Thus, we have 2 opportunities to develop each theme before the k-groups weave it into their times together. In approaching the curriculum, we are combining Discovery one ("You are invited," Luke 14:7-24 - presented during the "welcome" session) and Discovery two ("Remember this Day," Exodus 13:3-10 - during morning watch) into Sunday and Monday.

Discovery Three

            Monday evening vespers and Tuesday morning watch will be Discovery three ("See what God has done!," Luke 2:8-20). Vespers on Monday evening will be part of the "Night Hike." It makes sense to do this since the gospel story itself takes place at night. After snack, we’ll head to the field (which field? negotiable). We’ve asked S.S. staff to see if some sheep could be brought to the site. A shepherd along with them would be nice, someone who could talk about what sheep are like, especially at night. Doesn’t need to be a Bible character type of presentation, just someone who knows and loves sheep [by the way, this can reinforce the Heifer International presentation earlier that afternoon].

            When it’s dark, we’ll remember the invitation to the "party" those shepherds received on the first Christmas, involving our imaginations more than any technical wizardry (i.e. "What do your eyes see, even in the dark? ... listen to the night animals sing, now imagine a choir of angels" etc.). Christmas carols would be most appropriate. The Middler Adventure camp is welcome to join us for this (if not, they need to be quiet). p.s. a nice bedtime song would be "All through the Night." Morning Watch will continue the theme.

Discovery Four

            Tuesday’s vespers will be incorporated into a campfire, both planned by the co-directors (details to be determined later). This begins Discovery four - "Welcome Back!" We may act out the story of the prodigal son - Luke 15:11-32. As Monday was a later night, we are pushing back a ˝ hour the start of Wednesday’s schedule to do a mid-week catch up on sleep. Furthermore, this will be a "breakfast in bed" day, with kitchen staff bringing to the pavilion what each cabin will take back and enjoy as a group. On this day, each cabin will hold their own morning watch.

Discovery Five

            Wednesday evening vespers (Discovery five, Luke 22:14-30) will follow up the scavenger hunt with its special meal ending (see below). Again, details have not yet been worked out for vespers and morning watch for this day (Thursday).

Discovery Six

            Because we are pushing swim time to the evening, Vespers will take place around the pool, once the children have showered and gotten dressed. We’ll pull from Matthew’s gospel (though not the text - Matthew 28:1-10 - from Discovery six, "Go and Tell"). Word and visual will be employed. Hearing Matthew 5:14-16, we’ll put candles on tin plates (or whatever S.S. provides for us appropriate for pool usage), light them, and float them from one end of the pool - sending them forth.

            Then each camper - plus enough counselors to make up the 51 persons needed - will be given a folded 8˝ x11" sheet of paper (already made up from a previous summer), and told to open and secretly read the word but not show it to anyone else yet. Then they will - without speaking - find their number order around the pool, starting with #1 and ending with #51. When all are in place, showing their number, we’ll begin with #1, and each person will show and loudly speak their word, in order. All told, this will be the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20... Friday’s morning watch is not yet planned, but will revolve around another morning in a cemetery, and two women, an angel, and an empty tomb.

Monday Specials

            This day seems to be really wrapped up in animal life. We are arranging for a "Scales and Tales" program from the Maryland Park Service in the morning (10:00 am for 45 minutes). This will immediately precede k-group to for everyone. That afternoon (2:00 pm, also for 45 minutes) will be a presentation of Heifer International about the offering emphasis for this summer. And, if everything works out to get some sheep for our Night Hike (see above), we’ll have plenty to baaah about.

Evening Activities

            On Monday and Tuesday, our evening activity will a combination of "Party Prep" (see below) for half the k-groups one night and half of them the next, and another staff planned activity for the other k-groups. The Scavenger Hunt (see below) will be Wednesday, and the Night Swim following the Theme Meal (the meal planned and put on by summer staff) will take care of Thursday. We are not having a Talent show this year.


            There will be a 2-hour-long art session for each k-group on either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning or afternoon, led by this year’s resident artist. For those not involved in art during those periods, there will either be 1) Conflict resolution (see below), or Nature.

Scavenger Hunt
Wednesday evening all group activity

            Each k-group is given (in addition to writing paper and pencils):

                  - a "loaf" of unleavened communion bread
                                          (Brethren style, but in large cookie size, not in sheet to be cut)
                              put in a plastic or other container to keep bugs out and freshness in
                  - a thermos (or whatever) of a drink
                  - a package of at least 16 paper cups (one for each member of a k-group - in a bag)
                  - a paper tablecloth (in a zip-lock bag)
                  - a candle (in a zip-lock bag)
                  - a pack of matches (in a zip-lock bag)

            As a group, you decide upon 7 locations around camp property (stay away from where the Middler Adventure camp is tenting) in which to hide these items. The 7th location should be a picnic table at some cookout or other place. This may be a good place, in fact, to start. Go there and claim this space so the other k-groups don’t.

            Your k-group is creating a scavenger hunt for another k-group (somewhat similar to p.89 in the curriculum). These items were, in fact, created by them previously (see below). Each item should be clearly marked as "K-Group #__" so that others might not pick up the wrong item by mistake, in case 2 groups choose the same hiding place. Decide the order in which you will plant your items. Work backward from the last location (a picnic table which should have some identifying mark for the group who will later seek it). Come up with clues to leave with each item that will help the other k-group find the next item. Be creative! If you are so moved, make it into a poem. For example, you could hide it with the nurse (a person, not a place). Suppose her name was "Gail." Then:

"Ouch!" you cry, "a bee stung me,
where can I go to be set free?"
Go find this Florence Nightin‘gail,’
and get your clue, without fail.

            If poetry is not your group’s forté, come up with something else - drawings maybe, Bible verses, or some other means that will make it challenging (and fun!) for the other group. This is not a win-lose game, so don’t go about it trying to "beat" the other "teams." You are paving the way for a party.

            Once your clues are in place, return to the total group meeting spot. There, when we are ready to begin the second part of this evening’s activity, one of your members will deliver the first clue (folded) to the other k-group. When the whistle is blown, the clues are unfolded and the hunt starts.

            When your group reaches the 7th location, unfold the tablecloth and prepare the table with the items. Light the candle. It’s party time! Read Luke 22:14-30. Talk about it. Don’t over-talk it, however, for this is about "doing" scripture, not "thinking" it. As a k-group, share communion. Yes, it should be serious, but it is also a party. Relate it to the today’s (day 4) scripture - Luke 15:11-32 - about the welcome home party for the prodigal son; or the day 3 (Tuesday) scripture - Luke 2:8-20 - about the nighttime party of shepherds and angels; or the day 2 (Monday) scripture - Exodus 13:3-10 - about the Passover party of which the communion was originally a part. Help the children make connections between these scriptures, by asking questions (i.e. acting dumb can let the children "teach" you the connections they are already making. This is a party. It should be fun.

            Once your meal (p.s. this is also the snack for the evening) is done, open the clue given to one of you counselors by a co-director, and go where it leads (hint: there will be a fire). Follow the sound of music if you get lost, unless you’re the first group to arrive. We’ll sing until all groups are present, and continue with a campfire.

Party Prep
Tuesday and Wednesday

            Each k-group will have a scheduled time beforehand to prepare the items which will be hidden by another k-group for Wednesday evening’s Scavenger Hunt / Party. Half the K-groups will be doing this as their Monday evening activity. The other half will do so on Tuesday evening. Unless a better location is decided upon, it will take place in the dining room of the lodge, near enough to an oven.

            As part of the time, each group will bake a loaf of unleavened communion bread. For this activity, a grandmother-ly Brethren from one of our churches can be brought in as a resource to "pass on" this process to another generation. Someone who loves children more than tradition would be ideal, allowing the youngsters hands-on learning at the expense of "proper" procedure. This will not be exact communion bread baking. For one thing, the bread will not be separated out into pieces or strips, but left as a whole. Along the way, the "proper" way can be described, realizing that each congregation often does it a little different. Aim at fun, though clean hands (with ‘sneezers’ in the rear) is a must. The camp’s kitchen head can oversee and make sure we are not breaking health codes etc.

            While the bread is baking, the group is preparing other items as well. There is a plain white paper tablecloth to be spread out. Choose one (or more) of the daily scriptures for the week. Spread out crayons and have the children draw pictures of it on the tablecloth. Then talk about the pictures. Weave in a variety of ways of making the theme real.

            There should be enough paper cups for each person, counselors and CITs included, plus a few for extra measure. (p.s. these cups need to be plain with no design already on them, of a material which can be decorated. If crayons don’t work, staff needs to have whatever will available). Decide how you will decorate these. Perhaps each will creatively individualize their own cup, or choose partners and do so for someone else’s cup. Maybe you’ll choose to continue the Bible story pictures on the cups. Whatever.

            There is more party prep to be done. Mix a drink all will share Wednesday evening and put it in the container in which it will be hidden. By the way, don’t reveal what will later be done with these items. Save it as a surprise. Putting the items (including candles and matches) into their own individual containers, marking each with your k-group number, and putting them where told for later, is the last step.

            As this is your k-group period for the day, come prepared to fill any extra time not used for the above with appropriate small group activity.


            On Earth Peace Assembly will provide a team to teach "conflict resolution" during our week. We have planned in a 1˝ hour session for each K-group (paired with another k-group) on Tuesday or Wednesday, and an hour-long session for each pair on Thursday.

            The OEPA Peace team is welcome to suggest other ways of getting involved as they are here for the whole week. They may wish to connect with the Middler Adventure Camp (especially in the evenings when that camp will be on site - though we are open to the team being with us also after supper in whatever capacity), or with the Youth Challenge camp (which leaves Monday morning and returns Friday). The point is - they are invited to do as much as they wish with us, to "Join the Party!"


            Working around our limited days for caving (Thursday and Friday, with Middler Adventure camp asking for time on Friday) due to Nature Dave’s schedule and new state regulations, K-groups will go in pairs either Thursday morning or afternoon, or on Friday morning While one of the two is exploring the cave, the other waiting outside uses this as k-group time.

            Ideas for the latter: Get feedback from your enactment of the last supper "party" on Wednesday evening. Talk about what happened next in the gospel story. The cave itself might provide a wonderful lead-in to talking about things that scare us, and linking to the scarey part of the story of Jesus: his death and burial (in a "cave"). This event lies between the 2 Bible stories of Discoveries five and six. While the movie, "The Passion of the Christ" was not appropriate for this age group, some may have seen it, and most probably heard about it (pro or con). This provides another opportunity to make spiritual connections, but let them make the connections - don’t dump heavy theology on them. An "Aha!" cannot be forced. Counselors are like midwives at a birth. Sitting on the towpath, with the river on one side and the cave on the other, what around you helps us connect with death and resurrection.

            Speaking of which, the 4 k-groups not at the cave (either Thursday morning or afternoon) will have 2 sessions during this time. One of those sessions is to be led by a summer staffer, a "Nature" time with the focus (if possible) somehow being upon death and new life in the natural world. The other session will be led by persons from OEPA (see above), a continuation of conflict resolution classes.

"Go and Tell"
Friday morning

            This will be our "high tech" activity, as a video camera (and camera operator) and VCR/monitor will be needed for the day. This will be done in two sessions. Each K-group will be given one of the six scripture stories (matching the six discoveries) from the week. Starting out the first session paired with another K-group, each will be told that they are a news crew from a local TV station covering this scripture event (the parables can either be treated as real "events," or as stories Jesus told - though not technically "correct," the prior might work better). Each group will need to decide how they will cover it. For instance, one person could be the field reporter and the rest could be (you choose) witnesses to be interviewed, actual participants in the event as it unfolds before the camera, etc. Be creative! Write a script, if necessary. Do not, however, plan for a camera person, that will be someone from the summer staff (or a co-director) using the actual video camera.

            You have an hour to come up with your own field report. Perhaps you will choose to write a script, or just wing it. Try to involve everyone in some fashion. Co-directors and other staff will be available to help. The second session will be a time for practicing and then videotaping your segment of what will become the "7:30 News" on Friday night. Four of the k-groups will have the first "News scripting" session on Thursday, and the second videotaping session on Friday morning. Because they will be at the cave on Friday morning, the other 2 k-groups will have both their sessions on Thursday (morning & afternoon).

            Staff will be the anchors for this "7:30 News" presented as part of the closing event with the parents present. We’ll think up "other" news to fill out the report, possibly pulling some events from the week of camp itself. Involving as much of the staff as possible (either live or videotaped - imagine a segment from the kitchen showing our cooks hard at work) will be fun, especially adding in commercials. Perhaps the "news" could be the overarching concept to tie the reporting of all 3 camps together. This could even be planned during staff orientation at the beginning of the summer, if they are interested. If not, the Coed Junior camp co-directors are willing to plan. The appropriate location for this will be determined by Jenna & Ann.

            The purpose of this task is to sum up the discoveries and to remind the campers of what they can "go and tell" about this week. The children will be challenged not only to spread the news about camp, but to also share what they have discovered in God with others.

see the daily schedule.

Co-directors: Alice Martin Adkins and Pete Haynes