Most of us have heard the term most valuable player, or MVP, in the context of the secular, sports world, and understand it as an honor bestowed upon individual athletes who excel in their chosen sport. In 2011 the youth pastor at our church (North Cincinnati Community Church in Mason, Ohio) decided to take a different approach to summertime youth ministry. Rather than offering one of the traditional Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs found in many churches across America, he chose to design a new program. The name chosen for this program was MVP, which in this case stands for Most Valuable Pursuit.
The idea behind MVP Camp is to expose children to the gospel message through the arts (art, music, & ballet), athletics (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, & golf), and outdoor adventure (cool stuff like hiking, camping, orienteering, & roasting marshmallows over a campfire), activities pursued passionately by many in today’s society, Christian and non-Christian alike. We teach the children skills in their chosen pursuit, and that these activities are wonderful gifts from God that should always be pursued with honor and excellence; but, ultimately, the Most Valuable Pursuit of all is a personal and life-long relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
At the start of each evening the children gather in the church sanctuary to hear an opening speaker who is a leader in one of the offered pursuits, and who is also a devoted follower of Christ, demonstrating that the pursuit of these activities can indeed be God honoring, and that Jesus is our Most Valuable Pursuit of all. The children then disperse into smaller groups for instruction in their chosen activity for the remainder of the evening. On Friday evening, the final night of the week long MVP Camp, we hold one large gathering where parents are invited to attend, along with their children, to learn about the week’s activities and hear a closing speaker’s testimony.
From the beginning of the MVP program I have been blessed to lead the camp’s outdoor adventure track. I frequently tell others that I have just as much fun as (maybe even more than) the kids in my camp, and that serving Christ in this manner is a tremendous growth opportunity and blessing for me personally. In the interest of keeping this post from getting too long I will save a more detailed description of my outdoor adventure camp activities for a future post.
In the first two years MVP Camp has been well received by those within our church and by those in the community around us. We started big the first year, with around 150 children, and had nice growth in participation the second year, with nearly half of the children coming from outside our church both years. We are now preparing for our third year and praying that the growth trend continues, despite a major road construction project limiting access to our church driveway.
By taking advantage of society’s fascination with sports and other extracurricular activities the hope is to attract a more diverse cross section of the community, particularly those who are un-churched and may shy away from the more traditional VBS offerings. I believe this mission is being accomplished and that the gospel message is being proclaimed quite effectively through this ministry.
To God be the glory!!!
Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.