The congregation at Broadway Christian Church took a neighborly approach with its vacation Bible school this year.
In an attempt to have more of an impact on the youth who live near downtown, the church partnered with Urban Impact and the Lexington Leadership Foundation to offer a program they hoped will develop lasting relationships.
While most vacation Bible schools consist of programs that last a couple of hours on a couple of days, Camp Can I Go offered five full days of activities and learning.
"We don't just want to walk in and walk out; we want to walk in and stay there with them," says Connie Conkright, children's minister at Broadway Christian.
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Eighty volunteers, including members who took the week off from work to teach the children the meanings behind Bible stories, and youth groups from Georgia and Indiana served as counselors to the inner-city children.
When the camp launched in 2009, 70 kids attended. The numbers have grown each year, although this year's number wasn't available at press time.
Senior Minister Ernie Perry said the church board discussed moving several years ago, but "God needed us here."
"We believe Broadway Christian is still downtown for a reason."
Broadway Christian — whose motto is "sharing hope in the city" — hasn't always reached out to its neighborhood, Perry said, but the church is beginning to see the need for mentors there.
"We decided to start a program that was more intentional for our community and reaching downtown," said Perry, adding that many of the children in the surrounding community come from "very struggling homes."
"I know they have struggles, but theirs become ours," said Conkright.
Broadway's program is specifically targeted to elementary-age children, hoping to help them become future leaders.
"Without partnering with people we don't get the body of Christ," said Conkright of the church's partnership with Urban Impact, a youth ministry that helps churches connect with the community.
So how did the program go over with those attending?
Micah Green, 11, said she liked it because it got her out of the house and she learned about God.
"The best part about vacation Bible school is seeing my friends and having fun," said Amira Smiley, 11.
Jo'quan Cowherd, 12, and Fritz Ursos, 11, both said they enjoyed the activities that included water games, singing church songs and playing basketball. They also enjoyed becoming friends with each other.
Conkright said she hoped the children learned how to serve and love others just like the Lord serves and loves them.
"Your circumstances may dictate a lot around you, but they don't dictate who you are," Conkright said.
Urban Impact's Marcus Patrick agreed.
"We want to teach kids now that they can make positive changes in their neighborhood. We want to empower them to dream big and live up to what God has called them to do."