do not hinder them,
for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
(Mark 10:14 ESV)
What is your first memory of church?
One of my first memories of the church growing up was vacation bible school (VBS). As a young person, I spent most summers until I reached high school living with my grandparents on their farm in Iowa. Every summer my grandmother helped out with VBS and I was an eager participant. In my home church today, the most important community outreach efforts are play group (mothers with infants), VBS, and the woman’s group.
Camp SonRise takes VBS to a whole new level. Already this week, 343 campers and 200 volunteers have signed up.
Unlike most VBS programs, Camp SonRise does not meet in the church nor does it focus on church kids. SonRise meets in the community and focuses on community kids. It actually meets at Sugarland Elementary School (65 Sugarland Run Drive, Sterling, VA 20164) for an entire week (July 14 – 18th 9:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m.)
Camp SonRise serves children of elementary school age. Volunteers include high school, college, and adult age groups.
Campers break up into groups of about a dozen kids of their own age group. Everyone gets a tie shirt. The groups spend 3 hours playing games, singing and dancing, doing crafts, watching live skits, having snacks, and having small group discussions.
Each group has at least two leaders. Most groups have 3 or 4 leaders with both genders represented. Because the groups spend the week together, campers and leaders get to know each other and keep track of each other. Groups assure that no one gets lost or forgotten. Group leaders carry a flag with the group’s letters.
The goals of SonRise are to assure camper and volunteer safety, having fun, and hearing and discussing the word of God. Rest rooms and water are available. There is a first aid stand, if the need arises. Because of the summer heat, the outdoor games involve water sports—mostly getting cool by getting wet.
Camp SonRise is free. Donations and volunteers come from the businesses and individuals in the community and from community churches.
Riverside Presbyterian Church has sponsored Camp SonRise now for 15 years.
Do You Know the Master Builder?
Although Camp SonRise is fun, it has a serious purpose. This purpose is reinforced through each of the activities in camp.
The theme of Camp SonRise this year is taken from the creation story in Genesis 1-3. The lesson for day 1—creation and fall—is discussed in the groups, acted out in the skit, and reinforced in the arts and crafts, music, and dance. The kids will be reading this and other stories from the Beginner’s Bible (Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz, 2005) which includes lots and lots of illustrations.
From my experience these past two summers as a group leader, I can attest to the ability of the kids to understand and remember their lessons. What I can also tell you is that I know these stories better for having told them to the kids. One of the hard things about going to seminary is learning to communicate the Bible in everyday English. Working with the kids, I also learned to loosen up in a way that has come harder as I grow older—for me, SonRise was a great grandparent training opportunity!
Get Involved with SonRise
Please pray for the camp, the campers, and the staff. Pray for camp safety, for God’s Word to be heard, and for lives to be changed. Pray also for the VBS programs in your own area. Especially today, the world needs to hear the Gospel and know the love of God.
If you live near Sterling, Virginia:
- Join the staff as a volunteer—call 703.444.3528 or email: Barb@RiversideChurch.com
- Sonrise set up and secorations – Join us Saturday July 12th 9:00 AM to noon at Sugarland Elementary
- Sonrise take down – Join us Friday July 18th at 12:30 PM at Sugarland Elementary
Whether you live near Sterling Virginia or not:
- Donations – this is a “free” camp, totally run on donations.
- Check the website for more details about SonRise (RiversideChurch.com).
What was your first memory of the church?