Every June and July, thousands of Super Summer students proudly wear the same color, loudly chant group cheers and put on their game faces at competitive activities for five straight days, but leaders and students alike will agree the success of the camp goes far deeper than fun and games.
Super Summer is intense and intentionally deeper than regular youth camps, said Scott Patridge, youth minister at Arapaho Road Baptist Church in Garland and dean for the Red School at the first Super Summer session this year, which took place at Dallas Baptist University from June 8-12.
"It's not a camp for everybody," he said. "But for those students who you see leadership qualities in and those who have a desire to learn more and go deeper into God's Word and learn more about who He is, then Super Summer is the camp for them."
During the five days of Super Summer, students spend approximately 24 hours in evangelism and discipleship training sessions. Youth are challenged and equipped to become effective and innovative "missionaries" of God's love on their school campuses, in their community, across the nation and around the globe. The elements of those training times are where the success truly lies.
As a dean for Red School, Patridge got the opportunity to speak to the youngest group of students, who just finished seventh grade, every day during their "School Sessions," where they got sound teaching and a time of worship.
"In these school groups, they're getting teaching that is really thought-through and designed for their age group," Patridge explained. "It's very specific and relevant to them. We take those teaching times to really just address them … Anything we can do now to lay a Biblical foundation will help them later on."
After each school session, the students separate into even smaller "family groups" with their team leaders, which is where John Davison, Green School dean and middle school student pastor at Fusion Bible Church in Sherman, said the youth really get the chance to process the lesson.
"That's where a lot of what we said (in school sessions) becomes concrete in the hearts of the students," Davison said. "In the family group times they process, understand and give life to what they just absorbed … just like the twelve disciples did with Jesus."
Khaki School student, Macy Price from Crossroads Baptist Church in The Woodlands, just finished high school and is preparing to go to college at Texas A&M University in the fall. As she has grown in leadership through her church and through Super Summer, she encouraged younger students to start developing those leadership skills young.
"Start young so you can get close to people leading you and guiding you," she advised. "Just because you're young, don't think people don't look up to you. I even look up to a lot of jr. highers in my church. It's very important to start leading at a young age."
Aside from intentional training sessions, Super Summer students also have some fun with Texas Olympics and Wild & Crazy Games, in which they compete against the other schools. Even then, students also earn points by cheering on and encouraging the other teams. At night times, all the schools unite together for a "Rainbow Celebration Worship Service."
Taking on the role as dean was no question for Patridge as he saw the effect Super Summer had on him after going through five "schools" as a student.
"It made such huge impact in my life as a teenager," he said. "God did something great in my life through Super Summer, and I know He is doing the same in the lives of students today. Anything I can do to be involved in that and help show them who God is, I'm willing to do that."
For similar reasons, Davison is going on his nineteenth year as a Super Summer participant. He was a student for the first two years and has served on the executive staff ever since.
Another former Super Summer student, Eryn Parker from First Baptist Church in Savoy, served as a team leader for a Yellow School family group because she wanted to impact students the way her team leaders impacted her just a few years ago.
"The family group is who you bond with and open up to," she said. "As a team leader, I try to open up so much because I know it's so important to have that bond with the students."
Super Summer began in 1974 and has continued to draw in enthusiastic students and leaders ever since then because of dedication from volunteer staff (many of whom have been to Super Summer as students) and through generous contributions from Texas Baptist churches and the Cooperative Program.
While Super Summer does provide a week of fun for students, it is evident its primary purpose is to help strengthen, encourage and challenge students who are the future of Christian leadership, a mission that continues to thrive 41 years since it began.
Additional Super Summer weeks will be hosted this summer at Hardin-Simmons University, Howard Payne University, East Texas Baptist University, and Houston Baptist University. To learn more about Super Summer, visit their website supersummer.com.