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GC15: A Contemporary Camp Meeting

7 years ago written by
The Billy Sunday Tabernacle is shown in a postcard, circa 1952.  (Courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives)

The Billy Sunday Tabernacle is shown in a postcard, circa 1952. (Courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Archives)

When you were a kid, did you ever go to church camp? We were never “campers” in my family. In fact, my dad’s ideal vacation was to drive 500 miles a day every day for two weeks and see as many states as possible. But for many people — especially those who grew up in the first half of the last century — church camp was vacation.

As I talk with people about our General Conference 2015, more than one person has told me of general conferences long ago at the Billy Sunday Tabernacle in Winona Lake, Indiana. They were more than a conference. They were “camp meeting,” where kids made new friends and learned about Jesus while adults enjoyed Bible studies, worship services and relaxing with other people of faith. In a foretaste of heaven, they were in a community where everyone loved God, and it was safe to say, “Praise the Lord.”

Vacations have changed since the days of the Billy Sunday Tabernacle. Today, certainly, many still attend church camps. But many more spend their vacations camping in state parks or relaxing at a condo on a lake.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a contemporary version of “church camp” for the whole family? An event with Free Methodists from around the United States and our missionaries from around the world? A place where kids could make new friends while learning about Jesus? An event where parents could worship and discuss strategies to grow the church? And do it all in a place where everyone loves Jesus and it’s safe to say, “Praise the Lord”?

That vision will become a reality July 13–16, 2015, as the General Conference of the Free Methodist Church will be much more than a conference. It’ll be a “camp meeting” like the good old days, but in the kind of setting people have grown to expect today.

The Grand Sierra Ballroom at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center (Courtesy of the Caribe Royale)

The Grand Sierra Ballroom at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center (Courtesy of the Caribe Royale)

Children and Youth

GC15 will feature all-day sessions for children. For those going into first through sixth grade, International Child Care Ministries has designed a fun curriculum to teach them God’s call to share His love. Those in middle school and high school will have their own all-day events focusing on becoming the people God would have them be. There’s even day care for children younger than first grade but out of diapers. This is family camp with world-class programs for children. It’s a unique opportunity that will transform lives.

While the kids learn about Jesus, parents will build friendships with believers from around the world, dialogue with church leaders about growing God’s kingdom, and worship in powerful services every night.

The pool at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center (Courtesy of the Caribe Royale)

The pool at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center (Courtesy of the Caribe Royale)

Vacation With Purpose

It all happens at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida. This location was chosen, in part, because we want to provide people with the kind of modern vacation setting they’d enjoy. Yet, it’s a vacation with a higher purpose.

We also chose this location because the venues we’ve traditionally used can’t easily accommodate the number of people we expect. Using the Caribe Royale is saving the church more than $60,000. That’s because the Caribe is giving us its spectacular conference facilities free, hoping to fill hotel suites and condos with Free Methodists.

To make sure we stay there instead of at the hotel up the street, they’ve given us great rates on their rooms. All rooms at the Caribe consist of a living room and a separate bedroom. And the cost is just $112 per night total (tax included). That compares with $122 per night at the Holiday Inn (where you’d get just one room, not a suite), and a regular price at the Caribe of $172 per night (including 12.5 percent tax).

The choice is yours. Next summer you can spend your family vacation at the usual places. Or you can build memories with your family in a contemporary “church camp,” investing in eternity at General Conference 2015. We think the choice is easy. Invest in eternity! Go to gc15.org and register to bring your family to GC15, July 13–16, 2015, in Orlando.

Larry Roberts is the chief operating officer of the Free Methodist Church – USA.

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