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Gwathmey Baptist Creates Impact Kids Experience Locally, Respecting COVID Distancing Guidelines

Posted: 7/27/20 at 7:00am. Written by Arlene Hayes and Taylor Bigelow.

When in-person Impact Kids was cancelled due to COVID-19, we decided that if it became safe enough here at home, we would do a mission-based day camp for all kids eligible to attend Impact. We would have a Bible study and use Impact curriculum and also do mission projects to help directly in our community.

We have a safety committee for COVID-19 at our church to help with following CDC guidelines. That meant social distancing and cleaning areas we used (tables, classrooms, restrooms, doorways, etc.) each day. We set up our sanctuary with chairs socially distanced and assigned each student an area. When we did projects, we tried to use the same area each day. Some things were moved outside for distancing purposes. Children who were related and/or saw each other every day were partnered together when necessary. We also committed to only doing this during Phase II, as we felt that would give us more time to learn more about safety precautions we could take.

We were able to do Bible study, using the Dumbo movie watching/discussion as a Bible study activity. Two members of our church who’ve attended Impact for many years, and one who was on Impact staff, helped with the Bible studies. They took turns as teachers and used their camp experience to lead students in a worthwhile and meaningful experience—as close to camp as we could get while social distancing. We avoided activities where students held hands and sang only where we could safely social distance, but we also did individual studies for students to think about their place in our church and the body of Christ.

We made cards to give to people who needed a kind word, and we made lunch bags for our friends for future use at the Petersburg Baptist Church backdoor ministry. We made flower displays, yard flower holders, and bird feeders to give to people in our community who are not going out often so they could enjoy them at their homes. We also did a sewing project so students could learn to use a sewing machine to make tote bags to include in our church’s mission project for Samaritan’s Purse.

During the week we had students’ family members who came to help. The students needed to see that not only were we as a church committed to their mission, but also their families were committed. Each adult was such a blessing. It was not easy with social distancing, but I believe each student felt this support.

Our church also has a member who serves as a Crew Chief for Impact. Trent Mills was able to bring in his experience with a true understanding of how a construction project is run. Each child was able to participate at their own pace and learn the importance of safety along with new skills for making our bird feeder and yard flower holders.

I also invited a church member who has a gift for sewing to come in and help with that project. What a blessing Pat Bradley was to us! She also expressed her pride in interacting with our students as they showed their desire to help each other and make sure all students felt included and respected as they did their activities.

I felt that the students had missed so much with schools closing and extracurricular activities cancelled that if it was possible to have this important mission experience safely, we should. While we couldn’t send them into the mission field, we could bring the mission field to Ashland.

A Personal Reflection from Taylor Bigelow, former Impact Staffer

The curriculum that Impact provided was at a great level for our kids to understand and be able to reflect on with their own lives. They got to see that though they all have different abilities they can all work together for God’s kingdom.

All of the areas that we used within the church had spaces that were socially distanced and we would wear masks and gloves when appropriate. The children also all had their own personal supplies and all activities we did were individual or small group projects. We also had a very dedicated individual that thoroughly cleaned the areas that we had used during the day every evening.

We were able to sing praise songs and have a Bible study that the kids really enjoyed. The Bible study had a lot of reflection for the kids to think about how their lives can affect others so much. We were able to watch a movie that the students really enjoyed, and we talked about how it compared to Christian lives. We were not able to play games that involved being close together or having to touch each other.

I had so much fun getting to help our kids build bird houses for people within our church who have limited mobility and stay home a majority of the time. The kids enjoyed using the power tools, and I really liked being able to instruct them and see how much they liked seeing the bird houses come together. I also really enjoyed getting to hear the kids take turns sharing during lunch and discussing what the Bible verses were talking about and how they could use them in their lives.

Impact has always been my favorite week of the year, and getting to spend this week with the kids that I know from my church and really have the quality time with them was so special.

I have been to Impact in many different roles as a camper, a staff member, a chaperone, and this year, I got to help facilitate it in a new, exciting way. I am very happy that I was able to see these children hear God’s word and talk about how they can help others and spread God’s love.

Arlene Hayes and Taylor Bigelow are members of Gwathmey Baptist Church in Ashland, VA.