As part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, hundreds of children from across the central Texas region spent the week on the Howard Payne University Campus as part of its annual Super Summer.
The program is meant to teach children and teens from throughout the region how to spread the gospel of Christ with others and this weekend more than 250 students livened the halls of HPU as they attended numerous courses throughout the campus.
“Our mission is teaching students to know and share the gospel,” Director of Super Summer Jason Richards said. “The gospel, as I define it, is just God’s story of reconciling man to himself. In the Garden, Adam and Eve sinned and that separated God and man so his story of getting back together, reconciling God and man involves Jesus dying on the cross and being resurrected. He offers us the same life through himself, [Jesus] died in our place as a substitute. That is the brief version of the gospel story, but that is what we teach and we teach specific elements.”
As par of the class, students divide into divisions based on grade with the oldest students taking courses directly geared toward spreading the gospel while students as young as eighth grade learn more concrete, applicable bible lessons.
“It’s more concrete thoughts for the youngest ones and more abstract thoughts for the oldest,” Richards said. “For the oldest, we give them a bit more in the area of apologetics, meaning they know they’re faith really well and defend it. They’re about to enter college, where there are so many diverse thoughts and opinions on religious faith, reality and all types of things so it’s just to equip them a little better to do that.”
Richards believes giving his older students lessons on how to defend their faith is important so not to be led astray at their most vulnerable moments, when they graduate and are experiencing a college campus for the first time. Richards said the program is also important to students looking to attend a Christian college and pursue a career in ministry.
“Those lessons are more about exploring the call to ministry and understanding what it means to live as a vocational minister is the word or, essentially, live as a full-time or part-time, which is bi-vocationally, as a minister whether it’s a children’s minister, missionary or even myself – a minister involved in large event planning,” Richards said. “We just help them to explore that call, understand what it means and all of the little parts of being a minister — how to love people who are hurting, how to be responsible for children or program a church services. All of that stuff goes into it, but it’s about equipping them to see what it looks like and give them a real taste.”
The HPU stop was the fifth session leg of a six-session tour throughout central Texas and Richards said he and the Baptist General Convention of Texas are proud to continue their long history with Howard Payne University.
“This is the 45 th summer. It’s been around a while and there have been many people who came before us and built a legacy of what we do here,” Richards said. “There are lots of systems and processes that they developed ahead of us, but we’re constantly making changes and adjusting things to make them more effective, efficient or both … We essentially come in and takeover the dorm rooms, cafeteria, rec. fields and school meeting rooms. What they get out of it is these students have a great experience every time. Maybe not every student, but every year as a vast majority they are having a great experience. If they come every year, that’s six year and they will have spent six weeks during the summer here on this campus and they will equate the great time they had at Super Summer with the campus. When it comes time to where they want to go to college they are going to think, I want to go to Howard Payne or wherever they’re at. That is the benefit the colleges get out of it.”