by Jessica Noonan, LEAD Director of Operations 

St. James Lutheran Church/Santiago Apóstol in Houston, Texas is passionate about the neighborhood where they are planted. They have developed strong partnerships with their neighbors and have a clear understanding of the needs that the community itself has identified. How did this happen?

First, they listened.

What did the leaders at St. James hear from their neighbors?

  • Their children lose valuable math and reading skills over the summer months. This learning loss puts their children at a disadvantage when they start school again in the fall.
  • Parents are struggling. They are asking for guidance around mental health resources and money management.
  • Their high school students need guidance to understand the college application process and need help with how to get prepared.

How could a church like St. James respond to these big needs?

St. James already has an active ministry reaching into the neighborhood – Camp Hope Day Camp. This unique ministry focuses on Biblical literacy in children and equipping/nurturing student leaders. Executed by high school and college age students from the congregation and community who are equipped to run the camp with adult mentors walking alongside them, Camp Hope is an amazing strategy for leadership development!

Camp Hope is already connecting St. James with the children and parents in the neighborhood. The question was how to expand it to address the deeper needs identified by these very families.

This summer, St. James applied for and received a $50,000 grant from United Way to assist them in hosting THREE Camp Hope Day Camps in THREE neighborhoods for THREE weeks each this summer! St. James is using this grant to address the community’s needs by:

  • Partnering with local agencies and organizations already working in these communities to execute Camp Hope.
    • The local YMCA will do daily fitness activities with campers.
    • Community Health Choice is developing curriculum for a daily “Parent Track” for caregivers at each site.
  • Empowering local teachers who are developing literacy and math skill resources to use alongside the Camp Hope curriculum to mitigate summer learning loss.
  • Utilizing the STEM track within the Camp Hope curriculum that uses hands-on science to teach the Bible story.
  • Providing “College Booster Sessions” for the high school staff to build up their skills for navigating the college application process and preparing for this next step in their education.

This is just one story of one congregation and its partnership with one community.

What’s your story?

Who are the neighbors surrounding YOUR church?

• Do you know their names?
• Do you know their stories?
• Do you know their dreams?
• Do you know their sorrows?

How might you find ways to listen and get to know YOUR neighbors?

Could Camp Hope be a ministry that provides the opportunity for you to get to know your neighbors?

This year marks Camp Hope’s 30th anniversary. All across the United States, churches are nurturing and developing the gifts of their students and students from the neighborhood to offer a high quality day camp for 2-3 weeks every summer.

Learn more about Camp Hope here!