PraiseWorks/Joy Works Group Leaders,
Thank you for your partnership with Arkansas Baptists and with our worship arts camps, PraiseWorks and JoyWorks (PW/JW). Your investment, involvement, prayers, and passion for reaching students and for choosing PW/JW as an important part of training future leaders in worship ministry has been and will continue to be appreciated.
We are at a point where we need to make a decision regarding our PW/JW camps. Many of you are asking for the status because you are needing to make plans.
After much prayer and deliberation, based on the possibility of a much-minimized capacity due to existing Arkansas Department of Health directives related both to camps and to the facilities at Ouachita Baptist University, and out of concern for protecting students, staffers, and workers, Dr. Sonny Tucker and the Executive Team of the ABSC along with camp leaders from our Evangelism Church Health Team, have reached the difficult decision to cancel PraiseWorks and JoyWorks for 2021.
Let me give you a few details to provide context for what we faced in our decision.
1. The current number of campers that the Health Department would allow is 250. In 2019, we had over 900 campers and volunteers attend PW/JW. Although this capacity restriction would be very limiting to our large group worship, PW/JW also has several other large groups that meet including Varsity choir, JV choir, Orchestra, and the JoyWorks separate choir and worship services. Since Health Department restrictions exist for the cafeteria and for other large group meeting spaces, this makes it practically impossible for us to stay within those guidelines. Such limitations in numbers would dramatically impact the unique experience that is PraiseWorks and JoyWorks.
2. Health Department officials are suggesting that restrictions will not be lifted until vaccinations reaches 70% of Arkansas’ population. Current trends do not project that percentage being reached in time for camp. In addition, vaccines for students under 17 are not out of clinical trials at this time. Vaccines for our adult volunteers and staff will not be available until after April.
3. Current Health Department camp guidelines are very limiting: a 14-day, pre-camp quarantine for all campers and staff, pre-testing with no positives or symptoms prior to camp for all campers and volunteers, single entrances and exits, social distancing, with masks for all activities. In addition, it should be noted that PW/JW has the added risk of singing and playing of instruments that entail even more stringent guidelines and greater social distancing.
4. There is a risk of significant financial loss if registrations do not meet a certain number. The current capacity would not come close to meeting budgetary needs. While finances are not the primary driver behind this decision, we do want to make certain that we are good stewards of Cooperative Program money.
5. Churches need to know what opportunities exist for ministry to students in 2021. It would be unfair for us to open registration and then limit – or even pick and choose – who can and cannot attend camp.
6. The structure of PW/JW utilizes many volunteers in several areas including large ensembles, tracks, worship leadership and preparation, and concessions. With the potential of a greatly reduced roster of churches, the manpower for our camp would be significantly diminished.
It is possible that restrictions regarding camps could be eased prior to the summer. However, it would be almost impossible to put together and execute PW/JW to the quality our campers and churches have grown to expect. So, a question you are probably asking is, “What do we do?” As always, our God is at work and is using these historic times to launch the church into ministry. You are a gifted leader that God has placed “for such a time as this” to reach students in your community and engage them in worship and worship leadership. If we can assist you on the local church level or regional level as you consider creating and offering opportunities that would be safe and meet CDC guidelines, please let us know. We want to help in those efforts.
On the flip side, over the next several weeks, the Evangelism and Church Health Team and our PW/JW leadership teams will be working to see if there are any options that could be coordinated and offered on a smaller and more local scale for your students. Please pray for these leaders as they seek God’s direction in helping our churches reach students.
Thank you for your grace and understanding. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.
Larry Grayson and Bob Johnson
JoyWorks is a worship arts-focused camp where students have an incredible opportunity to gather to worship, learn about worship, and gain skills for leading and participating in worship.
JoyWorks has proven to be one of the most innovative children’s worship events, equipping future worship leaders with hands-on knowledge and giving them a place to discover and develop their God-given abilities. In the past years, this week-long event on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University has hosted some of the best and brightest as they connected with friends and learned what it means to worship.
JoyWorks is planned as a ministry of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, as a result of the Cooperative Program.
JoyWorks offers a variety of opportunities for students to worship and develop their talents and skills. Together they will sing in our mass choir and prepare for the camp finale on Friday morning. Interested students will also have the chance to share their God-given talents by auditioning with prepared pieces. Chosen works are used during evening worship, Joy in the Morning, and the talent show.
We desire to see God glorified through the worship of the Body in the local church, to see lives changed, and for individuals to grow in the fullness of their relationship God, experiencing Him more deeply. Disciple making is not just a calling, it’s our passion.
Ouachita Baptist University