Every day at Crossings we get started with Morning Celebration, a time of high-level excitement where the tone is set for the rest of the day. Every day we have POI’s where students take part in activities such as ziplining, climbing, and our new escape rooms. However, even with all these exciting activities, there’s one time that often has the biggest impact: Checkpoint.
Checkpoint takes place just after evening worship. It’s a time for students to meet with their churches and talk about the sermon they just heard, as well as other things they’ve learned throughout the day; a time where Crossings’ emphasis on working alongside the church comes into full effect. This is a time set aside for the sole purpose of churches coming together and building relationships with one another. There are few people who understand the impact of Checkpoint more than Tony Scellato, the youth leader at Beech Grove Baptist Church.
Tony and his wife, Birdie, have been faithfully serving at Beech Grove Baptist since 2016. Every year since then, they’ve been to Crossings. They mentioned that some of their students had been coming to camp for over five years before the Scellato’s even arrived at Beech Grove. After talking to the Scellato’s for about ten minutes, I could already tell how incredibly faithful they are to their church family, specifically their students. Tony started with a story from last year’s camp, Crossings 2017, where the theme was “Outsiders”. On each night three, there was an event called “Crossings After Dark”. The event was a glow-light dodgeball tournament where the churches would sign up a team and face-off against one another. Beech Grove did not attend Crossings After Dark. Why? Because something amazing was happening at their Checkpoint and they had no intention of cutting it short.
Tony decided during worship that night, that at Checkpoint he was going to ask his students to stand up in front of their peers and answer one question: “What hinders you?” He wanted to give his students the opportunity to confess their struggles to one another in order to strengthen the relationships that already existed.
“My first thought was no one’s gonna do that,” said Tony.
He knew he had students that would feel comfortable talking about themselves in front of others, but he also knew he had plenty of students that were much more reserved and not as likely to share. He was wrong.
By the time the hour set aside for Checkpoint had passed, Beech Grove was still going. Every student stood up and shared about what they struggled with, from the most extroverted of the group to the quietest introvert. The Scellato’s spoke about a couple of students who were going through many difficult circumstances at home, and yet this night they saw God’s love more clearly than ever through the students in their group. One of those students marveled, “I didn’t realize everybody else had problems.” They followed their unique experience with a glow stick party of their own where they ordered pizzas and rejoiced in the work that God was doing among their students.
So naturally Tony came into camp this year with some relatable skepticism. He recalled thinking, “How, God, are you gonna one up last year?”
It is almost humorous to me when I hear stories like this from people because, about ten times out of ten, God always responds with what seems to be an “Oh yeah? You just wait.”
Night two Checkpoint comes around, and yet again God begins to work. The next morning Tony comes into the group leader meeting and shares with everyone that four students gave their lives to Christ during their Checkpoint the previous night.
Perhaps the most enlightening thing that Tony said to me was this: “If [the students] were being honest, [Checkpoint] would be their favorite part of camp.”
Looking at camp from a bird’s eye view can make it seem one dimensional as if it’s just a bunch of fun and games with a worship service here and there. When you take a closer look though, you see the beauty of times like Checkpoint. Times where churches come together and continually learn the importance of Christian community. Our relationship with God is an integral part of our Christian life, but what inevitably follows is the way in which we love others around us. Checkpoint gives an opportunity for students to live out the commandments that Christ claims are of the utmost importance. Mark 12: 30-31 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Crossings is centered around impacting students for the sake of the gospel. The church plays a pivotal role in that process. For this reason, Checkpoint is the unsung heart of Crossings. The staff often talks about the difficulties of only having about three full days with students, but that difficulty is what puts everything in perspective. Checkpoint is where the small seeds that Crossings plants in students, can come to fruition through the power of discipleship within the church. Churches like Beech Grove prove the power of taking advantages of times like Checkpoint.
Incredible changes take place at camp, but what happens at home, afterward, is the true test. At home is where the consistency of camp is taken away, and it is up to the students whether they continue to build intentional relationships with their church family. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.” Within the church family is where growth happens, and Checkpoint exists to encourage that growth.