Eddie Walker believes camp ministry can be a transformative experience for children and youth as they begin their walk with Christ.
That was the case in his life, and Walker has devoted much of his career to making it meaningful for others.
His experience includes service as a summer staff member, worship leader, founder of a camp and now executive director of Mount Lebanon Camp and Retreat Center in Cedar Hill, Texas — where he came to faith in Christ.
Growing up in nearby Duncanville, Walker attended camp at Mount Lebanon as a junior high school student, at the invitation of a friend.
“I went to have fun, ride horses and swim, but I heard the gospel in an age-appropriate way that I could understand and came to Christ then and there,” he recalled.
A few years later at age 15, Walker responded to a call to ministry and delved deeper into camp opportunities.
Returning to Mount Lebanon in college, he served on summer staff and eventually joined the worship team.
“I grew up playing bluegrass and gospel music,” he said. “When I came back on summer staff they let me help my first year and then asked me to start leading.”
As a worship leader, Walker saw his own faith journey played out in the lives of young campers.
“I got to see thousands of kids repeat my story where they came to Christ, got plugged into a church home and made lifelong friends,” he explained.
Walker led worship and handled media for camps before he moved to Rockwall, where he served 12 years at Lake Pointe Church as a worship leader and communications director.
Eventually he and his family built their own church camp from the ground up in nearby Royse City.
“My dad was a contractor,” Walker noted, and “taught me to buy and rent properties and fix them up.”
Walker’s experience taking care of facilities and running media, along with a lifetime in ministry, came together when he developed and directed Sabine Creek Ranch.
The family ran the camp 17 years before he went to Dallas Baptist University to teach a camp degree program in 2014.
From firsthand experience Walker has witnessed and understands the impact of camp ministry on the lives of students.
Returning to Mount Lebanon as executive director in the spring of 2022, Walker hopes to continue leading children and students toward a relationship with Christ through fun, educational and transformational experiences.
“It’s good to come full circle,” he said.
‘One of the best evangelistic tools’
Camps offer families the opportunity to expose their children to the gospel in a fun and understandable way, Walker noted, adding many Christian testimonies begin with church camp.
“I do this because it is effective,” he said, noting camp ministry is “one of the best evangelistic tools that we have.”
Nationally, the Christian Camp and Conference Association 2020 Compass Survey revealed 10–15% of campers make faith commitments. Nearly 9 out of 10 camps encourage those commitments or recommitments to Christ in their programs, but only 39% keep track of the decisions. So the actual number probably is greater.
Last year, of the 7,509 summer campers at Mount Lebanon, 327 made recorded professions of faith in Christ, 34 responded to a call to vocational ministry, 76 made a commitment to be baptized and many others rededicated their lives to Christ.
Walker said they “are in a season of rapid growth, anticipating our 2023 summer camp attendance being up nearly 25% this summer over last year, and an additional 20% up for 2024.”
He sees “a lot of positive benefits” for a child or teenager who attends church camp, as they offer an environment “away from distractions, technology and sometimes really tough family situations,” Walker explained, describing camp as a place where young people can “look at the stars and consider bigger questions.”