Lifeway’s Summer Staff Training at Shocco

Summer camp is an exciting time for many young people. As summer draws near, campers think about campfires, swimming, games, friends, fun, delicious food, and many other activities. Those who participate in LifeWay Students and LifeWay Kids summer camps also look forward to challenging Bible studies, learning to share the Gospel, and growing in their own spiritual walk.

Well before the dates of Centrikid, Student Life, World Changers, and FUGE camps, hundreds of college students and professional adults gather at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center for X WKND. This weekend conference is held annually to help leaders learn how to lead a successful camp experience for the more than 135,000 campers who participate each summer.

“The primary purpose of this training is for LifeWay leadership to be able to gather our staffs all in one location to share our heart with them before they go out to represent Christ and LifeWay throughout the summer. We also want to pour into them, challenge them, and prepare them for their summer roles,” said Haley Hughes, FUGE Camps Coordinator at LifeWay Christian Resources.

X WKND, the name of the conference, needs explanation, but it’s a perfect symbol for what happens during the weekend training. The lower part of the “X” is a visual reminder that all the camp workers come from various backgrounds and have unique personalities, talents, and gifts. They gather together, represented by the cross part of the “X,” for training, spiritual renewal, and preparation to minister to campers. From that time together, they are sent out to minister, represented by the top part of the “X,” in dozens of locations throughout the country and even in Taiwan and Puerto Rico during the 2018 camp season.
Most of the paid summer staff positions are filled by college students, many of whom are former campers themselves. Some professional adults, particularly teachers, join the summer staffers to serve after their college years.

“We love being at Shocco because this is one of the places that several of our brands will actually do camp and serve churches throughout the summer,” said Haley Hughes. “It is neat to be able to train staff in a place that will actually hold a portion of our summer ministry. We also love Shocco because it is beautiful, and the staff works hard to meet our needs and to give us everything we need to have a successful and smooth time of training.”

Summer campers aren’t the only ones to enjoy camp recreation time! One night during the training in 2018 included a carnival complete with rides, game trailers, cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, and prizes, along with a DJ who hosted a dance party. Doughnuts and milk topped off the night. These activities were not only fun for the staff being trained but demonstrated great ideas about activities they could include in their summer camp activities.
For more information on LifeWay summer camps, contact Haley Hughes at:

Sammie Jo Barstow is a freelance writer who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Alabama Institute for Recovery Conference Provides Education and Encouragement

Many people enjoy conferences and look forward to that one time during the year when they can gather with others for education, encouragement, sharing, seeing old friends, and socializing.

For one group in Alabama, April is that special time and Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center is the place for more than 800 men and women to attend the Alabama Institute for Recovery. Participants come from individual homes and apartments, shelter facilities, group homes, local mental health centers, and other residential living situations. All of them are in recovery or are on the path to recovery from a myriad of mental illnesses, but for three days each year they leave their daily life to enjoy time for education and encouragement in a beautiful environment.

Mike Autrey, Director of Peer Programs for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, has watched the number of participants climb during the last 26 years. “One unique thing about this conference is that many of those who attend are drawing disability benefits and cannot afford to pay much, so at least 650 of the 800 who come pay ten dollars and receive a scholarship for the remainder of the cost.” This benefit is the result of a contract between the Department of Mental Health and Shocco Springs.

From noon on Monday until after lunch on Wednesday conference attendees are treated to outstanding facilities and food, along with hearing from well-known keynote speakers and workshop leaders.

Workshops include a variety of topics relevant to those who attend, such as: integrating wellness into recovery; suicide prevention; latest research on neuroscience; job preparation; family relationships; music and recovery; and even therapeutic houseplants.

One year, a past Miss Homecoming at one of the largest universities in the state spoke about her recovery from mental health illness. According to Autrey, “She had a great story, and she especially related to the young people who were present.”

While these more somber topics provide much practical information and education, there are some lighter moments, also. The conference sponsors an art show and participants are encouraged to bring and display various works of art. Wings Across Alabama, a statewide non-profit organization for consumers of mental health services, coordinates the art show as well as a room for creating arts and crafts items during the conference.

One of the most popular activities is the session on ballroom dance, which is offered every year. Autrey credits the class with helping people “come out of their shell and feel comfortable with themselves.”

Shocco Springs has proven to be the perfect place for this annual meeting, even though the conference center is a Baptist facility and the conference is sponsored by a state agency. During the 26 years of the conference’s history, 20 have been held at Shocco Springs. “This is a beautiful place and our folks feel like they are on vacation while they are here. The Shocco Springs employees are great hosts; they do everything they can to make our group comfortable and to meet our needs for facilities. If one of the employees sees one of our people needing help, they go out of their way to help.”

To obtain more information about the Alabama Institute for Recovery, contact Michael Autrey at 334-242-3456 or email at

A Look Back to the Mens & Boys Adventure Weekend

What could be more uplifting than a weekend when men and boys come together to worship, share, laugh, eat, study, engage in challenging games, and learn about building a missional lifestyle? All that and more happened in March 2018 during Adventure Weekend at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in the area known as Adventure Camp.


According to Larry Hyche, an associate in Global Missions with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, the accommodations were perfect for the group. “The bunk houses, meeting rooms, chapel, and dining hall were great for doing exactly what we wanted to do.” In addition, the “adventurers” were able to use all the other features of Shocco, such as the high ropes course and walking trails.

The goal for the weekend was to offer men and boys an opportunity to grow in discipleship and to commit or re-commit to a totally missional lifestyle. Blending this goal with a weekend of energy-packed fun made for an unforgettable experience for the 176 men and boys who attended.

Two worship sessions (Friday evening and Saturday morning) were led by Jeremy Jones and Kevin Boyer, who both serve on the ministerial team at Mt. Hebron Baptist Church in Elmore, Alabama. “One of the most gratifying things I saw during the weekend,” said Hyche, “was seeing dads holding their sons in their arms or on their shoulder as they worshipped together.”

After Friday night worship, competition was keen as the boys participated in several outdoor adventure activities which included high ropes, bazooka ball and a Pinewood Derby.

Although some of those attending were involved in RAs in their home churches, the invitation for the weekend went to all churches, including those who don’t sponsor RAs, and also to Awana groups and other children’s ministries. One of the goals was to involve as many individuals and churches as possible in the missional format of learning and encouragement intertwined with fun activities.

The worship service on Saturday morning was followed by a “Global Challenge” on the recreation field. Several stations set up in the field area were designed to represent countries where Southern Baptists have missionaries. The boys rotated through the stations, learning interesting facts about mission work in the various countries and then playing a challenge game based on what they learned.

Dads and boys left Adventure Weekend on Saturday afternoon with a better understanding of the need for believers of all ages to develop a global missions mindset. “If we get our leaders in churches to demonstrate that and educate the boys, then as they grow up they will have a true heart for missional living,” said Hyche.

The next Adventure Weekend is already on the calendar for Shocco Springs for March 22-23, 2019. Individual dads and sons, as well as groups, are invited to attend. For more information, contact Larry Hyche at the Alabama State Board of Missions by emailing:

Sammie Jo Barstow is a freelance writer living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Celebrating God’s Amazing Work at Shocco!

From Russell Klinner / Executive Director

Greetings from Shocco!  From our staff and board, I want to thank you for supporting our ministry through attendance, donations, and prayers.  I want to share a little insight into my first summer as director at Shocco.  As we began the summer, it was apparent that Satan had plans different than mine.  Our new Bazooka ball facility was delayed drastically due to rain, Bagley Center’s 1st floor HVAC unit died, an inside cooler in the kitchen went out, our new trail buggies kept breaking, and the planned pool repair ended up delaying its start date.  My first summer as director just did not go as I planned, imagine that!

Late in July it all caught up with me, I began to ask God where we had gone wrong, where are we missing it?  Are we being effective?  In the next week, two events refueled my spiritual tank. This summer many of you have prayed for us as we intentionally focused on our staff and their spiritual well-being. We did a study together in the book of James. I prayed all summer for our staff and one person in particular. At his departure toward the end of summer, I felt like I let him down and his time at Shocco might have been unfruitful. That next afternoon as I was talking with others, he walked by and wanted to talk with me.  He and I had a divine intersection with God to discuss the Gospel that afternoon.  God’s Word always bears fruit!

That same week we hosted Camp Happy Days, a camp for kids currently or formerly in care of DHR.  After fervent prayer and through God’s plan, we had 107 kids at camp.  The last night of camp, 30 kids accepted Christ as Savior.  Prayer works.

Through these divine appointments, God reminded me that it’s not about the physical challenges, the broken air, and delayed pool opening.  It’s about providing an environment where He can eternally change lives!

During summer, we had over 22,000 guests on campus.  22,000 people had the opportunity to encounter God in a meaningful way. This summer has taught me two spiritual life lessons that will follow me throughout life as we follow God’s leadership.

  • Difficulties will lie ahead as we follow God’s plan.
  • No matter the outcome, God will be glorified in the process.

Thank you for praying for us as we seek to provide this place for God to impact lives!

SBCA Board Meeting

Volunteer Projects | Spring 2015

Watoto Children’s Choir | January 2015


Recently, we had the great privilege of hosting members of the Watoto Children’s Choir. For this special group from Kampala, Uganda, Shocco Springs was just the first stop of many. These 18 children and their chaperones stayed with us for a time of rest and rehearsal as they prepared to begin a six month choir tour. For most in the group, this is their first trip to the United States, so something as simple as being served a pizza lunch during their time here turned out to be a new and exciting treat.

This group was truly a pleasure to serve. Knowing the circumstances these children have come from (many orphaned by AIDS and war) and seeing their constant joy is such a testament to our great God and the work he is doing through the ministry of Watoto Church.

For the next several months, Watoto Children’s Choir will be traveling and performing throughout the United States to share their hope and raise awareness for their ministry. If you have the chance to see them, we highly recommend going! We are certain you will be blown away by their joy-filled performance, as we were.

You can view their tour dates here. This specific group’s dates are listed in pink.

Read the article about their stay in The Daily Home Newspaper.

Nigerian Mission Reunion | October 2014

At Shocco Springs, we often say something like, “It is an honor or a pleasure to serve those who serve.” It’s always meant sincerely, but is often overused so it may come across as cliché. That being said, there are times when, cliché or not, it must be said. There are times that you catch a glimpse of the servant heart of Jesus in those in front of you, and you­ can’t help but appreciate the blessing of serving them.

We recently hosted a reunion of former, and a few current, missionaries to Nigeria. These people gave up a jobs, being close to friends and family, and the simple comforts most of us take for granted to go and take the Gospel to people in need halfway around the world.  Among them were some of the first Journeyman ever commissioned by the International Mission Board and one of the founders of the Journeyman program.  These were great men and women who answered God’s call to take His life-changing message to Nigeria.

Many of the guests were MKs (or missionary kids). They, unlike their parents, had no choice but to grow up on the mission field. When other children were going to the park or swimming in the public pool, they were swimming in a river that most of us have never heard of. Sacrifice for service is a way of life for missionaries and their families. To see these children, now grown with their own children, reunited for the weekend was a treat. Ladies greeting each other like teenage friends on the first day of school after a long summer spent away was a common scene in the lobby. Many reminiscent conversations undoubtedly lasted long into the night.

This year was a changing of the guard as former missionary Bill Cowley, who had been in charge of organizing the reunion, handed the reins over to MK, Kevin Reece. This passing of the torch was evident because so many MKs and MGKs were present at the reunion. To call it a family atmosphere is again cliché and falls short of the feeling that was in the air. When God calls you to a foreign land with little of what you consider familiar, it is easy to imagine that there are many times when you are left with two things— God and each other. The community of these guests was so strong that you could almost touch it. More senior members of the group were not known as Mr. and Mrs., but instead as Aunt and Uncle, and friends were more like brothers and sisters.

We are blessed as a staff to have such great people cross our paths week in and week out. On our grounds, you may often hear stories of how God has used Shocco to bless lives, but many of the lives that have visited here have blessed us as much as they have been blessed. So to say it was an honor to serve such servants may sound common.  It is in fact anything but, much like the servants themselves and the God they serve.


Horeb Baptist Church | August 2014

As Shocco Springs employees, we find ourselves getting attached to our guests quite a bit. They are so much more than our customers. We serve them and partner with them in ministry. We work together with group leaders to point their people to Jesus and His saving, redeeming, and sustaining power. Together we have the privilege of watching Him change lives. It is such a blessing that sometimes you just have to wonder at God’s grace in allowing you to work at such a place.

Having this relationship with our guests means that more often than not, they become friends and family. For the Labor Day weekend, we were blessed with a few such groups, one of which was a last minute addition. Horeb Baptist Church from Gretna, Louisiana, was supposed to go to a camp closer to home but because of an increase in interest among their members, they had to look for a bigger place to hold their family retreat.  Shocco just happened to have space available for the holiday weekend. A six hour trip might have hindered some groups’ attendance, but instead Horeb’s continued to climb until they showed up with 176 out of about 300 members from two congregations.

Even though they were a last minute addition, they quickly became part of the Shocco family. They were warm and welcoming and the love of Christ was evident in their fellowship. One of their members even brought beignets from New Orleans to one of our desk workers. This was not Horeb’s first time at Shocco as they had stayed at Shocco during the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav, even doing some work around campus. It was a pleasure for Shocco to welcome them back under better circumstances and to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s times like these that Shocco can be just a glimpse of heaven where we will be able to fellowship with Christians from different backgrounds, places, and even times, all because of our one common interest, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because of our love for Him, I suspect it may feel much like running into long-lost family like this Labor Day with not only our friends from Louisiana, but with all of our other groups as well.


Camp Hope | Haiti 2014

camp hopeIn August, a group of Shocco Springs staff members traveled to Jacmel, Haiti, and brought the summer camp experience with them!

The idea to bring camp to Jacmel was born in 2012. While seeking God’s guidance in determining where to lead Shocco’s next international mission team, Jacmel, Haiti, was brought to the attention of our Executive Director, Buster Taylor.

The Alabama Baptist State Convention had been deeply involved in Jacmel since disaster relief efforts brought them to the area following the devastating 2010 earthquake. Through their experiences, Buster learned about the new children’s ministry led by the Children’s Hope organization operated out of First Baptist Church of Montgomery. “They indicated a desire for a day-camp activity for the children of the area. With Shocco’ s staff experience in leading and facilitating camp activities, this was a great fit for our team,” he explained.

During the team’s first visit to Jacmel, Children’s Hope leadership pointed out the availability of a local facility, Camp Bossier Sur Mer, that could be available for our second year’s day camp event. Arrangements were completed and the first annual Camp Hope was held this year.

Buster and Recreation Manager, Elizabeth Cook, led our team as they held a five-day camp for local children. The team, consisting of both full-time staff and student summer staffers, hosted 30 children and had the opportunity to build relationships with them while sharing the love of Christ through a variety of camp activities.

Among the children attending the 2014 camp were five missionary’s children. They especially enjoyed the camp and the interaction with the staff. As a follow-up to the 2014 Camp Hope, Shocco has been asked to consider hosting another camp in Jacmel for all the missionary children in the region and maybe the country. We are currently praying to see if this new camp can be added alongside the Camp Hopes of the future.
Shocco’s missions program was developed as a way for us to share the blessings we have received and serve the Lord beyond our Talladega campus and often beyond our comfort zones. It also provides many summer staff student workers the opportunity to experience international missions for the first time.

Karli Boulware, a student at the University of Alabama, who served as a Shocco summer staffer this summer had desired to travel to Haiti for some time and was excited to finally have an opportunity to go and serve there. “The trip reinforced my belief that nonprofits can play a pivotal role in improving the lives of impoverished people and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see the Gospel on display in such a delightfully unique manner,” Karli said of her experience.

We are thankful for the opportunity to serve God this summer both at Shocco and abroad and we look forward to what He has in store for the future of our missions involvement in Haiti.


Watch a video of the trip here.