Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

OK Camps updates curriculum to help students break down walls


High school worship on the last night of LEAD Camp. Photo by Meagan Ewton.

OK Camps has updated one of its curriculums to address issues relating to justice and the church. “Breaking Down the Walls” encouraged students to see what “walls” exist between groups of people, in society and within individuals that keep people apart. 

The curriculum was originally written in 1992 with input from conference leaders like Rev. Tish Malloy, director of transitional ministries; Rev. Jeanie Himes, pastor at Norman-St. Stephen’s; and Rev. Dawna Dhaenens (Bridgwater), a deacon in the Oklahoma Conference. It was updated in 2002 and again in 2019. The most recent update was an effort to connect the concept of breaking down walls with the then-upcoming General Conference and 100th observance of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

“The idea is that we would connect these two events with this curriculum which has stood the test of time,” said Rev. Derrek Belase, director of connectional ministry. “Breaking down walls between ourselves and God, between each other and within ourselves provides a theological foundation and framework for much of what is going on in our world today.”

The curriculum was made available for all of the camps to use. Belase said camp curriculum should be tied to baptismal and membership related to the disciple-making process.

“In this case, the curriculum was specifically tied to the vow, ‘Will you resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,’” Belase said. “In other years, we might focus on membership vows and practices like prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.”

Rev. Trey Witzel, associate pastor at Norman-McFarlin and co-chair of the conference Commission on Religion and Race, said that each day at camp included a thematic focal point, history, spirit skills, workshops and activities aimed at helping students learn how to break down walls and build up the kingdom of God. 

“We had campers – particularly campers of color – say ‘thank you for talking about something I struggle with,’” Witzel said. “We hear that when we talk about mental health and bullying and other things. With students of color, why should that be any different?”

Witzel said while some adults who expressed uncertainty talking about hot-button topics like equality and racism, many understood the importance of discussing things openly by the time a lesson would end.

“The whole world has talking points about what is or isn’t racism, so instead of shying away from these conversations, we need to come together to see how can we talk about this from a camp, Christ centered approach,” Witzel said. 

OK Camps will host camps through July 30. To learn more about the camps ministry of the Oklahoma Conference, visit okcamps.org


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