Rebecca Lindhout had grown tired of blind bag toys — small, collectible toys often wrapped in a foil package so the child can’t see which character he or she is getting. Her 6-year-old daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of them, a victim of condition called the blind bag bug.
Not that Lindhout doesn’t enjoy buying gifts for her kids. But she found that the joy in these particular toys was short-lived — the excitement ended almost immediately after the reveal. The toys would often go untouched afterward, and the $4 or $5 investments (sometimes, her daughter used her own money) were seeing very little returns.
“They’re a waste of money, to be honest. Impulse buys. And enough is never enough,” says Lindhout, the minister of education and children at Antioch Baptist Church in Lillington and a 2002 graduate of Campbell University. “But my child was addicted, and I was talking to parents at the time who had similar problems with their children. You want to say to them, ‘Every now and then, can you not want sometime?’ but then you realize everything around them is an advertisement. They are inundated with consumerism.”
She found an ally in Amanda Burke. A 2016 graduate of Campbell’s Trust and Wealth Management program, Burke was set to teach a Financial Peace University class at Antioch when Lindhout approached her about a similar class, only geared toward elementary- and early middle school-aged children. A class where they could not only learn the value of a buck, but hear what Scripture has to say about financial responsibility and rejecting sinful ideas like greed and envy.
The two formed a partnership, and from it was born Camp Change — a five-day course launched in 2017 to teach the basics of finance to children ages 6 to 12. The curriculum shows children what it is like to earn and spend money and encourages them to use their financial resources to glorify God. Already, the camp has doubled in size — from 30 students in the first class to more than 60 in the most recent — and Burke and Lindhout’s work is earning some outside attention (they’re in the process of publishing their curriculum and a children’s book on the subject).
“A lot of parents don’t know spiritually how to address finances,” Lindhout says. “And it’s something nearly all of us struggle with, no matter what your financial situation is. Amanda and I dug deep to create this curriculum — we poured our hearts into it. In the end though, it’s just information that we’d want our own kids to know.”
The course was originally called Money Camp, but after some thoughtful consideration, the word “change” found its way onto the marquee.
“The idea is to change the heart and change behaviors. Then there’s the play on words,” says Burke, an accredited financial counselor whose children were 12, 3 and newly born when she co-launched Camp Change. “I grew up in a home with a single father, and meeting financial obligations was a struggle in our home. Seeing that absence of money early on led me to be more financially aware. My daughter is 13 now, and having been through the camp, she has learned to appreciate what she has more.”
For Year 2, the camp’s theme was “Following the Ten,” a lesson in planning, earning and eventually giving back (the “Ten” is for a 10-percent tithe). Lindhout and Burke implemented hands-on interactive experiences like games, skits and field trips. Woodworking, culinary arts, photography, gardening and other fun group activities made Camp Change seem much more like a true summer camp than a course in financial responsibility.
Fittingly, the cost to attend the camp is a steal — $20 a week. The duo receives additional support from the Antioch Women’s Missionary Union and North Carolina Baptist Men nonprofit groups. Service is a big part of the camp’s mission, as students have assisted in the N.C. Baptist Men’s annual Appalachian Backpack Ministry and took a group field trip to the Baptist State Convention’s office in Cary to see how missions and ministry funds from state churches are used on a larger scale. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Burke. Not only are the children learning, but the parents are, as well.
“We like to encourage the parents to participate and engage, and the mom of one little girl came to me one day and said, ‘Amanda, I don’t feel comfortable about this,’” Burke says. “She didn’t feel right talking to her daughter about the family budget, so I told her she didn’t need to use real numbers, but we wanted the kids to get an idea of what it takes to run a household.
“It turns out, this exercise made her take a closer look at her own finances, which led to to wanting financial counseling down the road,” she adds. “This opens doors and gets parents thinking, too. And maybe that parent will change their lifestyle for the better.”
The camp “instructors” and their own families are also learning along the way. Lindhout’s household operates on an “earned allowance” system, and her children have begun asking if some purchases are “good use of my money.” Both her and Burke’s children also tithe at church using their own money — a recent camp tour of the Baptist State Convention showed the students what the church does with those offerings. “When the children realized they were helping missions or providing dental care for children whose parents couldn’t afford it, they were all about it,” Lindhout says.
Burke says she’s impressed by not only the attentiveness of the students, but of their thoughtful questions as well. One question, in particular, gave her pause. “A student asked me, ‘If God loves us all, why do some of us have a lot of money, and some of us have no money?’ and I was like a deer in the headlights at first,” Burke says. “But I researched this; I read the Bible and I prayed. And I answered this question the best way I knew how, and in the most thoughtful way I could.”
Registration for 2019’s Camp Change is open … visit antiochweb.org/camp-change.