Camp was part of Everett Kirkman’s summer agenda nearly every year from elementary to junior high. But Kanakuk is no ordinary camp. From aerial tennis and zip lines to spiritual training and high-energy worship, her remarkable camp experiences motivated her to connect with Searcy KLIFE — to get a feeling of the camp community at home. (KLIFE is a sister organization to the Branson, Missouri-based Kanakuk.)
Kirkman admits it took a few years to gather the courage to step out of her comfort zone and get involved in Searcy KLIFE during her junior year of high school. Now, as a freshman at Harding University, she is a leader.
“When I started coming out of my shell and getting more comfortable in who I am and who God made me to be, it gave me confidence to do new things,” she says. “Even if I didn’t have friends at KLIFE, I knew I could make new ones. I met Matt [Berry] and Katelyn [Tolle] and immediately loved them — and loved the environment. It felt a piece of camp at home, which was so cool.”
Early on, she attended High School Klub for 10th through 12th graders. Then, she started helping out with Junior High Klub. By her senior year of high school, she was helping lead the 8th-grade girls’ small group.
“Getting to know the younger students was a great opportunity,” she says. “When I went to high school as a 9th grader, I was terrified of the seniors. I love that I got to be a familiar face for the girls in our small group and walk with them through that transition.”
Kirkman shares her heart for leading younger girls is inspired by the built-in mentors in her family.
“I have twin sisters who are five years older than I am,” she says. “Their friends have always been so kind to me, so I feel like I’ve been blessed with positive female influences who were only a few years older. I want to be that positive role model for other girls.”
After graduating from high school, Kirkman had dreamed of moving away for college. As she prayed and saw God close doors in the process of selecting a school, she started noticing possibilities in her hometown.
“I realized it would be good to stay in the community that raised me. It’s a great town, which is clear from all the involvement in the #MySearcy Revolution,” she says, “Also, I saw the opportunity to stay with the same KLIFE small group as they transitioned from junior high to high school, and I graduated from high school to college. That actually helped my college search process. As I built relationships with the girls, I found myself wanting to stay.”
Nearly a year later, Kirkman is thankful to be in Searcy and is loving her small group. She meets with the group of now 9th Grade girls once a week, usually at Savor + Sip, a coffeehouse in Downtown Searcy, and aims to meet with each girl one-on-one at least every other week.
“It’s great to dive into kids’ lives in a small group setting as leaders and walk alongside them in discipleship,” she says. “I love going through life with them and seeing where their struggles are, and not just the responses people typically give in a group at church. It’s a good way to be a friend to them, as well as a mentor, rather than an authority figure.”
“KLIFE is essentially a non-denominational youth group,” Kirkman says. “There are activities, and we get to do lots of fun things, but at the end of the day, we all come together to worship and learn more about the Lord as we grow together, especially in small groups.”
“I feel like KLIFE Klubs and small groups are a great extension of Kanakuk with weekly checkpoints throughout the year,” she adds. “Plus, the opportunity to attend weekly Klub meetings and small group is available — for free — to all students from 5th to 12th grades. It is a great ministry for youth.”
KLIFE’s guiding verse is 1 Thessalonians 2:8, which reads, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
“Searcy KLIFE operates on the generous donations of businesses and individuals who give,” said Board President Richard Stafford. “Operational expenses for our chapter run about $80,000 per year, so we have to meet that fundraising goal to continue offering this ministry to our community.”
Inspired by KLIFE’s guiding verse 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Stafford said the chapter is doing a special fundraiser on February 8, or 2-8.
“Our goal is to continue providing a positive and encouraging environment for students well into the future,” he added. “We want our men’s director, women’s director and college leaders to be well-equipped to walk alongside these students. They truly embody 1 Thess. 2:8 and share the gospel and their lives as they pour into these kids.”
On February 8, make a donation to Searcy KLIFE to support the chapter’s mission at https://www.searcy.klife.com/donate-now.
Connecting to KLIFE
Every Tuesday during the school year, 5th and 6th Graders meet for SuperK from 5 to 6 p.m. while 7th to 9th Graders meet for Junior High Klub from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Every other Monday night, 10th to 12th Graders meet for High School Klub from 7 to 8 p.m. All sessions meet at the KLIFE house at 700 S. Main St. Additionally, Searcy KLIFE offers small group Bible studies, monthly events and one-on-one mentoring for extra encouragement.
There are KLIFE chapters in other Arkansas cities, including Conway, Harrison, Fayetteville and Ozark. Go to the national KLIFE page for more information.