How To Maximize Camp
by Jeff Slack • Chino, California
Camp does not come easily for most youth pastors. In between campus visits, counseling, mid-week programming, volunteer recruitment, budget planning, and recordkeeping, camps pop up and present themselves as either a great possibility or a thorn in the flesh. Considerable thought and foresight must be given in order to reap the benefits of camp.
Usually, 3-4 weeks after a camp, I’m busy thinking and praying about the next one. Not that I’m obsessed with camps, but I’ve learned that some items need to be considered right away in order to maximize that precious opportunity. Camp location, signing up volunteers, theme, transportation, budget, food, speaker, worship leader, planned relationship building, and extracurricular activities, all these areas need to be considered as I head toward that next camp in order to maximize those few days — days that will come and pass by in a heartbeat.
The time spent beforehand determines whether or not we have the best camp possible for our students. And that should be the goal, shouldn’t it? We youth pastors have a responsibility to provide students with a memorable impression that will impact their relationship with the Lord.
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When at the camp we need to take advantage of the time we have with students. Free time is definitely cool for the students as well as the volunteers. There may be five hours of free time, and two-thirds of that time should be spent with students. What other time during the year do we get such an incredible opportunity to spend so much quality time with these kids? We definitely want to capture these moments and make every second count. I’ve found that unless we schedule appointments with the students at camp, there’s a good chance we won’t be able to find them – so we might want to set up times to hang out.
When heading home, plan follow-up with all the students, not just the ones who made spiritual decisions at camp. Understanding of what impacted their lives and what may have had a negative impact is important. We all hate criticism, but it can be a good tool when considering the next camp. Follow-up with staff and volunteer leaders too – after sending them all personalized “Thank You” cards. Finding out from them how they saw camp affecting students’ lives should be helpful as you plan next year’s camp experience.
When all this is finished, it’s time to do it all again!