Wide Game: Braveheart

Another Friday, another Fun Game! This one is brought to you by Pioneer Camp in Alberta. Get ready for a simple, yet EPIC take on “british bulldog” that will have your campers running, yelling, and fighting to the death! (But not actually…)

BRAVEHEART

Based on the Braveheart movie, and the premise that there’s a war and the underdogs need to rise up and fight, the possibilities for rallying the troupes (campers) and getting totally into the game (costumes, warpaint, even bagpipes!) are endless!


SUPPLIES

  • Pinnies (Required)
    Have enough so that the entire camp can be divided into two teams. Alternatively, you could use pieces of fabric, bandanas, or something similar.
  • Costumes (Optional)
    Have some of your staff dress up in attire that would represent the Braveheart movie – kilts welcome!
  • Warpaint (Optional)
    Really get the kids into it by preparing their faces for battle.
  • Props (Optional)
    Be creative! Use horses if your camp has them to re-enact a rallying scene from the movie, get wooden or foam swords to bring the scene to life, or even have some background music to amp up the intensity. Go all out – the kids will love it!

OBJECT OF THE GAME

To be the last team standing.


RULES

At the beginning:

  • Each player will receive a pinnie in their team’s colour. They tuck the pinnie into their pants or belt or pocket making sure to leave at least two-thirds exposed.
  • Each team will line up on a field facing each other.
  • A staff member (ideally one with a solid Scottish accent) asks the teams if they’re ready (and hopefully they respond with a raucous battle cry!)

“FOR FREEDOOOOOOM!”

  • Teams run toward each other on the field. At this point, their goal is to pull pinnies off the players on the other team. They may never move backwards, only forwards, so when the two lines cross they will end up on opposite sides of the field.
  • If a player’s pinnie is pulled, he or she is “dead” and must sit down on the field where they “died”. They are not, however, fully out of the game! While on the ground, they are able to still pull pinnies from the other team as they run by, but they may not move from where they are sitting.

Next round:

  • Continue to repeat the battle cries and running at each other across the field. There will be more and more casualties which will mean that the people who are “dead” and sitting on the ground will become more and more of a threat to the runners.

Near the end:

  • When there are only a few players left standing/running, tell them that there will now be no “safe zone” and that they all must continue running on the battlefield wherever they want to go until only one is left standing. Often, at this point, it’s the people on the ground who are most helpful to their team!

Reset:

  • Get both teams back up and play again. This game can be played over and over again as kids that were unable to make it very far the first round will have another chance to try again.

Additional Rules

  • Pinnies should be tucked into the sides (not the front).
  • As a player runs, they may not cover the pinnie with their hands, hold the pinnie to their bodies, or in any other way impede another player from grabbing the pinnie.
  • Players may not tie the pinnie to themselves.
  • If a pinnie falls out, for whatever reason (too loose, a player from their own team grabs it, etc.) they are still “dead”.
  • It is very important that players never run BACKWARDS during battle.

As a final note, this is one of those games where the more amped up you make it, and the more into it the staff are, the better it will be! So, be creative, have fun, yell loudly, and fight hard!

They may take away our lives, but they will never take away OUR FREEDOM!!!!!

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Wide Game: Pokemon Go!

Wide games are always such a fun part of the camp experience – I mean, how often do you get more than 20 kids (sometimes even hundreds!) together to play a giant, epic game?!

Our friends Dan and Amy at Camp Kadesh in Saskatchewan have been dreamin’ and schemin’ wide games for many years in their role as Program Directors. They’re super passionate about big group games and love to bring them to life! We are excited to get to share one of Dan and Amy’s games with the CCI/Canada family in this blog.


POKEMON GO

The mobile app/game became incredibly popular in 2016 and was successful largely because it reached an audience of all age categories; Pokemon, as a game or a tv show, has been loved by multiple generations. In this wide game, Pokemon comes to life as campers attempt to “catch ’em all” (the ” ’em” being staff dressed as various Pokemon!)


SUPPLIES

Medic Disk and Pokeball

Each team of campers will need:

  • 2 Pokeballs
    These are small red light plastic balls painted to look like Pokeballs. (Tip: They will get thrown at the Pokemon, so make sure they don’t hurt when you get hit by them!)
  • 1 Towel
    Beach towel sized ideally.
  • 1 Medic Disk
    Can really be made out of anything – in this case, they used Plastic bucket lids painted red with an X taped on it.
  • 1 Pokedex 

    Example of Pokedex (click to enlarge)

    Printed sheet of paper that lists all of the types of Pokemon in categories (ie. Fire, Water, Grass, etc.)

Each “Pokemon” (staff member) will need:

  • Epic Pokemon costume
    Whatever you want! Raid that dress up closet and get creative! In one game of Pokemon, three staff dressed up in brown and wrapped themselves together to become Dugtrio! Keep in mind that you may want to consider the costume’s mobility  factor (to run away from campers!)
  • 1 Pool Noodle
    Pokemon use these to defend themselves.
  • Pokemon Cards (quantity depends on number of campers)
    Each Pokemon carries these small slips of paper with them. When they’re caught by the campers, they give them a card to symbolize their capture. These cards are ultimately worth points.

OBJECT OF THE GAME

To catch ’em all! (Obviously.) But in seriousness, the object of the game is to be the group that ends up with the most points. Points are acquired in the following ways:

  1. Capturing a Pokemon (different Pokemon are worth different point values)
  2. Acquiring the cards of all of the Pokemon in a single category (ie. all grass Pokemon). Cards can be acquired by catching or by trading.
  3. Acquiring the cards for EVERY Pokemon in the game.

RULES

How to catch a Pokemon:

  • Campers travel as a cabin group. When they see a Pokemon, they can throw a Pokeball at it. If it hits the Pokemon, the Pokemon will freeze for 5 seconds.
  • While a Pokemon is frozen, the campers must wrap their beach towel fully around the Pokemon to capture it.

    Camper attempts to capture a frozen Pokemon by wrapping it in a towel.

  • If, however, the Pokemon hits any of the campers with a pool noodle, they become frozen. The only way they are able to be unfrozen is by being tagged with the Medic Disk.
  • Pokemon cannot be captured while any member of the group is frozen. So whoever holds the Medic Disk must go around tagging those who got hit by the pool noodle. 
  • Note: Pokemon can be caught by the same group MORE THAN ONCE. Ex. If Pidgey is worth 1 point, and a cabin catches the Pidgey 3 times, they would acquire 3 Pidgey cards. This would be worth 3 points at the end of the game.

Trading:

  • Set up a “safe zone” where groups can come to trade cards with each other. Because they’re able to capture the same Pokemon more than once and there is an advantage to having all of one type and all of the Pokemon in the game, groups will likely want to trade with other groups to get them all registered in their Pokedex!

Bonus: 

  • Release a “Legendary” Pokemon into the game! Make sure that this Pokemon is fairly elusive and is worth a decent amount of points if captured! 

At the end of the game:

  • Have each group hand in their Pokedex and all of their Pokemon Cards. Tally each group’s points to determine the winner!

PHOTOS

Check out these fantastic photos of Pokemon Go in action!

Campers try to catch wild Pokemon all over camp.

To freeze a Pokemon, campers must hit them with a Pokeball.

A wild Poliwhirl appears!

A Pokemon about to get caught!


Is your camp really awesome at something? Songs? Skits? Games? Let us know! We would love to feature you and tell the whole CCI/Canada community about it! Send us an e-mail: communicate@cci-canada.ca

No Bullies Allowed: Anti-Bullying Reminder for Camps

You know that bullying is wrong. Your staff also know that bullying is wrong. You know that you’re responsible for the health and well-being of hundreds of children (a monumental and admirable task!). You trust your front-line staff – the Cabin Leaders, Activity Leaders, etc. – to continue this work of providing a safe and positive experience under your guidance and leadership.

Unlike other jobs where a poor customer experience may simply end in an individual not returning to the store or a negative review on Facebook, a bad camper experience has the potential to impact that person for the rest of their lives.

Just as we’re writing you to remind you about the realities of bullying in our world and in our camps, we hope you will take this opportunity mid-summer to chat with your staff about this topic as well.

Look for it…

As you know, it’s an incredibly fine line between joking/teasing in good fun and bullying, but here are some questions to arm yourself and your staff with to check if it’s a harmless vs. harmful situation:

Is it deliberate/intentional? Are the camper’s actions toward another camper done on purpose and with malicious intent?

Is it repetitive? Is the one camper consistently and repetitively directing his/her actions toward one other specific camper?

Is there an imbalance of power? From an outside perspective, does the actions of the one camper put them in a position of power over the other camper and could that other camper be seen as vulnerable by the bully?

Deal with it…

If yes to any of the above, or if the situation just isn’t feeling “right” or positive, take action –  and encourage your staff to do the same. Equip them with tools for how to effectively deal with potential or real bullying situations. Remind them that even if it’s not exactly bullying, creating a positive and safe environment for campers is a priority and they should do everything in their power to align their words and actions to that goal. Here are some ideas for your staff to help deal with bullying:

  • Prevent bullying by being a rolemodel: use inclusive and positive language and encourage the entire group/cabin unity through actions and words. Playing get-to-know-you games or having a cabin theme/chant/bandanas/bracelets, etc. are some ideas to unite them as a team.
  • Let the campers help design the rules. Ask them what rules they think should be in place and then ask if everyone is in agreement. Ensure that everyone has a chance to participate in the rule generation conversation. Write the rules on a piece of paper or poster board and have the kids all sign it. When someone is being disrespectful or when teasing etc. begins, point out the rules that they all made up and signed and ask them to follow it.
  • Be intentional and conscious of which campers may appear “vulnerable” to their peers. This could be children who are extra shy, are different in appearance or skill level, have a disability, etc.Counselors, when they’re looking for it, should be able to figure this out fairly quickly and can then be intentional about quickly befriending that camper and including them in the group. 
  • If a child approaches a staff member and says that they feel bullied, LISTEN. The child is reaching out for help and this should not be dismissed. If they feel like it’s a negative situation, it is the staff’s responsibility to help them and not judge the child. Don’t decide that they are incorrect and it doesn’t need to be dealt with. The camper needs to feel safe at camp so something needs to change.
  • If bullying happens, staff need to speak up. Tell them it’s ok to verbally stop the dialogue by telling campers that it’s not ok to speak negatively about another camper at camp. It will get awkward. It’s not comfortable to say something that causes conflict or might be an unpopular opinion, so prepare your staff by telling them that even though their comment may seem abrupt, it is necessary to go through this small amount of discomfort to ensure a safe and positive environment for their campers (the ultimate goal). Also let your staff know that this is what you expect from them. 
  • When you become aware of bullying, supervise, supervise, supervise.It’s always a bonus when the kids get along and the cabin or group is “easy” to supervise, but when it’s not, even though it’s more difficult, it’s still the staff’s job to watch the campers and ensure they have a good camp experience. Remind them of this and encourage your staff to ask for help in this area. Tell them to approach a program leader, director, or coordinator (whoever would supervise them at your camp) to tell them about the situation and together set up a plan to make sure the children are supervised. This may involve informing other counselors who will also have the responsibility of diffusing bullying situations. 
  • Mitigate the bullying by keeping the campers separate. This doesn’t have to be obvious (like changing groups or cabins necessarily), but it can be as simple as a counselor sitting between them or ensuring that they sit at opposite ends of the table in the dining hall. 

More…

Want more ideas and information? Here are a few articles with more detail:

What YOU Can Do to Prevent and Stop Bullying at Camp
6 Ways Summer Camps Can Prevent Bullying
Eyes on Bullying: Camp

Do you have other suggestions for how to deal with this? We’d love to hear them and share them with our CCI/Canada friends! Send us an e-mail atcommunicate@cci-canada.ca.

STRONG & COURAGEOUS: Final Recap

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind for everyone here at the conference. There are over 160 hours of education going on, plus exhibits, plus networking, plus special events — everyone is really busy, and everyone is having a really great time.

Yesterday was a full day of electives, intensives and institutes. There were levels of learning to suit every participant. From multi-day sessions on one topic, to 75-minute electives, everyone had a lot to learn! Here at the Member Services Area, I enjoyed meeting new people, getting to know new friends, answering questions about CCI/Canada and giving away all our sweet swag.

After a long day of educational sessions, everyone was treated to a night out on the town. Buses took us all to the historic Gaslamp Quarter, where everyone was free to wander at their leisure and get dinner at any of the huge selection of interesting restaurants in the area (we ate at an awesome Mexican restaurant). After dinner, everyone met again at the incredible Balboa Theater for an evening of worship with Danny Oertli, entertainment by comedian Taylor Mason and an inspiring message from Sheri Rose Shepherd.

This morning, things are wrapping up as everyone attends their final sessions. In just a few minutes’ time, everyone will gather in the Atlas Ballroom for brunch and our final General Session with Bryan Loritts. It will be so sad to see everyone go, but we have been so blessed to have this time to come together as such a strong group of people working in camp ministry.

We hope you’ve learned a lot, met some new friends and are coming away from this conference with a new arsenal of tools to use at your camp. And we hope all of your ministries will be blessed as you enter the new year, feeling strong and courageous to truly innovate at your camp!

CAMP 2030: The Importance of Planning for the Future of Camp Ministry

My child has just returned from camp. She excitedly tells me about her day which included catching a trout, rock-climbing and learning to wakeboard. Midway through a description about her big wipe-out, her belt chimes and her personal avatar reminds her, “two minutes until chapel begins – please return to your virtual chamber for login and re-sync”.

What will camp be like in the next 15 years? Bill Gates once said that we tend to overestimate what will change in the next two years, but underestimate what will occur in the next ten. This point is well illustrated by the iPod which debuted 11 years ago. Who would have guessed this device would evolve into the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad in under 10 years.

This year my graduate studies have introduced me to the subject of strategic foresight. Most of us are well-accustomed to strategic planning which we use to develop three to five year plans for our organizations.  In contrast, strategic foresight looks 10-25 years on the horizon for game-changers which will shape our future organizations – changes such as the concept of a virtual camp experience!

A criticism of many strategic plans is that it uses historical data to help us predict what will occur in the future. For example, if summer camp attendance has increased by 3% per year for the past 5 years we then use this trend to predict future attendance and plan accordingly. In many cases this is helpful and reasonably accurate. However, what occurs when provincial youth demographic numbers plunge? Or when our rural location becomes too costly because of gasoline costs double? Or when sprawling suburbs give us access to a population we did not anticipate?

While these examples are fictitious, they demonstrate the benefit of using strategic foresight. By spending time thinking of possible futures, our minds begin to engage in a new way. Most strategic planning builds on current data to plan towards the future. An aspect of strategic foresight, backcasting, does the opposite. Backcasting establishes a future endpoint (a goal, event or circumstance), and then seeks to explain how this could come to pass.[i] This can help organizations determine how to achieve a chosen goal (e.g. – Kennedy stated in 1961 that there will be a man on the moon by 1969) or decide what is likely to happen (e.g. – virtual summer camps).

A common way to conduct foresight is through the use of the STEEP acronym. Here are some potential future issues that could affect the Christian camping ministry:

Social
–       Ageing: Given our aging population, what would a camp designed only for senior citizens look like?
–       Youth: Since Canadian statistics tell us that we are entering a steady decrease of 16-20 year olds, what will High School camps look like in 10 years?
–       Ethnicity: How do we achieve camper enrolment that reflects the ethnic diversity of Canada?

Technological
–       Given the pervasive nature of technology, what would technology or communication free programming look like?
–       On-line education continues to rise in popularity. What are the ingredients of a thriving on-line camp experience?
–       How could crowdfunding be used to raise money for camp projects (e.g. – Kickstarter)?

Economic
–       How would your camp change if the government removed your non-profit status?
–       How are increasing levels of personal debt going to impact the camp ministry?
–       How would food services change if there was a tax on high-fat foods?

Environmental
–       What would be required to make your camp energy self-sufficient?
–       As environmentalism increases, what changes will need to be made in order to meet increasingly stringent regulations?
–       What if 30% of your clientele were vegetarian or required special diets?

Political
–       As personal privacy decreases, what would occur if parents were able to electronically monitor their children while they attend camp?
–       How will you respond to campers who blog, upload video and instagram about their camp experience all week?
–       What if camps were asked to fill the void left by government decreases in social services funding?[ii], [iii], [iv]

As you read these questions you are likely thinking, ‘that is already happening’ and in other cases, ‘that would never occur’. However, each of these scenarios, whether projected from current circumstances, or envisioned as possible futures, engaged your minds and encouraged you to creatively think about the future. Doing this helps us develop plans for today which will have stronger relevance in the future. This is the intent of strategic foresight.

What role does strategic foresight have in a faith-driven organization? If God tells us that, “I know the plans I have for you” (Phil. 1:6, NIV), why do we spend time thinking of things which may or may not occur? A recent conversation with a colleague illustrates this question.[v] Charity is a Vice President of a Haiti relief organization. She laments that there is a current crisis of non-profits operating in Haiti that have hit the financial red zone. A lack of foresight has made these organizations successful in the short-term but unviable beyond 3-5 years. For lack of foresight, important projects are half-completed and Haitians are facing the consequences of organizations founded without a long-term plan. While God is in control, he has charged us to act as responsible stewards. When Joseph was given a vision of a future famine he used the seven years of abundance to prepare for seven years of famine (Genesis 41). Similarly, we must also use the knowledge at out our disposal to prepare for the future.

Strategic foresight is difficult because it takes time. However, it is an imperative exercise! Failing to do so means that we will fail to stay ahead of changes which are occurring at an increasing pace. The recent bankruptcy of Kodak, once heralded as the innovator in photography, is proof that relevance is earned and cannot be assumed.

If this stimulated your thinking and you would like to discover more, here is some suggested reading: The Extreme Future (James Canton, 2007) and A Brief History of the Next 50 Years (Richard Watson, 2010), Trends and Technology Timelines (www.nowandnext.com)


[i] Cornish, E. (2004). Futuring: The exploration of the future.  Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.

[ii] Canton, (2004). The extreme future. New York, NY: Plume.

[iii] Watson, R. (2010). A brief history of the next 50 years. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

[iv] Trends and technology timelines (www.nowandnext.com).

[v] Remington, C. (May 13, 2012). The state of non-profits in Haiti. Personal Conversation.


This article was written by Jeff Suderman. Jeff  is completing his Doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University (Virginia). He is a higher education professional with more than 20 years of marketing and leadership experience. He operates a leadership consulting company near Calgary and does work with team-building, leadership development, strategic planning and foresight. He can be reached at jlsuderman@gmail.com.

How to promote your summer camp at Trade Shows

Does your camp attend trade shows in your area? Trade Shows can be a great way to market your camp face-to-face with potential clients. Many trade shows run through the winter to market your camp to rental groups like schools or churches, but you can also use trade shows to promote your summer camp program and boost your registrations as well!

Here are some handy trade show tips:

Before the Show

Create a little buzz

It’s always a good idea to create a buzz about your booth a couple of weeks before the show. Let your Facebook fans and Twitter followers know where and when to find you. If it’s within your budget, promise a little giveaway to get people to come out. It can be as simple as promising the first ten people to come to your booth and say they heard you’d be there on Facebook (or Twitter) a free t-shirt! Think about being willing to offer a special discount on camp registration to people who sign their kids up at the trade show.

Research the venue

Find out what the venue offers so that you know what you can feasibly bring. Questions to ask might be:

  • Will there be WiFi?
  • Will there be a nearby electrical outlet?
  • How big is the booth?
  • Are you allowed to sell products?

These questions will help you plan your booth. You’ll know how big it is, so you’ll know what kind of signage or props you can bring. You might consider bringing a laptop or two to run a PowerPoint presentation about your program, have a photo slide show, or have your website open for people to browse, so you’ll need Internet access and electricity. If you’ve got a lot of camp merch left over from last year (t-shirts, hats, etc.), this might be a great way to get rid of some by selling them at discounted prices at your booth.

Plan your staffing

Do you have the staff to man the booth, or will you need to recruit volunteers? Either way, it’s nice to have a few of them. No one wants to sit at a booth alone, and it’s great to have another person greeting new people while you’re busy chatting and answering questions. It’s also important to plan enough staff or volunteers so that those manning the booth can have shorter shifts and frequent breaks. This will keep your staff energetic, friendly, and eager to make an impression on potential clients.

If whoever you’re sending isn’t familiar with your program or details about your camp, make sure you give them enough information to go on. Send a FAQ sheet with them for them to consult, and make sure you’ve told them the most important things you want visitors to your booth to know about your camp.

During the Show

What to bring

At the very least, you’ll need to bring along these items:

  • A stand-alone presentation board, preferable with your camp name and logo on it. This board should display what you do as a camp, and include lots of pictures of real kids enjoying the activities.
  • A tablecloth that compliments your logo/signage.
  • A large sign for your logo and camp name, if you haven’t included this on your presentation board (but you can always do both).
  • Informational material. Make sure you’ve got lots of brochures and business cards ready to hand out.

Other things to consider bringing:

  • A laptop (or two, or three). You can use them to let people look at your website, view a PowerPoint presentation about your camp, or just to have a constant slide show full of fun pictures from your summer programs.
  • Props to make your booth interesting. If you have room in your booth, the possibilities are endless — but pick items that speak to your camp’s program, like a western saddle, or climbing equipment, or beach toys.
  • Some greenery. Nothing lives up a drab-looking booth quite like live plants or flowers.

Make your booth engaging

There are lots of ways to draw interest to your booth! Rather than just silently sitting in a chair, hoping someone will come by, try a few of these fun tricks:

  • Play some music! People will be drawn to the sound and eager to find out what’s going on at your booth.
  • Have some swag to give away. People like free stuff, even if it’s something small like a carabiner with your camp’s name on it, or even a pen. Once they’re there checking out what you’re offering for free, you’ll have the chance to talk to them a bit. Even if it’s just to ask, “Have you ever heard about Camp XYZ before?” to break the ice.
  • Have a draw for a cool prize. Depending on what you’re willing to part with, you could offer anything from as big as a free week of camp to as small as a camp hoodie. Have them fill out a piece of paper with their contact information including email address and drop it in a container or box. Now you have lots of email addresses! You can inform the winner(s) by email and send some follow-up information about your camp to everyone who entered.
  • Update your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) frequently during the show with engaging material, such as: “Lots of names entered in our draw for a FREE week of camp! Will you be the winner?” While you’re making this trade show sound like the funnest event ever, keep inviting people to come out and see, while offering swag and hyping your raffle. If you’re offering discounts to parents who register their kids for camp right at your booth, remind everyone of this fact to encourage them to come on down.

Inspire people to donate

If your camp has a specific area of need or is trying to accomplish a particular project, you might want to make a display for it and ask for donations. Tell people what you’re trying to do, and engage them in a conversation. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive!

After the Show

The show’s over. If you think your job is done, think again! You need to follow up with all of those people you met, chatted with, and took contact information from before they forget about their experience at their booth. Here’s your post-trade-show-routine:

  • Use social media to thank everyone for coming out and visiting your booth.
  • Thank your staff for manning the booth.
  • If you haven’t already, upload a few photos of the trade show to Facebook.
  • Send an email to winner of your draw.
  • Send a follow-up email to those who gave you their contact information thanking them for visiting the booth and informing them more about your camp program. Don’t send this the day of — it’s best to wait 2 or 3 days so as not to seem over-eager, but don’t wait too long, or they’ll have forgotten that they ever talked to you or saw your booth!
  • If you felt it was a positive and worthwhile experience, book yourself in for next year’s show.

Oftentimes the chance to talk to potential customers face-to-face is overlooked in marketing plans. People go to trade shows to find businesses like yours — use that fact! Just make sure your booth is engaging, that your staff take the time to chat with visitors, and that you follow up afterwards to remind everyone that you were there!

The Importance of Excellent Summer Camp Programming

A couple of months ago, I went the CCI Alberta/BC/Territories Regional Conference. It was a really great time of networking, sharing resources, learning new things and just hanging out with other camp professionals. Isn’t it great to be in a room full of people who are all working towards the same broad goals?

At the conference, I had the pleasure of attending a session with Sid Koop of Truth Matters Ministries, where he talked about the importance of developing a really great summer camp program. As you’re now probably in the thick of things, program-development-wise, I thought now would be a great time to share some of the notes I took away from this session. I hope you’ll find the information helpful as you go forward with your programs this summer!

Why do excellent programming?

Because excellent programming says, “I love you” to the campers, and that’s really why we’re all here in the first place. Details and extra effort are worth it — it creates an environment that says, “we’re so glad you’re here!”

Not only does excellent programming show your campers you’ve worked hard to make their camp experience special, but it creates a culture of excellence among the rest of the staff. When a program is really great, staff want to work harder to showcase it.

Lastly, excellent programming builds a healthy community. Camp is about so much more than just the activities you’ve schemed up for the kids to try. It’s about those moments in between, where kids get to know each other, the camp staff and, hopefully, God. As you consider your program this summer, think to yourself: “will my program encourage growth beyond just the program elements for these kids?” Essentially, how will your program shape the conversations kids have between activities? How will it inspire the kids to ask questions? Will the program make it easy for this community of growth to happen at camp?

How do we build a great community at camp?

Kids probably don’t think of their camp experience using the term “community”, but that’s really what it is. So how do we build a great community (even if it’s only for one week before we have to start all over again)?

Think about shared experiences. Think of events that staff and campers can reminisce about later. These kinds of activities create a bond among those who were there to experience them.

Think about the time spent with campers. At camp, we get 24 hours a day with these kids. Are we using it well? Do our actions during this time say, “I love you”, or “I’m just doing my job”?

Think about fun. Fun is important to kids. Kids should describe their camp experience as “fun”! Fun makes the whole week more memorable, and help kids really engage with the activities and with each other.

Think about creating a safe environment. You camps should feel safe to share their stories. Does your program allow time for the kids to get to put in their two cents, or ask questions? If not, it needs to.

And most importantly, think about creating the space within your program for kids to connect with Christ. This can be done through evening devotionals or morning chapels. But you can also program certain elements that will allow for kids to connect with God as part of their regular activities. For example, a nature walk can have an integrated prayer walk. Try to think critically about the spaces you’re creating for this intimacy with God to happen for your campers.

“There is a real correlation between the excellence of programming and how open the kids will be to receiving the gospel,” Sid says. I couldn’t agree more.

Some key principles for excellent programming:

Your first encounter may be your most important encounter. First impressions are important, so make yours count. When the campers drive onto the property, what do they see? Try to make your registration day a fun event! Blast music, have staff dressed up according to your program’s theme, set the tone that this will be the best week ever! One camp I attended as a kid had a strong horse program, so on registration day, they’d have two horses and riders standing out at the front gate. They were only there to wave at the kids as they drove in. I remember seeing those horses and cowgirls out the window of my parents’ car, and getting so excited to ride horses that week.

Be purposeful and intentional in all areas of programming. Think about what your programming is really for, and work towards that in all of your planning. Make sure that your program facilitates the relationship between staff and campers, and gets whatever message you’re trying to send to the kids across.

You should be putting the most work into what you think are the most important moments. If salvation is most important to your ministry, as it probably is, how are you choosing to plan your chapels and campfires? Are these just boring stretches of time the kids have to sit through in order to get on with the rest of their fun, or are they exciting, engaging, meaningful events that the kids look forward to? And, as I mentioned above, first impressions count: so how great will your first chapel be?

The last thing I’d like to mention, is that not all program budgets were created equal. Some have it in the budget to hire amazing speakers and special bands, and to create expensive activities. Others don’t. Excellence is not a matter of resources — it’s a matter of what you do with the resources you have. One of the best things about camp ministry, is that it is, by very nature, a thing kids are dying to experience. They have no idea whether you have a huge budget, or zero budget. They’re just there to have fun and experience community. Make sure you deliver on those aspects.