STRONG & COURAGEOUS: General Session with Bryan Lorrits – Courage to Innovate

Being courageous in ministry has many implications. This morning, Fellowship Memphis Pastor Bryan Lorrits spoke on courage as it relates to innovation. So often at our camps, we get bogged down in doing things “the way they’ve always been done.” Is that true at your camp?

He began with Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

It all boils down to this: Jesus didn’t do things “the way they’ve always been done.” Jesus had the courage to innovate, and he would encourage us to do the same. Even in the face of many powerful naysayers, who would have his disciples believe otherwise. But we shouldn’t let the naysayers discourage us from making great, positive changes in our ministries. After all, Moses didn’t make it into the promised land because he allowed the naysayers to dictate his attitude.

So how about you? Do you have the courage to innovate? Are you exchanging the mantra, “charge the hill” with “keep the peace” in your ministry?

We hope you have the courage to dream big and innovate at your camp!

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STRONG & COURAGEOUS: Day Two Recap

Since yesterday was just a day of registration and settling in, today was the first official day of STRONG & COURAGEOUS, our National Conference in San Diego, California.

Today has been a whirlwind of greeting old friends, making some new ones, and diving into the conference! With Head Start Workshops running all day today, participants got the chance to squeeze in even more learning and networking.

The afternoon brought regional gatherings, but since there are only 75 Canadians in total here at the conference, we met all together. It was great to see some familiar faces, and meet some new people who are our brothers and sisters in the amazing ministry of Christian camping in Canada. At the gathering, we discussed our journey since 2010 — and there certainly have been a lot of changes to CCI/Canada since then. Between moving the National Office across the country to Alberta and a complete turnover of staff, we sure have had some challenges. But we are happy to report many successes: from simple things like never failing to deliver a quality e-newsletter on the first of every month to huge things like dramatically reducing our deficit. And we are so grateful to be here serving you all.

After the regional gatherings, everyone was treated to an amazing Mexican fiesta, complete with a real Mariachi band, dancers and amazing Mexican food. The outdoor courtyard was filled with lights, balloons, and the sounds of eight hundred camp professionals enjoying themselves!

The Mariachi band and dancers led everyone back into the main ballroom for a general session that began with CCCA President Gregg Hunter and CCI/Canada National Director Sharon Fraess bursting out of a pinata and pulling confetti from their mouths! After than spectacle, the session began with lively worship from Danny Oertli. Gregg Hunter gave the evening’s keynote speech, and was followed by a quick word from Sheri Rose Shepherd. In the end, the Mariachi band started up again and led us all to the Grand Exhibit Hall, which was jam-packed with excellent camp-centered exhibitors and home to our Member Services Area. Here at the Canadian booth, I’m giving away tote bags, sticky notes, luggage tags and Red Rose tea. And we’re serving Tim Hortons Coffee and poutine in the Exhibit Hall! Just doing what we can to make our Canadian camp members feel at home!

Tomorrow will bring so much opportunity for education. From all-day Institutes to Intensives and Electives, there is literally something for everyone. We’ll keep you posted on how everything goes!

STRONG & COURAGEOUS: Day One

Our National Conference, STRONG & COURAGEOUS is officially underway!

As I type this, I’m sitting behind the Registration & Information Desk in the Atlas Foyer of the beautiful Town and Country Resort Hotel in San Diego, California. The conference is a joint effort between CCI/Canada and our U.S. counterparts, the Christian Camp & Conference Association. It has been a pleasure to meet our Canadian members as they begin to register today. What a wonderful community we have!

This year’s conference theme comes from the first chapter of Joshua. Here’s verse nine:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The command to “be strong and courageous” appears four times in this chapter. God truly desired to equip Joshua with the tools and courage necessary to accomplish great things — just as He wants to encourage you to face challenges within your camp ministry with the strength and courage of Joshua.

Just as God provided Joshua with what he needed to be a strong leader to bring God’s people into the promised land, He will give you what you need to lead your ministry. That’s why this conference is so jam-packed with educational opportunities. We’ve got conference-long workshops, two- to four-hour intensives, and traditional seminars with dozens of topics to choose from. There is so much to learn from some really excellent, well-informed instructors and speakers.

Today is just a registration day, but I will keep you all posted on the goings-on of the conference each day! Watch for more posts, and hopefully some photos!

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!

Link

Camp horses.

If there’s a creature on earth that deserves a medal just for existing, it’s these guys. Imagine being a camp horse. You’ve got to cart around thousands of people each year, never getting the chance to stick with one person you like. You’re expected to stand still while getting kicked in the stomach, poked in the kidneys and thumped on the back. Every day, while your mouth gets yanked on, you’ve got to try to decipher the signals whoever’s up top is trying to send you. Kicking and pulling at the same time — does this kid want me to stop or go?!

Most camp horses are given the pleasure of a winter off, where they can just hang out with their buddies, eat hay and grow shaggy winter coats. But as springtime rental season is upon us, we’ve got to bring those ponies in from the field, clean them up and remind them how to do their jobs. Even if you’ve already had the job of being in charge of the horse program at your camp, it’s always good to start fresh each year. Who knows how the horses may have changed over the winter — health-wise or even just in terms of personality.

Here are a few tips on how to get your camp horsemanship program started off right this spring!

Take stock of your herd

Whether you’ve just got a handful of horses for pony rides, or you’ve got a full-blown herd of horses for running a lesson program, the first thing a horsemanship director should do is familiarize him-or-herself with the herd. Being well informed about what kinds of horses you’ll be working with can go a long way towards a smooth season of trail rides and lessons.

Try these suggestions:

  • Take a look through the horses’ records. If your camp does not keep a written record of each horse and his pertinent information (such as dates of farrier, deworming and vaccinations), then you should definitely start one. Each horse should have a page describing his age, breed, height and markings, as well as a chart for keeping track of medical information. You can find some examples here, here and here to get you started. I also found this free online software you can use, but I’d still recommend having something in hard copy to consult while you’re down at the barn.
  • Watch the horses in their pen. See if you can determine the pecking order. Which horses are more dominant? Which seem to get picked on? Knowing the personalities of your horses as they react to each other can tell you a lot about how they’ll react in other situations. I have a horse who is at the very bottom of the pecking order — as a riding horse, he is sweet and well-meaning, but can sometimes be a bit skittish in new or unexpected situations. This behaviour is not unusual for his personality in a herd. Knowing the pecking order will also help you down the line when determining the order of the string of horses for your trail rides or lessons. You probably shouldn’t put the most dominant horse right in front or behind the one who’s at the bottom of the heap. This knowledge can avoid accidents that erupt from horses biting or kicking each other while kids are on board. You can read a bit more about horse herd behaviour here.
  • Give each horse a quick once-over. You don’t have to spend all day inspecting every inch of every horse, but there are some important details to note. Take a look at their feet and weight. Are a couple of horses looking thin while the rest are all fat? They might need to go in a pen of their own to eat. Does one horse have lots of marks on his body? He’s probably getting picked on, and you might need to put him in a pen with more amiable paddock-mates.
  • At this point, I would take all of the information I’ve determined and start to come up with a farrier schedule and a feed plan. Some horses may have come out of the winter looking pretty skinny, so you might have to put them on a different feed or increase the amount you’re feeding them. Some might have to go on a diet.  Having taken that cursory look at the horses, I’ll know which to group together for farrier appointments, feed schedules, and even the order in which I’ll put them in a trail ride.

Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. As the season wears on, you’ll probably want to change some things. But it’s always good to have a solid knowledge of the general health and happiness of your herd before you start putting kids on them.

Take stock of your equipment

Go into your tack room and take a look at your gear. Do you have enough grooming supplies, like brushes and curry combs? What have you got in your medicine cabinet?What about important stuff for summer like fly spray?

You should have the right supplies for treating minor injuries or maladies. Things like Zev (a cough syrup for horses), clean syringes, an antibacterial wash like betadine or hibitane, clean bandages and vet wrap. Here’s a great list of ten items to have in your horse first aid kit.

After covering the basics, take a look at probably the most important pieces of equipment you’ll use all year: your tack. I think it’s important to try saddles on their horses each year, just to make sure everything still fits. The same goes for bridles. If you’ve got enough horses and enough tack, you’ll probably be able to do some swapping around until everything fits properly. Now would be a great time to clean and repair all that tack as well, so that it’s in good working order come spring.

Not too sure how to judge proper saddle fit? Check out this awesome video about how to tell proper fit of a western saddle. The principle is the same for English saddles as well, whether they’re close contact, all purpose or dressage saddles. Look for any pressure points, the range of motion of the horse’s shoulder blade and good clearance for the withers.

Start riding those horses

Try to ride as many horses as you can. While you ride, test the horses to see what they’ll tolerate. Think of how beginners tend to ride and do those same things. You’ll get an idea of what each horse will allow. If your main program is trail riding, try to recruit some other staff to join you to go on trail rides as much as possible.

I know you’re just one person, and it might be impossible for you to ride all the horses. Try holding several staff riding days at the beginning of the season. Get as many staff and volunteers as you can to come out and ride the horses on days that you schedule. You can be there to coordinate the day, while you observe the horses being ridden by people of various skill level. Get the riders to test the horses’ basic skills. Try getting them to play a game like one of these ones. Finish the day with a big group trail ride to see how the horses do following nose-to-tail amidst the tempting budding grasses and leaves out back.

Once you know the health, personalities and aptitude of your horses, you’ll be better equipped to develop your horse program. I hope you and your horses have a safe and fun summer!

Camp changes lives all over the world! News from the CCI Worldwide Summit:

Over the past few days, Pinos Reales, Spain saw leaders from Christian camping associations all over the world converge for a time of sharing, networking and growth at the CCI Worldwide Summit. The Summit proved to be a very positive time, confirming the fact that we truly are better together.

Here’s a highlight reel of the Summit’s events:

April 19, 2012

Participants arrived at Pinos Reales from all over the world, and although weary from travel, everyone was excited atthe opportunity for this unique gathering of leaders in camp ministry. The group shared a time of devotionals as the board met to solidify plans for the week.

April 20, 2012

Summit participants spent some time getting to know one another by enjoying a guided tour of Segovia, Spain. This time was an opportunity to see the sights, learn more about each other, and connect with the Creator in this beautiful part of the world. At the end of the day, the group sat down for a traditional Spanish meal. Eating together is one of the best acts of fellowship, and this time together was precious.

April 21, 2012

As the Summit truly got down to business, participants heard reports from the Regional Representatives, as well as from Dan Bolin, CCI International Director. We were proud to share how God is moving and working in Christian camps in Canada.

Did you know that over 10,600,000 campers attended a CCI camp somewhere in the world in the last year? That number is amazing! What a great affirmation that camp ministry reaches kids and affects lives.

The morning concluded with a worship service where all of the participants lifted their voices in at least 10 different languages to sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” As everyone joined to sing santo, santo, santo (holy, holy, holy), the purpose of the summit rang clear: that we, as followers of Christ and leaders in camp ministry, can be unified so perfectly by Christ.

April 22, 2012

Today CCI Japan shared a special update about the state of their nation following the devastating earthquake and tsunami last year. We ask that you continue to join us in prayer for their country: that God will equip CCI Japan to share God’s love and meet the needs of others in the new context of an environment threatened by disaster.

April 23, 2012

As the summit rolled along, participants continued to learn and grow in key areas of association management with the common goal of increasing the positive impact of Christian camping in all 20 member associations.

Bruce Dunning, fellow Canadian, offered all participants a free copy of his book, God of Adventure. God teaches through adventure, and so can we! The book is a great resource for camp professionals that connects Biblical principals with real adventure experiences.

April 24, 2012

It is truly exciting how all of us in Christian camping can be unified in purpose. No matter the language, environment or resources, camp ministry is about showing kids Christ’s love in an exciting, nurturing and fun setting!

The summit drew to a close with a special night. Everyone participated in the Lord’s Supper, where CCI Worldwide honoured Lorimer Gray as he completed 12 years of service as the Chairman of CCI Worldwide.

At last, everyone packed their bags to head back to their own parts of the world. The summit left everyone with fresh ideas, words of encouragement, and a spirit of camaraderie with which to face any challenges ahead.