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.

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February Featured Video: Ranger Lake Bible Camp takes it!

Well, it’s February. As I look out the window at a herd of very shaggy horses standing in their snow-covered corral, I’m wondering: where in the world did January go? And I’m also wondering: when will summer ever get here?!

If you’re jonesing for some summer camp reminiscence, I’ve got the perfect thing for you. It’s a great summer camp video by Ranger Lake Bible Camp. It just happens to be our Featured Video of the month!

If potential parents or campers were wondering what’s in store for a week of camp at Ranger Lake Bible Camp, this video should clear it up — lots of fun activities, the chance to make friends and the opportunity to encounter God! This video made me wish I could go to camp!

And speaking of Ranger Lake: their website is pretty spiffy, too. I really like the design, and it’s really functional. They’ve included new things for 2012, which is a great way to promote their summer program and encourage registrations. You should check it out.

Is your camp putting together a promotional video for the 2012 camp season? If so, I want to see it! It could be our March Featured Video, which means a ton of exposure for your camp. Send it to me (Deanna) at communicate@cci-canada.ca!

Happy New Year from CCI/Canada!

We’d just like to wish you all a Happy New Year! We hope your Christmases were all merry and bright and that you found the time this year to reflect upon Christ (the reason for the season).

Here’s a verse to think about as you make your plans and resolutions for 2012:

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

Take care, camp friends!

 

“8 Small Busines Social Media Tips from the Pros” – a great resource for camps, too!

This morning, I took a break from sifting through the MANY emails about our new website (glad you’re all logging on and checking things out, by the way… I hope you like what you see!) to read this great little article from the Social Media Examiner on how to create an engaging social media page (be it Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube) for your small business — or in most of your cases, for your camp.

You know I’ve been harping on all of you to get into social networking more. Summer camp is built on young people. They’re your campers and they’re your staff. Chances are, they want to stay connected with you, and newsletters through the mail might not be the best way to reach this audience.

Social media can be a powerful tool to generate support for your camp. And it can be really easy. Feel free to contact me if you need any help!

Birch Bay Ranch: CCI/Canada’s Camp Video Contest Winner – December!

Congratulations, Birch Bay Ranch! Your winter wonderland video was the winner of this month’s video contest!

Check out the video in all its festive glory:

Most kids who attend camp have no clue what happens at camp over the wintertime. They don’t know what it looks like or what kinds of activities are offered. A video like this can help connect your camp to its supporters all winter long.

We loved the rustic scenes shown in this video: a wintry barnyard complete with an assortment of farmyard animals, sleigh rides, a lodge all decorated for Christmas banquets and parties, a crackling fire… doesn’t it just make you want to drink hot cocoa and listen to Christmas carols?

We still want to see more winter camp videos! Your video can be as simple as a little tour of your facilities in wintertime. If your camp is on, say, the West Coast of British Columbia, where there’s little to no snow, your video can be tongue-in-cheek!

Send all video submissions to Deanna at communicate@cci-canada.ca!

Photos from CCI/Canada’s 2011 Executive Leadership Conference: Moving Forward!

It’s the third day of the Executive Leadership Institute in Muskoka, and everyone is having a really great time. CCI conferences are always a great time to network and share with others. Plus there’s a lot to learn on how to move forward with your ministry this year.

I’ll leave this quick post with a few photos of our participants.

 

Here’s a shot of some conference participants listening to Jim Cantelon, founder of VISIONLEDD and host of 100 Huntley Street. I’m sure they’re learning a lot!

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And here’s our keynote speaker, Ron den Otter speaking on Building Healthy Organizations.

Ron den  Otter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo of our participants enjoying a great time of worship.

worship

Wintertime news from CCI/Canada

November is almost half over already, and many of us are getting ready to deck the halls. How is your camp doing at the start of this winter season? What are some of the programs or activities you offer at your camp or conference center during the wintertime?

Speaking of wintertime, I wanted to tell you about the rules for next month’s video contest! I’ve really enjoyed watching all of the videos of your camps’ awesome summer programs, but now that the temperature is falling (at least here in Alberta) and some of us are starting to see snow, I’m really interested in what your camp looks like in the wintertime! I want to see what activities you offer, and whether you decorate for Christmas, and how your onsite staff deal with the chill and snow!

Our Winter Video Contest will run for the next three months (or until I change my mind!), so get out there with your camera, camp friends! As usual, videos can be sent to me at communicate@cci-canada.ca.

Now, November doesn’t just mean first snowfalls and and falling temperatures. It also means that the Executive Leadership Institute is upon us! We are so excited to see all of you on November 21st. We’ve got the whole conference packed with great stuff for you to grow as a camp leader.

If you’re unable to attend, keep an eye out for news about regional conferences and events in 2012, as well as our National Conference!

One more piece of news: CCI/Canada is gearing up to launch its brand new website. I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled for it, because it’s going to be great. By this time next week, it should be totally up and running and ready for you to explore. We’ll keep you posted about how our new Members-Only Portal is going to work. We’re really excited about all of this, and we know you’ll all appreciate our swanky new site.

Well, camp friends, I hope you’re able to attend ELI next week! And if not, I hope you’re still finding ways to improve your ministry all the time.