Spring has just arrived, but plans for summer are already well underway. Are you planning on taking your kids to a summer camp? If so, we have some tips to help you make the most of your camp experience. I talked with Toby Rowe, Program Manager for Simply Youth Group and Group Mission Trips, and Isaac Bartholomew,Recruiting and Training Manager for Group Mission Trips (and a 15-year Camp Director alumni). They shared some really good tips to keep in mind when planning for camp. Whether you’re planning your own camp or are looking to go to an organized camp, here are some simple tips to get you started!
1. Organized Camps.
Toby: If possible—considering budget and time, and unless you’re super-good at this kind of thing— attend a camp that’s organized by camping people. Is it probably more expensive at some level? Yes. Is the cost difference often way worth it? Absolutely. Any camp experience for kids should primarily be about faith and relationship-building, in that order. If you foresee yourself and your team being swallowed up with details, safety, schedules, cooking, registration, money, and on and on, you won’t have any time to spend with your kiddos anyway. Pay someone else to do all that “stuff” so you can do ministry and life with your children.
Isaac: I agree with Toby on attending camps built by camp people. They are more apt to take their job seriously, unlike youth leaders who are playing camp director.
Toby: Regardless of how you choose to do camp, you need a team. That doesn’t mean you and your spouse, if that’s the case. (That’s called being “volun-told.”) A healthy team is comprised of at least one leader of every key area of your camp, event, or ministry. Under those people are other volunteers that they recruit or organize to get the job done. Without a team, you are guaranteed at least frustration or at worst failure. Don’t get too far down the road of camp without assembling the team that you need. (And if you’re the leader of the entire ministry or event, you need space to do that. Don’t take on a bunch of other roles in addition to overall leadership.)
Isaac: “Team” is ultra important! Toby is spot on there. Recruit parents and volunteers who are relational and understand “play.”
Toby: On the practical side of things, one of the main areas of any camp is food. Find a “food” person. They don’t necessarily have to love doing children’s ministry (although liking kids would be pretty important). We’re talking about a person who has been in the food service industry, or works in a school cafeteria, or does catering. They’ll have the knowledge of important things like quantity, cost-control, and getting the job done without microwaving 150 Hungry Man dinners.
4. Making a schedule. Kids love being busy. You might want free time, but you’ll have to get that when you return home from camp. We would suggest keeping your schedule busy and balanced. What’s busy? (It’s not “crazy” by the way!) From the time they wake up until the time they go to bed, kids should be engaged in something organized and meaningful. Of course you’ll need some breaks for transition, showering, and things like that. But a good transition time is 15 or 20 minutes. Giving kids an entire hour off until the next event will guarantee you’ll spend the following hour trying to find everyone. Keep things moving! At the same time, be balanced. That’s all about not doing the same thing for too long and giving kids a taste of what a full Christian life is all about. Include things like: fun, food, fellowship, worship. That sums up what most people like to do. Sprinkle in some surprise and adventure, and you’re ready to have a great kids’ camp.
Isaac: The schedule is important, and keeping people engaged in fun events is, too, but it can include some “down time” like campfires and s’mores or lake time where relationships and friendships are grown. Allow staff and team members to connect with students and time for peer friendships, too.
Toby: Have enough adults to serve as chaperones while kids are doing camp. We suggest a 1 to 5 or 6 ratio.
Isaac: Plan ahead and have at least two training meetings with volunteers and chaperones to discuss schedule and desired outcomes.
6. New Friends.
Toby: Break kids into unknown groups on purpose. If you’re working with multiple churches, devise a strategy to get kids doing things with kids from other churches from the very beginning. It explodes friendship circles like a big bang in action.
7. Pray as you plan.
Isaac: Pray, Plan, Pray, Pray!
If you’re looking for a wonderful camp to take your preteens to, there are still spaces available in the preteen Week of Hope summer trips, which combine the best of a preteen mission trip and summer camp all rolled up into one life-changing week. Trips are all-inclusive and start at $229 per person. See all the locations here.
What are your summer camp plans? Let us know using the comment section below!