Keep the Campfires Burning

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Keep the Fires Burning

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Eric Jensen, author of Teaching With the Brain in Mind, says
that for the brain to truly comprehend new information, kids must
have “settling time.” This means kids get an opportunity to process
what they’ve learned and experienced at camp, without being
immediately inundated with new material or lessons upon their
return. Settling time is so valuable for kids to absorb camp
experiences that churches should optimally plan on giving kids this
“space”-at least a one-week period with no new lessons or topics-as
a part of the follow-up camp experience. Here are more ways to
maximize camp once kids come home.

Bring camp home. While campers are away
changing their perspective on life, things at home haven’t changed.
Coach campers to keep their zeal for God alive. Remind them that
their openness to worship and prayer and their determination to
stand up for what’s right doesn’t have to stop just because they’re
back home. It’s normal for their initial excitement to wane; what’s
important is that they keep the experiences close to their
heart.

Share the change. Have kids share with
someone important in their lives the changes they made with God. If
the camper kept a journal, challenge the camper to share parts of
it with someone trustworthy who’ll be excited about what he or she
experienced.

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Find a friend. Have campers find a friend
from camp who’ll help them be accountable to the choices and
commitments they made.

Keep the connection. One counselor got a
camper’s address and sent him a card once a month for the following
year. The camper couldn’t remember the special speaker at camp, but
he did remember the year that his counselor prayed for and believed
in him.

Partner with parents. Inform parents by
sharing what kids experienced individually. It’s easier to follow
through on what God has done in a child’s life if parents have an
idea what happened. Give parents a “talk sheet” with questions to
ask their kids to extend faith growth. And don’t forget to post
kids’ camp photos on your Web site while they’re at camp so parents
can see what their kids are doing.

Have a post-camp party. Before kids forget
the details of camp, have a party where they share stories with
their parents-from the funny hairdos to the times of healing. Show
raw camp video footage or pictures from the week while everyone
snacks on camp-style goodies. Share the basic sermon points or
themes of the week to reinforce at home. Give campers time to talk
and parents a chance to see the exciting things that happened while
their children were away.

Build on what kids learned. If campers
learned how important it is to regularly read their Bibles and
pray, give kids opportunities to do these things in your ministry.
Create an accountability program that involves parents.

Provide opportunities. If kids opened up at
worship and learned to linger in God’s presence, they’ll keep that
openness if you offer similar opportunities weekly. Services at
camp tend to provide extended times of worship and prayer that lead
to deeper spiritual experiences, but more than half of the churches
surveyed didn’t provide such an opportunity for kids weekly.

Let kids share their stories. Many churches
we talked to said they didn’t place great importance on small group
time-even if they slotted time specifically for these relational
interactions. Provide opportunities for campers to share stories
with others in small groups-this style of growth is beneficial and
very important.

Make time for play. What helps the kids bond
with their camp counselors? A common quote among the children’s
pastors I hang with is, “If you play with them, you earn the right
to pray with them.” Fun and play breaks down barriers at camp-and
it works at home, too. Plan events to keep those connections open.
Keep those relationships alive; they do matter.

Integrate new ideas. If your kids really
enjoyed a certain style of teaching or tool for learning at camp,
try to fit it into your ministry and incorporate it into weekly
services or lessons. Seeing how others do ministry-and learning
from kids’ reactions-is a huge part of any children’s minister’s
education. Use this experience to your advantage-and as a way to
keep kids connected to what they learned at camp.

Partner with your church. If you want your
congregation to back camp financially or to support it as a
meaningful experience, have campers share stories of how God
changed their lives. Show video footage. Share scholarship
information (numbers, not names). You’ll highlight the benefits of
camp and give campers an opportunity to solidify their
experiences.

Churches, parents, children, and your ministry all want the
maximum impact of money and time when it comes to summer camp. By
planning today, you can help your kids show up to camp ready and
eager for life transformation-and equip them for a lifelong walk
with God. cm

Rhonda Haslett is a consultant and evangelist to children
and family ministries in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Stoke the Fires

To prepare kids for camp, take steps to make it an experience-not
just an event.
Assemble a team. The best approach to anything
worthwhile in ministry is a team approach. Find trustworthy people
to do what you can’t. Recruit “influencers” who can create a
marketing timeline and generate growing excitement.
Review curriculum. Evaluate your curriculum to
determine whether it supports your goals for the skills kids will
walk away with from camp. Pay particular attention to the calendar
just before and after camp. Look for connections between what kids
will experience and everyday life transformation.
Recruit early. Which leaders or parents should
you talk to now about going to camp, so they can arrange their
schedules? Talk to your current leaders to start with, since they
already have a relationship with campers and will be engaged in
their lives after camp is over. Choose people who are relational
rather than task-oriented. Those who are relationally gifted will
enhance campers’ relationships with God and others.
Aim high. Make efforts early on to get your
pastor, board members, or other known influencers to commit to
visiting camp. These individuals can become some of your most vocal
advocates for the camp experience.

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