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Summer Camp Turned Strategy

John Gilman April 18, 2016

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Some say that summer camp is an outdated relic of a bygone era. Who has time for it? What’s the value? Why does it matter? Does the camp have Wi-Fi? What about a pool?

It seems that kids (and parents) have better things to do during the fleeting summer break than go to camp. But what if we rethought the camping experience? What if we wove it into the ongoing discipleship of people in the Church? What if we could take all the best parts that have made it a hallmark for centuries and reinvent them for a modern era?

Regardless of your value for the summer camp experience, it can, and has been, a very meaningful time of growth that marks the spiritual lives of many.

Camping doesn’t have to be just a summer activity. Weekend retreats, winter camping, and special events all augment a well-thought discipleship program. However, historically, the most widely accepted time to plan a camping trip is in the summer.

If planned and executed correctly, summer camp can be a great way to increase engagement, bolster your youth ministry, and give youth (and their parents) moments to grow and reflect.

Here are a few things your church could do to turn up the strategy on summer camp:

  • Plan follow up meetings and retreats with campers, to reflect and celebrate great memories.
  • Capture video and images of the great experiences, to relive later on.
  • Have student campers write reports for their parents, so parents can see the value.
  • Get adults engaged to provide ministry and leadership opportunities for them.
  • Develop powerful programming that will leave an indelible impression on youth.
  • Have them serve. Summer camp doesn’t have to be all about what the kids are getting, but what they’re giving. Perhaps they could repair the campgrounds, serve in a nearby shelter, do community projects and cleanup, or visit an elderly home. They’ll remember camp more if it gives them purpose.

The goal is to weave the camping experience into the overall spiritual development of the families in your church.

To do this well, you’ll need to ask questions like:

  • What is the impact this experience will have on our youth?
  • What serving and growth opportunities will it provide for adults?
  • How can we get more people involved?
  • What follow up events will increase engagement and development?
  • How can we share the experiences of campers with the rest of the church?
  • What should youth get out of all our summer activities, including camp?
  • How else can we engage youth and adults throughout the year?

Summer camp still has a place in the hearts and minds of your people. If you can be strategic in weaving it into the current fabric of our modern society, the families in your church will reap the benefits of a unique and purpose-filled period of time. What’s more, they’ll have memories to share and relive throughout the year; increasing excitement and appreciation for all that your church is doing to bring fulfillment to their lives.

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