Memories that Matter

Why camp is a must for your summer schedule

By John Pearson and Bud Williams

The missions trip to Mexico. A day at the water park. The weekend lock-in. Summer likely fills up fast for your youth group, and maybe you wonder if planning a week at camp is worth your while. Before you cross camp off your to-do list, consider what can happen in the unique camping environment.

• Genuine community: Camp contrasts with the familiar. Youth leave behind labels, expectations of others, and routines. They enter a temporary community where the purpose is presenting Christ and nurturing believers.

• Whole-person ministry: Other events are generally limited to the spiritual or the emotional. Camp activities help youth learn how to treat others fairly, build friendships, adapt to new situations, grow spiritually, and play.

• Growing relationships: In the 24/7 camp environment, leaders become walking examples of how to live out a relationship with Christ. Playing, worshiping, and learning together create bonds that translate experience into character.

• Commitments and memories: The energetic events at camp are absorbing. Bible study times open doors for leaders to present spiritual concepts. And camp days will become vibrant memories of fun times and life-shaping truths.

• Leadership development: Camps are ideal nurturing environments. Teens form leadership skills when they have opportunities to succeed or fail in decisions and to take on responsibilities.

A successful camp that will enrich and change the lives of your youth must involve time spent in careful, prayerful planning. Use the following checklist as a guide as you prepare for your event.

• Write down overall and specific goals for camp, and communicate them to everyone involved. Make sure major events and activities align with your aims. For the program, use a variety of print and human resources.

• Build enthusiasm among potential participants by explaining your goals and activities. Provide an orientation for leaders and give them a job description explaining the time commitment.

• Select a site based on your objectives. (See for a searchable directory of more than 1,000 camps.) Read the camp’s rental agreement—regulations could affect your program—and discuss the menu with the camp staff.

• Consider fund raising so you can offer camp scholarships. Plan what you will do about cancellations. If you’re bringing in a speaker, communicate in writing about the honorarium, travel expenses, and accommodations.

• After camp, use a survey or discussion to get feedback from participants, and thank your leaders. Immediately follow up on spiritual decisions.

With proper planning, the living results of an effective week at camp will more than reward you for your time invested. Make sure camp is on your summer schedule.

Bud is a professor at Wheaton College and on faculty at HoneyRock Camp in Wisconsin in the summer.

John, formerly president of Christian Management Association, will soon launch John Pearson and Associates, a consulting firm.

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