Statistics tell us that summer camp can be a formative experience for our children and youth. It is also considered a “stepping stone” for college-aged staff as it may be the first time they consider a call to ministry. All of this gives your congregation an excellent opportunity to connect with the summer camp program and create a partnership that benefits both ministries.
How does your church relate to your camp? If your answer is “not much,” then here are three ways your church can partner with your camp’s summer program.
Connect with Your Campers
Summer camp can be a significant milestone in the faith journeys of our children and youth. Connecting with them during and after their camp week keeps them mindful of the faith community they relate to the rest of the year. You could send notes of encouragement during their camp session. (Everyone loves camp mail!) When they get back home, you could have them share what they learned at camp by talking to Sunday School classes or perhaps during worship. These sharing opportunities allow the campers to articulate their experiences and may serve as “word of mouth” marketing for other families with children in your congregation.
Adopt a Counselor (or the Whole Staff)
Summer camp counselors have a job that has long hours and requires a great deal of patience. It would be wonderful if they had the support of people outside of the camp community. See if your camp has an “adopt a staffer” program. If not, perhaps you could work with them to start one. You could support them by sending notes of encouragement (like I said—everyone loves camp mail), providing a snack for the staff lounge or the end-of-the-week staff meeting, or sending care packages with bug spray, sunscreen, and a devotion book.
Provide Summer Staff
A camp staff position is an excellent job for a college student from your congregation. It is also a great way to make a physical connection between the ministries of your church and the camp. While it is probably too late for this summer, you could send out the link to your camp’s application materials. Camps start looking for staff as early as December and you could help them make the connection with your college students. Do you have students who are looking for summer staff opportunities outside of your region? They can use www.summertoremember.com to find summer positions at camping ministries across North America.
What if your church doesn’t currently relate to a camp? Perhaps you can form a relationship by searching for the summer programs in your region at www.bestsummeryet.com.
Do you have other ideas that have worked with your congregation? If so, let me know and we will include them in a future blog post. Thank you for your support of camp and conference ministry.
Joel Winchip is the executive director of the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association. He also serves on the adjunct faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. Joel lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Tammy. His email address is [email protected]