Rethinking Summer Camp Part IV: Following up your campers!
Well, it’s a beautiful day in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan! Summer isn’t winter that’s for sure!
Now, let’s have our final session on about how to get the most out of your camp. This covers one of the most important … and most overlooked … this is the all important issue of follow up.
It is my belief that we tend to see the gospel as some sort of magic potion or rite that we must pass on to youth. Once the “accept” it or “go through the rite” everything is fine and God will take care of the rest. It doesn’t take more than a moment or two of thought to see that this is crazy. Furthermore, simply look at the success rates of our camps when it comes to longevity of faith among those who make a decision on camp and you can see that something needs to change.
A few years back I spoke to the head of an organization that was deeply committed to seeing young people come to Christ both weekly and on summer camp. In a moment of honesty he told me that “my crowd has absolutely no plan when it comes to looking after youth who make a decision for Christ.” Another camping organization that I spent time with admitted that this (following up campers) was the “weak link” in their program. Their solution was to have a twice a month “reunion church service on a Sunday night”. While it would start strong a few weeks after camp, it would peter out after a month or so.
It is my belief that follow up may not be as difficult as we have made it out to be.
The less than strategic way to do follow up:
Encourage your counselors to write emails, text the youth in their cabin throughout the year.
Have a reunion multiple times throughout the year
The problem with this approach is that it maintains the focus of the Christian life for the new Christian on the camp itself rather than a local church. This church is far more equipped to look after these youth than the annual summer camp.
The more strategic way to do follow up:
- Grab a map.
- Look for “key areas” that you can isolate your follow up process on. Look back on past camp rolls and note down all the areas that youth have come from in the past. For example, suburbs from major city, small towns, regional centres etc.
- Find out churches in these key areas. Let me give you an example. If you are from Vancouver, you will know the satellite community of Tsawwassen (pronounced ‘Ta was en’). This community has a large Baptist church right on the main street. This church also has a solid youth ministry program going.
- Form a partnership with these churches. If your camp had students who came from this Tsawwassen, you will seek to form a bond with this church so they could do the follow up.
- Work with this local church to send able cabin leaders to your camp. These leaders will naturally form a relationship with the youth in their cabin. Those youth who do not have a youth group at home will be encouraged to go to their cabin leader’s group.
- Have a night towards the end of camp where you break up the group according to where they come from. The leaders from these areas encourage the youth to come to their youth group once camp is not on.
This type of follow up program creates a “win-win-win” scenario. The youth win because they go to a youth group where they know one of the leaders well. The local youth group wins because they grow numerically. The camp wins because these youth will hopefully return to camp and bring some youth from their new youth group with them. Thus, the whole process begins again.
Hopefully this whole process will bring some much needed clarity to our follow up process with our summer camps.
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