Most camps work to a certain extent on supporting kids from various organizations to come to camp, and there is an attempt made to be accommodating to many levels of ability and experience. Some camps do a lot of work up front on fundraising for a bursary fund or to help pay for repairs to the camp. Is there a way we can be celebrating this and getting even more involved in this? I wonder; if there was more volunteer work done outside of the camp as ambassadors for camp if that would, in some way, raise the profile. Perhaps having a Relay for Life team comprised of camp staff, hosting a car wash to ‘send a kid to camp’, help to maintain the trails and sites around camp with the local forestry and wildlife organization, running a winter camp at a greatly reduced rate for kids and families to get a preview into what camp is all about, etc. I understand that camps are incredibly strapped for cash and for human resources and have been for years but I also do see some benefit in attempting redefine the expectations of Camp as a ministry.
When Diocesan synod comes around and camp gets put on the agenda under the budget heading here are some things I would love to be able to say: “Camp *** has begun a three year marketing and recruitment plan through various short term projects in the community”, “the camp has given back to the community through these volunteer initiatives”, and “awareness of Camp *** in the pews has gone up by an estimated _% through these new initiatives”. All of this turns camp into more than a summer property serving the set amount of campers and staff returning each year, it becomes a form of Diocesan Outreach, perhaps building stronger relations with parishes otherwise unengaged and perhaps even, unsupportive of camp.
Our Leaders in Training at Canterbury Hills, as high school students, require a certain amount of volunteer hours to graduate. One of the projects we discussed was starting a year round group on Facebook dedicated to communicating volunteer opportunities to one another. Though, it could also serve as a vehicle for Camp Director’s, or LIT coordinators to find some of the Human Resources necessary for camp fundraisers, Church Outreach events, etc. Another possible idea could be offering the camp property for church picnics in the spring where you can have your newly hired staff come in and lead some games with the kids and adults. This could serve as a form of training for some new staff, fit some volunteer hour requirements for others, and serve as a reunion of sorts for retuning staff. All of this can be met while building relationships with parishes.
Another way of building relationships with parishes, attracting potential new staff and campers, while expanding your worship and spirituality programming could be to host scheduled “Camp Services” throughout the year. This could be in conjunction with a youth ministry department or a few youth ministry workers in the diocese. These services could be geared towards youth and be a way to bring past staff together throughout the year while giving you an opportunity to meet new prospective staff. It could also give you a way to begin or strengthen your camp alumnae association. It would provide a bigger pool of people connected in a new way with camp. Guest priests or host parishes could alternate giving more members of the diocese an idea of what camp is about, etc.
Now with all of this I mention the implications this could have for future conversations at Synod but it also looks at some sort of involvement with the community. I look at the rewards of all of this through the lens of someone constantly thinking about fighting for camp ministry, but… it also is just good to do. There seems to be more and more, in the church a division of those who are very involved in outreach work and church work and then everyone else. Part of that ‘everyone else’ can be the young adults and youth in the parish, the ones who went to Sunday school regularly their whole lives then they hit high school or University and sleeping in began to outweigh any of the arguments for church going. I think that opportunities offered for outreach through camps and through the parish are so important to keep those young people engaged and to attract more young people. The generation who is doing everything right now will eventually face burn out, not be able to do it or move on to other things and they need to be providing the opportunities for the next generation to learn and support the work. I would suggest that camps are the places that a lot of these young people receive some of their only ‘church-connection’ and if camps can begin to bridge the two the support will flow in.