All Kids Are Special: Why Inclusion Matters & How We Do It
Every single one of us has a purpose, and every single one of us belongs. This is a guiding principle for SpringHill. Inclusion matters. We do whatever it takes to include every child – the impact means the world to each of them.
I have seen this firsthand each week of every summer. One particular example is that of a young man by the name of Marcus. I first noticed him one session scooting around in a wheelchair having a blast. Later that summer, I was back at that camp in almost the exact same setting, and curiously, I saw Marcus again, cruising around like he had been doing earlier in the summer. Now, our experiences are a two-week program, so he shouldn’t have been there. But he was back.
I walked up to him. “Marcus, I see you’re back. Why are you here, doing this all over again?” His answer encapsulates the essence of our experiences. He said, “When I’m at SpringHill, it’s the only time I feel like a normal kid.”
That is the SpringHill experience – embracing all kids, taking them for who they are and how they’re created, including them. We don’t separate those with disabilities or special needs into subgroups. We include them in the community, and Marcus felt a part of this small community of campers and staff. The fact that he was in a wheelchair wasn’t a hindrance; it was a benefit. He took advantage of it, and he just loved being part of a team and a part of the community as a whole.
Marcus reflected on the joy that comes with being part of our community. It’s one of my favorite mental pictures when I think of SpringHill: Marcus growing up through SpringHill, serving, giving back, and being embraced by the community. And in that embrace, he understood the love of Christ because of what he experienced in that community, and what he learned in serving.
We believe that all children, all people, are created in the image of God, and thus deserve the to be treated and served as one. Thus – no matter their situation or disability – are welcomed and encouraged to come. We figure out how make their experience be the best it can be by creating a tailored plan of care for your child, including one-on-one attention. We have nursing and medical staff on hand to address all their needs. And as with all our kids, our staff members are all fully trained to make sure that all dietary and physical needs are met.
We are all God’s children – our camps reflect this. SpringHill exists to create experiences where Christ can transform the lives of young people. These experiences include embracing all kinds of kids, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, or where they’ve come from. We hope you’ll give your child – no matter their personal challenges – the opportunity to experience SpringHill and to be embraced for who they are. Learn more by visiting, springhillexperience.com
Core Values: How to Identify & Use them to Guide Your Actions
In the quiet moments of the day, do you ever reflect on what’s important to you and why? Have you stopped to think about why your priorities are what they are? Each of us is driven by different motivations based on what we value. God created each one of us to be unique for a reason, which is what makes getting to know one another so interesting and fun.
Identity is one of the most important things we will ever discover. Have you really thought about who you are? What drives you? What motivates you? What makes you different from everyone else? We all have goals in life, yet do we know how to achieve them? Are you guided by just your desires, or do you have a set of core values steering you?
At SpringHill we needed to figure out who we were before we could help anyone find out who they are. We made a priority early on to figure out what our core values were and to make sure our decisions reflected those values, always. After careful consideration and reflection, we discovered a unique set of four core values:
- Contagious joy: creating life-transforming experiences by combining faith and fun, innovation and the hope of the Gospel.
- Relational focus: working in the context of personal, loving, and caring relationships.
- Adventurous faith: leaving room for God to work, being open to taking risks, knowing that He can do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
- Holy discontent: always striving to grow in Christ through professional curiosity, continuous improvement, and professional and personal sanctification.
Interestingly, we don’t just apply these core values to our campers’ experiences but also to ourselves as well. These four values provide understanding around why we do things the way we do, what we call The SpringHill Way. And these values truly are our core. They aren’t something I brought to SpringHill personally; they’ve been with us since the very beginning.
When it comes to creating SpringHill experiences, we only align ourselves with people who can live those values, truly. What that measure does is allow us to end up with a team of people, not only our team of staff and the people we hire in the summer but also donors and board members and volunteers who line up with those four core values. So that’s our secret sauce. And it really is the tangible expression of those values that we hold dear, and those beliefs that we hold in our hearts to be true.
Take the time to figure out your core values and what you want to accomplish in life. When you do, the ability to achieve those goals will only improve and you will find success!
You’ve Made Your Resolutions. Now, What’s Your Personal Mantra This Year?
The gifts are unwrapped and decorations are being put away. The radio station that was once playing Christmas music all day, every day, is back to the soft rock playlist. Holiday dinners are over and lights on homes are slowly disappearing. Just like that, we find ourselves in a New Year.
The new year welcomes the tradition of setting new goals and identifying new priorities for the upcoming months. Many of us sit down and contemplate resolutions to improve and be better in a number of areas. Some of these resolutions are likely the same as those that have been committed to before; others may be different.
Consider your resolutions for a moment and what they say about you and what you are prioritizing in your life right now. Based on that reflection you can determine what your personal mantra is for the year. Not sure where to start? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I exist? What purpose do I fulfill, and what difference do I want to make in the world? This is a question we at Spring Hill ask ourselves frequently and feel that is just as applicable as individuals. For us, searching for these answers has led to the recognition and dedication to our purpose – or mission statement. So, our answer to these questions is ultimately, “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”
- What’s most important to me? What am I most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for?
At SpringHill we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, how we accomplish it, and why it is important to us.
Ponder these questions for yourself and how they align with the resolutions you hope to accomplish. Try identifying what your core values are and as a result, discover your mission statement or personal mantra for 2019. When you do, your goals will be a manifestation of these values – helping you be intentional and specific about how you approach those resolutions and experiences.
For our organization, our goals and objectives span the entire year but are most actionable during the summer months. At the end of those months, after a summer of executing against those goals, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You too can experience this satisfaction with yourself next year as you take stock of how you achieved objectives that supported your personal mission statement. What does God have in store for you this year?
Adventurous Faith: How Taking Risks Allows God to Make a Difference in Our Lives
We are now reflecting on this past life-changing summer with kids of all ages throughout our SpringHill camp programs! Many people wonder what makes SpringHill so special, so effective. There are several reasons I could share to answer that question, but undoubtedly one universal explanation amongst all our campers is the sense of adventure that they experience during their time at SpringHill. Ultimately, these moments connect them to God in a different and significant way.
Some of the biggest spiritual lessons happen while engaged in some of our high-adventure activities. One of the stories that comes to mind is of a middle-school girl describing her experience at SpringHill. She had been a regular for years, and I just sort of casually asked her one day what it was that kept her coming back to SpringHill.
Very seriously, she said, “Every time I come to SpringHill, I encounter God. I have an experience with God and my faith grows.”
And so I pressed her: “What exactly is it that happens every time?”
“You know,” she said, “it just happens when we’re doing camp stuff.”
I smiled as she elaborated. “Like this last summer, I was on our zipline and I had been struggling … should I really trust Jesus? I mean, really trust Him with my life? And then we go on the zipline and the leaders talk about how, for us to go down the zipline, we have to trust the cable that goes across the lake, trust the harness that we’re in. We have to trust the pulleys that will go down the cable. We have to put our trust in them. If we don’t do that and we don’t take the step off the platform, we’ll never get to the end. We’ll never get across the lake. But it requires this trust.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
“The leaders said…it’s the same with Jesus. We need to trust Him. We need to be able to step out with Him and know that He has us, holding onto us so that we won’t fall. So I stepped off the platform, went down, and got to the end of the zipline, and I realized, yeah, this is what I need to do with Jesus. I need to trust Him just like I trusted the cable and the harness and everything else that comes down the zipline.”
That’s SpringHill, in that young girl, in that moment. This experience describes how kids find God more intimately when they stretch themselves, have fun, and find a sense of adventure. Those are experiences that aren’t readily available throughout the rest of the year. As a result, these experiences and memories create something altogether new and exciting, activities that transform into an extremely impactful, spiritual moment.
Learn more about the SpringHill experience by visiting www.springhillexperience.com
Five Ways to Create the Best Week of Summer
Endings are always good times for reflection. As this summer comes to a close, I wanted to think about what made it great and how you can create the SpringHill Experience year-round. We’re still crunching the numbers from this summer, but last year, 27,000 kids experienced the best week of summer at over 135 SpringHill camps throughout eight states. From the middle of May until the final SpringHill Experience, our staff lives for four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community. It’s this dedication, in addition to the following five ways of creating the best week of summer, that leave our staff and campers feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and transformed each and every year.
- Find and Embrace God in Everything – At SpringHill we believe God is found in all things, even—and especially—in the unexpected. Would you ever think in a million years that you could learn some of the biggest spiritual lessons of your life on a zipline? Well, believe it or not it happens all the time at SpringHill. There are lots of different ways to learn something. At SpringHill, we want kids to learn about Jesus, but we also want them to experience the truth of the Gospel through doing something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Kids hear about Jesus throughout their week, they see Jesus through our leaders, and they experience Jesus by doing things that require courage, community, trust, and faith. These are the lessons kids remember—the connection they feel to God experiencing new and challenging things with the help of friends and leaders that truly care about them.
- Unplug and Experience Even More – The facts are out there: getting out from behind our screens and into nature does wonders for both our physical and spiritual selves. It’s why cell phones are off limits during our campers’ time at SpringHill. There’s no constant checking of social media to distract them from Christ’s message. Instead, the children find faith in having fun in the outdoors and building friendships. And, it works—they wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Embrace Those Around You and Make Lifelong Friends – Each summer, SpringHill campers have the opportunity to hone their social skills. Perhaps more than other less-personable, other summer options, SpringHill engages kids in conversation with leaders as well as fellow campers. And they do talk, but not about what’s on Instagram or TV. The kids learn to converse articulately while building interpersonal skills through real-time, face-to-face interaction with their peers and counselors, who take on a big sister or big brother role at camp. These kids make friends and build relationships, many of them blossoming into lifelong friends. They build relationships on solid foundations of trust and camaraderie with campmates and counselors through small group time, the vast array of camp activities, around the campfire and meals, and in one-on-one chats with counselors or between campers. These relationships, the kind only built at camp, are a critical component to each child’s “best week of summer.”
- Integrate Daily Inspiration and Feel More Connected to God – We welcome kids from all backgrounds and denominations to SpringHill experiences. While we are respectful of everyone’s individual beliefs, we don’t water down or wash out the Gospel, the Good News. What we do is focus on the fundamentals, the core of the Gospel. This creates a sense of unity, of embracing all kids and universally accepting all Christian core beliefs. Each day, SpringHill kids will have study or story time, and will participate in small group discussions with their leaders. All children are challenged to think for themselves and, as a result, come home with a greater desire to pray and read the Bible. Integrating the Good News within fun activities makes their experience that much more impactful.
- Try New Things and Gain Greater Confidence – From the heart-pumping zipline, to wall climbing, rope ladder, giant’s swing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding—where campers learn how to navigate their way through the summer camp waters—and The Gusher—a new twist on the waterslide—to our fifty-foot climbing wall, SpringHill summer camp spurs children to grow, mature, and gain independence. Activities are a mix of high and low intensity and are tailored to the needs of all ages. As a result, kids will be challenged to think for themselves and make good decisions. They will be challenged to overcome fears and try new things, thereby building self-esteem and confidence. This confidence is not only felt at camp, it stays with our campers when they return home.
When kids experience these five things, they have a transformative summer. That’s exactly the experience SpringHill experiences provide. We offer an environment where kids learn, grow, face fears, build confidence, make new friends, and most importantly understand their special relationship with God. To learn more about providing the best week of summer to your child, check out one of our workshops: https://springhillexperience.com/workshops/