• Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Why Do You Spend Your Precious Time…?

    Yesterday we had one of our three yearly “all staff” meetings which follow each of our three “seasons”. Our agenda’s consistent for each meeting – we review the results of the completed season as well as the anticipated results of the upcoming season and year.

    It’s an opportunity to celebrate and pray together as well as ask questions, make suggestions and assure we’re aligned as a team.

    We want these meetings to be fun, informative, causal, real and helpful in achieving our goals. We speak frankly and with full transparency about how we’re performing and what’s needed in the months and years to come.

    At the end of this particular meeting, as a first in many discussions related to the task of re-articulating SpringHill’s vision statement, I asked our staff to begin to think, reflect and pray about the following three questions (taken from What to Ask the Person in the Mirror by Robert Steven Kaplan –see my 10/23/2011 post) .

    1. What do we (you) hope SpringHill will achieve in the years ahead?


    2. What’s special about SpringHill?


    3. Why do you spend your precious time and energy working for SpringHill?

    Over the next several months the answers to these questions will become key inputs into our vision re-articulation.

    But today I asked our team for some impromptu answers. Their responses were moving, inspiring, stunning and made me proud to be on this team.

    Here are just three of many answers (paraphrased) to question 3 our staff shared:

    “I’m able to fulfill God’s calling in my life of creating cool and inspiring environments that God can use to transform lives.”

    “God changed my life when I was a SpringHill camper, now I can help create the same life transforming experiences for other people.”

    We have a great start to this important task of brining new clarity to the SpringHill vision.

  • Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Being a Higher Purpose Organization

    Photo by my friend Mike Smith

    Working for SpringHill, a not-for-profit organization committed “to creating life transforming experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ” can be heady stuff. It’s easy to believe that there’s no higher purpose than our mission.

    Yet over the last couple of years I’ve been challenged with the question “is our mission ultimately our highest calling or does SpringHill have yet a higher purpose?

    An article by Russell Eisenstat and Tobias Fredberg of the TruePoint Center for Higher Ambition convinced me that SpringHill should have a larger purpose. So I’ve modified slightly Eisenstat and Fredberg’s language and began to think in terms of SpringHill being a “higher purpose organization.”

    What does “higher purpose” mean? It means SpringHill’s called to make a larger impact in the world than it can do on its own by being a significant part of a world-changing movement.

    By implications this means that the movement’s larger, more significant and enduring than SpringHill itself. Now it’s easy for SpringHill to understand its connection to the higher purpose of Christ and His Kingdom. But the deeper and more tangible question centers on understanding “what’s Christ’s unique higher purpose for SpringHill and how does it fit into His Kingdom?”

    I don’t have the answer yet (to find the answer’s an act of discovery) but I have some preliminary thoughts on our higher purpose.

    I believe it will involve the spiritual growth of all kids and that we’ll enable others to serve kids better. Finally our higher purpose may center on being an organizational role model that helps other not-for-profit’s be more effective in their work.

    So please share your thoughts and insights into what you believe SpringHill’s “higher purpose” might be. I’d love your input.




  • Living as a Leader,  Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    The Underappreciated Work of Making Vision a Reality

    We’re enamored with strategic thinking and vision casting. Most leaders want to be seen as strategic and visionary thinkers who cruise around at 30,000 feet. We value this skill set so much that we make heroes out of these same leaders.

    But I’m convinced that being just a visionary leader isn’t nearly enough. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not minimizing the importance of these skills – creating strategy and vision need to be a part of any leaders work. Too often, though, leaders spend too much energy on vision and strategy and too little energy on tactics and execution.

    We often look down on tactical work and the execution of strategy because we misread people like Steve Jobs and credit Apple’s success to his vision and strategic thinking.

    But if you’ve read any of the 100’s of recent articles and blogs about Jobs after the announcement of his retirement as CEO you see a different picture. What you find is a leader who spent much of his time in the “trenches” working on the details of new products – in other words doing the tactical work. This is what made Jobs truly visionary. It was his willingness to do the hard, everyday work required to assure that his vision and strategy succeeded.

    So as a leader my goal’s to spend only a small percentage of my time on vision while spending most of my time working side by side with our staff, board, supporters and volunteers in the hard work of making our vision reality. Because at the end of my time at SpringHill, if anything’s written about me, I want it to be said, not that I was just a visionary, but that I led an organization that turned its vision into a world transforming reality.

  • Ministry Strategy,  SpringHill Experiences

    Dave Matthews Band and Closing Rallies

    Someone once said “music’s the language of a generation”.

    This is the reason we make music such an integral part of the SpringHill Experience. Our goal’s always to connect with those God’s called us to serve by communicating with them in “their own language.”

    This doesn’t mean we’ll use music just because it’s popular. We’re intentional about the music we select so it won’t distract from our mission but instead advance it.

    But our intention’s also, if possible, to redeem music and use it to connect with people in a deeper more spiritual way.

    One place we’ve been able to do this has been in our closing day rallies. For years we’ve created a drama that depicts the Gospel story and performed it to a recognizable song.

    Our goal’s to use the “language of music” to grab the attention of parents, family and friends in attendance so they’ll have a glimpse into the life changing message their kids heard and experienced at camp. The impact of this combination of music and storytelling can be profound.

    I remember one summer we performed our drama to Dave Matthews Band’s Ants Marching. It’s a song that engaged many parents and campers and thus gave us an opportunity to present a captivating picture of the Gospel. Almost without exception at the end of each rally we’d have parents and campers asking if we sold this CD in our Trading Post (as you might imagine we don’t carry Dave Matthews Band’s music in our camp stores).

    It demonstrated the power of music and the ability to engage and create a new association for people so that every time they heard Ants Marching instead of thinking of Dave Matthews they would once again saw in their mind’s eye the story of the Gospel.

  • Book Reviews,  Ministry Strategy

    John R.W. Stott & Basic Christianity

    John Stott died yesterday at age 90. If you haven’t heard of John Stott, he’s been an Anglican pastor and a significant leader in the world-wide Christian church and in particular the Evangelical stream of the Christian faith.

    I’ve never met Dr. Stott nor ever had the opportunity to hear him speak yet his teachings through his books have had a significant impact on my life and work.

    In particular one little book titled Basic Christianity has influenced my theological perspective and approach to ministry. What makes it so powerful and timeless is the simplicity in which Stott describes, without compromise, the foundational truths of the Christian faith.

    I first read it as part of my training to become a volunteer Young Life leader because it framed so well the message we wanted to communicate to kids on a weekly basis.

    A couple of years after coming to SpringHill we began evaluating the content of our daily and weekly lessons for summer camp. SpringHill’s a non denominational ministry so we don’t address controversial and “peripheral” doctrinal issues in our work but instead “major on the majors”. But at the time some folks were asking if we needed to expand our list of “majors”.

    In stepped John Stott and Basic Christianity. I had our key staff read the book and then we as a team discuss its content. When we finished we all agreed Basic Christianity defined the piece of the Christian message SpringHill’s called to share with kids.

    And to this day you’ll see copies of Basic Christianity around SpringHill and more importantly you’ll still see its outline weaving through all our lessons and curriculum and as a result still impacting the lives of 1000’s of SpringHill kids and families each year.

  • Ministry Strategy,  SpringHill Experiences

    The Legend – Enoch Olson

    Today we had the privilege to have Enoch and Joan Olson at SpringHill as they picked up their grandkids from a week of camp. As I watched the closing rally I couldn’t help but feel thankful for the incredible vision and foundation we’ve inherited from Enoch as SpringHill’s founding director.

    Enoch’s been called by many of our staff the “Legend” because his fingerprints cover almost every facet of SpringHill. Anywhere you turn, whether at our overnight camps in Michigan and Indiana or at our Day Camps, you’ll see Enoch’s influence in our approach to ministry.

    Enoch built SpringHill on an innovative and creative approach to summer camp. In addition to his concept for “camps within a camp” (click here for more on this philosophy) Enoch created a camp experience that integrates “faith and fun”.

    At SpringHill there’s no “chapel time” and then off to play. No, we bring together both the spiritual and the fun into a powerful combination that makes the biblical themes of the day “stick.”

    You see every part of SpringHill, whether an activity, housing area or even meals, become object lessons and teachable moments that point campers to these spiritual themes. So a zipline isn’t just an exciting ride but becomes a tool for reinforcing the Biblical truths being taught.

    At the end of the rally, just to affirm Enoch’s continuing influence at SpringHill, a parent said to him “you know you look just like the founder of SpringHill.”

    To this Enoch answered “what’s his name?”

    The parent answered “I think Enoch Olson”

    Enoch then replied, “That’s funny because that’s my name too.”

    The next thing I saw was the campers of this parent having their picture taken with a true “Legend.”

  • Ministry Strategy,  SpringHill Experiences

    Working Together on Behalf of Young People

    GCC Counselor & SpringHill Staff encouraging a camper on the solo challenge

    Three hundred junior high students and their leaders from Granger Community Church (GCC) are in the middle of their annual summer experience here at our Michigan overnight camp.

    It’s a key part of GCC’s junior high ministry, something they’ve done for years. But it’s the first time SpringHill’s had the privilege of hosting their camp and we’re excited and thankful for the opportunity.

    Over the last few years GCC and SpringHill have developed a ministry partnership that has as its goal to help young people know and grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ. Our partnership includes GCC hosting two weeks of SpringHill Day Camps and SpringHill hosting their junior high summer camp.

    Church partnerships like GCC’s are the cornerstone of SpringHill’s work. SpringHill exists to create life changing experiences for young people, yet not in isolation, but instead doing it in context of the wider Kingdom of Christ.

    On the other hand the local church’s mission’s to be involved in a young person’s life on a daily and weekly basis. God’s ordained the local church to be the place where the ongoing nurture of God’s people takes place. So we see SpringHill’s responsibility as coming along side the local church and helping it fulfill this mission by creating these experiences.

    Thus relationships such as the one between SpringHill and GCC are absolutely critical to the spiritual development of young people. Because when the local church and ministries such as SpringHill integrate their efforts to serve young people the results are long-term, memorable, eternal and ultimately life transforming.

  • Ministry Strategy

    Giving Away Our “Best New Idea”

    What if you gave away your best new idea for free? Would you do it even if it didn’t benefit you or your organization beyond having the satisfaction of seeing that idea grow? 

    We’ve done it.  Multiple times. 

    Today our “best new idea” is our Day Camp ministry.  We began it as a pilot in 2006 with 250 campers and this summer we expect to serve more than 7000 in nearly 40 locations around the Midwest.  By any standards its incredible growth. 

    So as you might expect word has gotten around the country and other camps have been asking us about the program.  They want in on the movement.

    Our response?  We’re giving away all our Day Camp secrets.  You see, we’ve always shared anything and everything we know with other organizations committed to extending Christ’s Kingdom.

    In 2010 we had over 4800 campers in our Day Camp program. We also know of at least 1500 other kids in places like Texas and Louisiana that had a quality Day Camp experience as a result of us sharing our “best new idea.”

    We multiplied the impact of our Day Camps by giving it away. And 1500 additional kids, their families, churches and communities have benefited.  How cool is that?

    So why give away our “best new ideas” to like-minded organizations? Because we believe in three important concepts.

    First, what we have is not ours, it’s God’s.  Yes we are the stewards. But as stewards our goal is to see that what we’ve been entrusted with multiplies which sometimes requires sharing it with others.

    Secondly, there is no competition between worker’s in Christ’s Kingdom. Christ said “the harvest is great but the workers are few”  Matthew 9:37.  There is plenty of work for all of us to do, millions of kids to reach and serve. Until we run out of kids there is no competition.

    Finally,  we’re committed first to building His Kingdom not ours.  This means we will do whatever we can to accomplish this end including giving away our “best new idea.”

    So my dream is one day the 6000 kids who were at a Day Camp in 2010 will multiply into 100,000 maybe millions of kids in places all over the world.  Big dream?  Maybe. Bigger Church and a much bigger God?  Definitely.

  • Ministry Strategy,  Summer Camp

    World’s Best Marketing Part 2

    Hard to put a price on both the experience this young woman had at SpringHill and her willingness to share it with others. We believe that when your focus is on creating outstanding, life changing experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ they will give witness to their experience and spread the word to others. Creating this type of loyalty should be the goal of every organization be it business, local church or other ministry like SpringHill.

    I was surprised by how accepting the other kids were of me, because they didn’t look at my disability. (Photo submitted)

    What Summer Camp Taught Me.


    Niles Daily Star

    Editor’s note: Thompson is a student at Niles High School and an intern for the Star.

    I had a summer filled with a lot of activities, but I remember a particular experience that had a major impact on my life.

    I went away to a Christian camp called Spring Hill, up north by Traverse City for two weeks. It was my first time away from home by myself, so I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.

    Although I begged my parents not to make me go, they did anyway, and I’m so glad they did.

    I guess the thing that I was really worried about was not being accepted by the other kids, but it wasn’t like that. I made so many new friends.

    Not only did camp give me the opportunity to make new friends, but it also let me improve my relationship with God. Every day, I had time to sit by myself, read my Bible, and talk to God.

    I did so many things while I was at camp. I went swimming, went on the zip line, went horseback riding and other stuff.

    I was surprised by how accepting the other kids were of me. Because they didn’t look at my physical disability. They just treated me like a normal person.

    Camp taught me some things about myself that I didn’t already know before. I learned that I was capable of doing more things than I gave myself credit for. For instance, I discovered that I didn’t need my parents with me all the time, and that I could do the same things as the kids my age.

    I had a counselor who helped me during the two weeks. Her name was Liz, and she was my age, so she was like a sister to me. Liz sort of reminded me of my aide at school. We developed a really good relationship, and I thank God for placing her in my life.

    The kids didn’t look at me as “handicapped.” I became friends with everyone at camp. Everyday, they always made it a point to talk to me. The girls would sit around me and we would have “girl talk.”

    We had campfires where we sang and read verses from the Bible. But on one night, a few people and I shared our testimonies. As I was hearing them, I realized how much many of them were going through, and how blessed my life is.

    On Mondays and Wednesdays, all the campers would go to a thing called  “Avenue.” It was kind of like a concert where different Christian bands would come in. And after the bands played, one of the counselors would get on stage, and give mini-sermons. All the counselors would also put on skits, but one particular skit stood out to me. It was about how people who are bound by sins, and Jesus giving his life to set them free.

    Everyday, we had something called  “Solo Time,” where we sat by ourselves for a few minutes to read the Bible, and answer questions from a booklet. Then we would get together and talk about them in small groups.

    Going to camp was a great learning experience for me. It helped me grow stronger in my faith in God, and allowed me to make new friends. Camp also taught me some things about myself. I want to go back next year.

    Article taken from The Niles Star – http://www.nilesstar.com
    URL to article: http://www.nilesstar.com/2010/10/27/student-memoir-what-summer-camp-taught-me/

  • Ministry Strategy

    Growing without Stealing

    SpringHill’s BHAGG (Big Hairy Audacious God Goal) is to have 260,000 people in a SpringHill Experience each year by 2025 (for perspective we expect to have 40,000 people in a SpringHill Experience this year). Our staff and board set this goal in 2003 after much prayer and discussion. We believe God  is calling us to something bigger than we’re capable of achieving on our own requiring an intervention by God to make it a reality.

    Because our BHAGG requires moving ahead without clearly seeing how we will reach our goal there is a process of discovery that happens along the way. For example in 2003 we did not envision Day Camps and yet today, 7 years later, we see how Day Camps will significantly impact our ability to reach our BHAGG.

    One obvious fact in achieving our BHAGG is it requires us to reach people who do not come to SpringHill today. There are two kinds of people who fit this group. The first are those who choose to attend other camps and the second are those who attend no camps at all.  We decided long ago that we are not interested in taking “market share” from this first group (those who attend other camps).  Instead we want to reach the second group of people, those who do not attend camp at all. This is where we see the greatest opportunity to make an impact on the lives of others.

    So last week a number of our key leaders attended module one of training in Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS). BOS is a process that leads an organization to reach “new markets” or as we like to call them “new campers”.  It’s a proven and powerful approach to strategy. One any organization, be it a church, camp or business, should consider if it wants to reach “un-reached” people. See my post “Swimming in a Blue Ocean” on June 30th for more information on Blue Ocean Strategy.

    SpringHill is not walking or even running to 2025 instead we are swimming.

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