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Selecting a Summer Camp for the Kids You Love – Part 3 Staffing Policies and Practices

069If a camp’s leadership and its camping and programming philosophy are the foundation to a camp’s ability to deliver an outstanding experience than its staff, the people who work directly with your kids, are the most important ingredient.

Understanding a camp’s staffing policies and practices is absolutely necessary to assessing a camp’s ability to provide the kids you love a safe, uplifting and positive experience. The following are the questions you should ask and the answers you should look for from the camps you are considering. They center on three distinct areas: Selection, Training and Supervision, and Camper to Staff Ratios.

Selection:

  1. What is the criterion used to evaluate potential staff?

    Look for the specific criteria used to evaluate potential staff, such as age requirements (over 18), education (minimum of a high school diploma), work experience, experience and interest working with kids, etc.

  2. Where does staff come from?

    Look for a broad and comprehensive recruiting plan which includes diversity of camp experience, social economic and geographic backgrounds.

  3. How does a camp select their staff?

    A camp should have a thorough interview process. They need to do background checks including criminal history and sex offender registries on all potential staff, preferably by an independent company. Finally, all applicant references need to be thoroughly checked.

Training and Supervision:

  1. How much and what kind of training do staff receive?

    There should be a minimum of 100 hours of training to prepare staff to properly care for and supervise the kids you love. This training should focus on proper supervision of kids, being able to identify and address bullying and other inappropriate behavior as well as what to do and where to go in emergencies, etc.

  2. What is the ratio of staff to leadership and professional staff, how much supervision to they receive?

    The ratio should be a ratio of no higher than 3 staff to every person in leadership. There should be a clear line of accountability from the executive director right down to the dishwasher.

Staff Ratios:

  1. What is the ratio of staff to campers? How much supervision will the camp provide the kids you love?

    At minimum camps should meet both the state and the American Camp Association standards (10 campers to 1 counselor). Better camps will exceed these standards and will be 7 to 1 and for younger children 5 to 1.

Every one of these questions should be answered easily by the camps you’re researching. They are the most important questions because they related directly to the care that a camp will be able to provide the kids you love. Look for the answers listed above to help you select the right camp for you and your kids.

In my next post we’ll look at the questions you can ask to understand how a camp operates, its safety practices and policies and its supervision of its campers.

The One New Year’s Resolution that can Change Your Life

Joshua Tree PerserveranceI make this New Year’s resolution suggestion every year, to whoever will listen. I make it because I believe that it’s the one small commitment that can change the course of a person’s life.

And what is that New Year’s resolution? To read the entire Bible – every book, chapter, and verse.

Now before you dismiss my suggestion, think about this for a moment, if the Bible is God’s Word, His actual words, the true message of the God who created the entire universe, created our earth, and created you and me, doesn’t it make sense that we should want to read His words and make them a part of our life?

And one more thought to consider before dismissing my suggestion – if we believe that God loves us, cares about us and wants to have a relationship with us, then it’s not surprising that He has something to say to us about this love.

So if you’re now convinced that making this resolution is something you want to do, below are a few things I’m making available to help you make your resolution a reality.

  1. Down load to your e-reader, free, my Reading the Bible Through in a Year devotionals by clicking here.
  2. Subscribe to my Read the Bible in a Year blog by clicking here. Each day of 2013 you’ll receive an email of the daily reading schedule and thoughts to help you get the most out of that reading.
  3. Follow me on Twitter (by clicking here) and receive a “tweet” with a link to each of my Bible reading posts.
  4. Simply go to my Read the Bible in a Year blog.

Now may 2013 be a year of great positive transformation in your life through the power of His Word.

The Unrelenting Approach

On the last Sunday worship of summer camp I spoke to our Michigan overnight staff on Luke 15:1-10 focusing on the parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. We talked specifically about the “unrelenting approach” of God when we’re lost.

I ended the message with one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes found in his book Surprised by Joy, the story of his spiritual journey and his conversion to Christianity. It captures well this “unrelenting approach” of God.

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape?….The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

Sacred Places

There are many places in the world that are grand, many more that could be described as stunning, and of course, the world’s full of historic sites. Yet there is only a hand full of places that one might call sacred.

Places become sacred because they have history, they’re beautiful, and most importantly, because something significant happens in the lives of people when they visit.

This past week I had the opportunity to stay at one of these rare and sacred places – WinShape Retreats, on the property of Berry College in the mountains of northern Georgia. WinShape Retreats occupies the old Normandy Dairy buildings built and used by Berry College students to study dairy sciences.

Even the bricks used to build all the Normandy Dairy buildings were produced by Berry College students in a brick factory donated by Henry Ford. Each building we toured oozed with history and beauty.

But it’s what’s now taking place in these buildings that’s moved this place from historic to sacred. You see, when Berry College made the decision to consolidate their dairy sciences program, and move it closer to campus, the Normandy Dairy no longer had a purpose.

In stepped the WinShape Foundation, led by the Cathy family, the founders and owners of Chick-fil-A restaurants. WinShape renovated all the buildings, turning this old dairy into a retreat center that offers marriage saving conferences, boys and girls camps, women’s and men’s retreats, and leadership summits.

Yet places become sacred through and because of people. People who’ve dedicated such places for grand and noble purposes, such as helping build strong kids, marriages and families. Our group experienced firsthand such people, the committed and talented staff of WinShape, who’ve made a historic dairy into a sacred place, a place where lives become transformed.

Running for Clarity

For years I’ve been a runner. I run because it’s a simple, inexpensive way to stay in shape. Running is also an excuse to be outside, regardless of the weather. As such I’ve never owned a treadmill because, when I’ve had the opportunity to use one, I’ve found them to be well… torturous.

I have also discovered another significant benefit of running – when I run I find better solutions to pending problems, gain new perspectives on relationships, have better focus on a message that needs delivering or pray with more clarity.

The only reasonable explanation I’ve heard for this phenomenon is that running, with its physical rhythm of moving and breathing, especially outside, clears the mind of the clutter that can so easily cloud our thinking.

When I’ve had periods when I’m not running or not running much, I see a decrease in the quality of my thinking, especially around complex issues. On the other hand, as I look back on the last 30 years of my life, I can almost connect every good decision I’ve made, or idea I’ve had, to a run I’ve taken.

Now running isn’t for everyone. But doing something that includes the following three elements is a must if we’re to have any hope of experiencing clarity of thinking:

    Rhythmic physical activity

    That’s so simple to do it requires no thinking to do it

    And keeps any potential distractions away

Such things as biking, walking, swimming or rocking in a chair (my 2nd favorite activity after running) can create the right combination of these elements as well.

So whatever the activity, making the effort to do it on a regular basis will de-clutter our minds and give us the clarity of thinking that’s necessary to deal with the complex world in which we live.

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