Yesterday marked the end of week 1 of summer camp and I spent closing day with campers, families, and staff at our SpringHill Indiana camp. There were a number of moving testimonies by campers and staff during the closing rally, but there was one in particular I want to share with you.
Ariel is a returning SpringHill camper and this year she was a part of our Inpursuit middle school camp. According to her area director Sara, Ariel came to camp with anticipation, because she believed that God was going to do something tremendous in her life. In the past she had committed her life to Christ but felt that somehow God was going to take her deeper this summer.
So this week, before her counselor and her cabin group, then before an amphitheater full of campers, staff, and families, she announced that she was going to go deeper in her relationship with Christ by reading the entire Bible through in a year. This young woman, who, like all junior highers, has a thousand things competing for her time and trying to steal her life away, has decided to go “against the current” and to do something that will forever positively transform her life – read all of God’s Word.
So, as I listened to Ariel tell us of her commitment, all I could do was sit back and thank God for her courage, and for the good work of her counselors and her area director Sara in challenging Ariel to a new level of faith.
And like Ariel, after hearing so many incredible stories yesterday, I’m full of anticipation at what Christ is going to do in the lives of our campers and staff this summer.43.928283-85.286682
One of the things I love about our Indiana camp Site Team is their incredible attention to detail. Keith Rudge our Site Director, his right hand man Neil Hubers and their team of staff and volunteers make attention to the details a significant goal in all their work. As campers, parents and guests visit our Indiana camp they experience this attention to detail in such things as the care of the grounds, the freshly stained decks and walk ways, and the well thought out safety and security procedures.
Attention to details is important part of the SpringHill Experience because our goal is always to be professional. This means we plan, we implement, we measure and we evaluate every experience as to whether we exceeded people’s expectations. And one of the best ways to exceed expectations is in the attention to the details, because people notice the details. And it’s in the details that people judge the thoughtfulness and quality of our work.
And the amazing reality about attention to detail is this – it doesn’t cost the organization any more to pay to attention to them. Because paying attention to the details is more about habits than money, more a commitment than a skill, more a practice than theory. All of which means there’s no excuse for neglecting the details.
This value of exceeding expectations by paying attention to the details goes back to the earliest days of SpringHill when Enoch Olson, our Founding Director, made sure every detail was just right before guests arrived at camp, including such things as having every sidewalk swept perfectly clean.
But the most important reason paying attention to the details is so critical in our work is because we know that if we can demonstrate to parents our trustworthiness in the details, then they’ll trust us with the most important things – caring for their children.43.928283-85.286682
You never know what you’ll find when you remodel an old building. For example, at our Michigan overnight camp, we’re in the process of remodeling and expanding our New Frontiers infirmary and as our team peeled off the siding from above the front of the building this is what they found (see photo above).
It’s a strategic location for all our arriving guest and staff to see over the next few weeks. And there’s no doubt it was a painted in that spot, by some daring volunteers and staff 40 years ago, because of its visibility, and the laughs it would bring, to those who arrived at camp during the infirmary construction.
And these same daring staff and volunteers have now given our current guests and staff, especially those who appreciate the cultural significance of the television show M.A.S.H. was in the 1970’s, another reason to smile as they arrive at camp.
But time does moves on, and as it does, cultural icons end up buried under old siding, only to resurface again one day, giving us a glimmer of where we’ve come from as well as reminding us of the people who’ve helped bring us to the place we are today.43.928283-85.286682
Summer has officially arrived because SpringHill has had its annual Memorial Day Family Camp.
Family Camp, along with Summer Camp, is SpringHill’s longest running program. This is our 43rd year of family camping at our Michigan camp and, believe it or not, we have a handful of families who have not missed one, ever. It’s also the first program I was a part of as a full-time staff member of SpringHill, and thus, for many reasons, is one of my favorite programs.
One of the reasons I look forward to being a part of Family Camp is because I love watching families have a SpringHill Experience together – riding horses, doing the zipline, sharing around the campfire, or joining in one of our family sessions where they sing together and listen to excellent family speakers together. After every Family Camp, we hear from people who tell us how God used their time at SpringHill to transform their family.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend is Sunday Night Live. Sunday Night Live is a giant campfire like session in our outdoor amphitheater where our staff performs campfire skits; families will sing campfire songs, listen to a campfire message from our camp speaker and, of course, have a visit from Duct Tape Man. It’s a blast and this past week, with the incredible northern Michigan weather, it was as good as it gets.
So get the suntan lotion and the bug spray out, summer has officially started, and after this great weekend, I’m looking forward, with anticipation, to all God will do in the lives of SpringHill campers, families and staff this summer.43.928283-85.286682
People often say that they can’t wait to return to SpringHill to see what’s new and improved. We’ve developed a reputation for not sitting comfortably on the current state of our properties, facilities, activities and programs. So people come to our camps with anticipation.
I believe this is true because SpringHill staff live with two types of dissatisfactions. The first is we continue to have that artist’s “dissatisfaction with the present” that we inherited from our Founding Director, Enoch Olson. It’s that God-given desire to create, with the belief that there’s always room for something new that will add more beauty to the present.
The other dissatisfaction, which I’ll admit may be more closely related to the first one than I’m acknowledging, is the dissatisfaction that comes from always wanting things better, more exciting, bigger and faster. It’s driven by our desire to “wow” our campers and guests the second and third time they’re at camp, not just the first.
It’s also why I looked forward, with anticipation, to visiting our camp in Indiana last week. It’s been a few months since I last visited, and I knew there’s been a lot of good work being done by our team, all inspired by these two dissatisfactions. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I saw the improved dining hall and large group meeting area with its better acoustics and stage. Also one of our campers’ favorite activities, the “Party Barge”, went through a major renovation. Then our team’s added a giant’s swing that will propel campers high into the sky, and finally, though maybe not as exciting but just as important, we’ve added electricity to all our cabins.
So I left camp confident that our campers will not be disappointed, just as I wasn’t, when they return this summer, and see what’s new and improved.43.928283-85.286682
This past weekend was SpringHill’s first Women’s Retreat of 2012 and it was a great weekend on many levels. You see, our Women’s Retreat program, alongside Family Camp, is SpringHill’s longest running program. It’s literally a carryover from the early days when SpringHill believed it would become both a Christian conference center and a camp for kids.
But in the late 80’s and early 90’s SpringHill made the very intentional decision to focus its energy on child, teens and young adults, thus all the facilities have been design and built with young people in mind. As a result, many predicted the end of such programs as Women’s Retreats.
Well, 25 years later, Women’s Retreats continue to go strong and this past weekend highlights why. As I had lunch in the Dining Hall I listened to, and witness women, sharing with my wife Denise (our Women’s Retreat Coordinator) and Glenna Salsbury (our retreat speaker), how deeply impacted they had been by the weekend. And not just this past weekend, but many shared that SpringHill Women’s Retreat is their annual, sacred moment at their sacred place.
For example, Lisa approached Denise and I, and told us she just needed to come this retreat, she knew God was going to meet her here, so, although she couldn’t find friends to come with her, she came alone. Lisa said that as soon as she stepped on camp, God affirmed His presence and this theme of God’s nearest to her, was clear throughout the entire weekend, including through Glenna’s messages, in the breakout sessions, and in the women she met. There’s no doubt, by looking into Lisa’s eyes, she encountered Jesus in a life transforming way.
So Lisa, and so many other women, answered, in a very powerful way, why we still do Women’s Retreats at SpringHill, and why we’ll continue to do so for as long as God uses them to transform the lives of women.43.928283-85.286682
SpringHill’s very first campers were from an orphanage. These kids had no family and thus no resources to attend summer camp. But through the partnership of individuals and local churches, these kids had the opportunity to be the very first SpringHill campers ever, and for many of them to hear, see and experience Jesus Christ in a way they never have before.
So you see, from its start, SpringHill’s board and staff committed to be a place that would welcome all kinds of kids from different places and backgrounds. This is why we have one of the only inclusion programs for special needs campers in the country. It’s also why we serve kids from the city, from the suburbs, and from rural America.
It’s why when we ask students “why do you come back to SpringHill every year?” they often respond “because it’s the only place I can go and be myself, I can leave the box I’m in at home, and be accepted and loved for who I really am.”
But to SpringHill, to be a welcoming place includes assuring that no camper would ever be turned away from a SpringHill Experience for financial reasons. We want to welcome all campers, including campers who cannot afford to attend camp, just like Enoch Olson and his team did for those first campers in 1969.
It’s because we’ve stayed true to this commitment over the past four economically challenging years that we’ve seen our camper scholarships grow from $380,000 to nearly $900,000 for this upcoming summer. And just like that first summer in 1969 we’ve been thankful for the many partners who have help meet this growing need.
So, in my only ask I’ll ever make on my blog, if you’d like to help send a camper to SpringHill this summer please click here. Know that you’ll have a part in giving a young person an opportunity to be a SpringHill camper and, like those kids from the orphanage, to hear, see and experience Jesus Christ in a life changing way.43.928283-85.286682
I love it when we receive letters from campers telling us about their summer camp experience and thanking our staff for all they did during their visit to SpringHill. But, up until this week, we’ve never received a pre-camp letter written in anticipation of a child’s visit to camp. But, as they say, there’s a first time for everything and one of our campers, Brynn, sent such a letter to her future counselor.
In it Brynn thanked, in advanced, her future counselor for a great week, for also becoming her good friend and affirming what a great counselor Brynn knows she’ll be. It obvious Brynn’s been to SpringHill before because she knows what to expect – great staff, new influential relationships, memorable experiences and transformational moments.
I, as well as the SpringHill team, are both humbled and challenged by Brynn’s confidence in us.43.928283-85.286682
In response to the question in my last post – “the beach or the mountains or somewhere else?” my good friend Tony Voisin answered “honestly wherever my family and friends are. I’d hate to be either place without them.” I love Tony’s answer because it highlights the powerful impact shared experiences have on relationships.
At SpringHill we define a shared experience as any new, challenging and adventuresome activity shared within the context of a small community of people, be it a cabin group, a family or small group of friends. It’s within this context that the building of the lasting foundations of life time relationships happen.
This is why my friend Tony wants to have these experiences with those he loves and it’s why shared experiences are integral to the SpringHill Experience. We feel so strongly about shared experiences that we assure all our campers participate in all camp activities together with their cabin groups. It’s why our ziplines have 6 or 8 lines so entire cabins can go down together. It’s why we have ropes courses that can accommodate an entire cabin and why we have small distinct and creative housing villages. We want to create shared experiences because we believe they build powerful and lasting relationships with others, and most importantly with Jesus.
Over the last few years we’ve also come to believe that these same shared experiences can create power relationship building opportunities for families. We’ve witnessed God using shared experiences to heal wounded families, lay the foundation for lifelong relationships and build families able to weather the storms that will inevitably come. As a result we’ve added additional summer family camp experiences at both our overnight camps.
So plan a family vacation or attend a SpringHill family camp this summer and create some powerful and lasting shared experiences. Your family will be stronger for it.43.928283-85.286682
In The Leadership Challenge the authors Kouzes and Posner recommend an exercise that helps clarify one’s vision. They recommend writing on paper “what I (we) want to accomplish” followed by asking the question why, writing down your answer, and then keeping asking why until you’ve run out of reasons. The result is an insight into your core motivations and the beliefs behind what you want to accomplish.
When I did this exercise, answering the “why” behind what we do and what we want to be at SpringHill I ended with a core set of believes that I then articulated in a form of a confession.
Though this isn’t an official SpringHill statement it does, I believe, hit at the heart of many of the reasons behind why SpringHill staff are so passionate about what we do and why we do it.
What I Believe to Be True!
I believe the most transformational moments in a person’s life begins with a saving faith in Jesus Christ and a vibrant, growing relationship with Him.
I believe that the most likely time for a person to have these transformational moments is when they are a child.
I believe these transformational moments in a child’s life best happen through the partnership of parents, local churches and ministries such as SpringHill.
I agree with Bill Hybles, that the local church is the hope of the world.
But I also believe that the future hope of the local church rest with children. Therefore, if we want to strengthen the local church and thus change the world, the most important thing we can all do is to focus our time, energy and resources on the spiritual development of children.
I believe that, through the partnership of people and organizations that share these same convictions, we can create more opportunities for more young people to have these transformational experiences, thus preparing them to join us in creating a better world.
- Finally, I believe God has called SpringHill to create significant transformational experiences for young people where they can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus. I know this to be true because I’ve been privileged to be a part of and witness to 1000’s of young lives being transformed every year.