Recently I was at an automotive service business run by a past SpringHill camper. When I picked up my car I asked this SpringHill alum for a tour of his business. You see I was not only interested in learning about his business but more importantly I wanted to get a glimpse into the life of one of our past campers.
After the tour we stood in the middle of his shop floor and talked about his life as a young entrepreneur. Our conversation drifted to SpringHill and reminiscing about those summers when his parents would drop he and his brothers off at camp. As we shared those memories together I could see his eyes lighting up. That’s when he said –
“It’s funny you’re here and we’re talking about camp because I was just recently thinking about my camp experiences. It’s become clear to me just how important they were in my development as a person. I was a shy, quiet kid. But at camp I gained confidence to interact with others and build positive relationships.”
Hearing him say this while sitting in the middle of his impressive business, brought to life the reality I’ve built my vocation on – that summer camp is an incredibly spiritual, emotional, and social building experience. Camp is one of those milestone moments where people’s live’s takes a quantum step forward.
And this is why SpringHill is so committed to creating life-transforming summer camp experiences. We see no other short-term experience in the world that provides young people such a life-long payback than attending summer camp. If there were, trust me, SpringHill would offer it in a New York minute. But there just isn’t. There’s no other experience that provides the breath and depth of personal, long-term growth than summer camp.
Which means there is no better short-term investment with such a life-long payback that a person can make for the child they love then sending them to camp this summer.
This statement to me and a small group of our year around staff during the closing day of camp by a father of a camper with special needs. The father went onto explain that his son has been coming to SpringHill for a number of summers and it’s always the high light of his son’s year. It’s the week when his son feels accepted and loved like a “normal” kid.
I believe it’s this acceptance and love that the dad was referring to when he said, almost to himself, “I only wish the rest of the world could be more like SpringHill”.
Of course it’s always great to hear this kind of unsolicited feedback from a parent. Our goal is that every kid will feel like this camper, to experience the love of Christ through our staff and in the small communities we create.
So with summer camp just ending (and I’m already starting to miss it), this father’s wish has had me thinking. I’ve realized his wish really isn’t a wish at all, but instead it’s our ultimate mission.
You see at SpringHill we exist to create experiences (we call them SpringHill Experience) 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. Yet, as powerful as this is, the SpringHill Experience isn’t an end unto itself; it is part of something bigger.
That something bigger is the Church’s work of bringing the values and reality of Christ’s Kingdom into the world. In other words, we haven’t thoroughly done our job unless our campers and staff are leaving SpringHill and bringing a little of it back into the world, making the world a little more like SpringHill, which really means making the world little more like Christ’s Kingdom.43.892799-85.264956
And that’s exactly what Denise and I just did this past weekend.
We attended A Journey to Generosity retreat, hosted by our dear friends Bruce and Sue Osterink and facilitated by Brad Formsma a former business owner and now staff member with Generous Giving, an organization dedicated to “encouraging givers to experience the joy of giving and embrace a lifestyle of generosity, according to God’s Word and Christ’s example.”
It was a powerful retreat, life transforming in many ways.
So let me give you a glimpse into what made it so powerful by passing on some of the wisdom I walked away with.
“Wealth tends to isolate, yet we need to be together”
“Are we Tickle Tithers or Generous Givers?”
“It’s more fun to be a giver than a consumer”
“Concentrate on what’s important and the rest will follow”
“Christ came to rescue and restore, thus our responsibility is to do the same”
“I use to fear failing at what’s important, now I fear succeeding at what’s not”
“People can be a gift of inconvenience”
“Listen closely to those you want to help”
“Giving is not just for wealthy people, it’s for everyone”
“We’re really good at wasting money and we’re really good at disguising it”
“There’s a difference between discernment and judging. We’re called to discern but not to judge”
“We start with nothing and we even worry about losing that”
“We put pressure on our children to have what we have”
“We’re to Give – Save – Live, in that order”
“It’s easy to fool one of us (husband and wife), but it’s not as easy to fool both of us”
“God’s calling is not the same as God’s timing”
“Go where you’re celebrated not where you’re tolerated”
“Giving is adding something to your life, not taking something away”
“What’s our motive to be debt free? Is it to get more or to give more?”
“Giving is the only antidote to materialism”
“Giving is not a once and done deal, it’s an ongoing journey we’re on”
“Keep it simple and just give”
By the way check out some inspiring videos about people who experienced generosity by clicking here.43.928283-85.286682
The final criteria for evaluating and choosing a camp for the kids you love is simply transparency and outside accountability. Without these two qualities it’s nearly impossible to evaluate all the other areas we’ve discussed over the past four posts. So in many ways you must begin your assessment here.
Let’s first look at transparency.
Transparency is the ability to see into something. It’s vitally important that there’s transparency in any organization that serves kids. There should be no dark corners or secrets when it comes to the care of children.
You can quickly tell the transparency of a camp by asking for following questions:
- Are tours available, especially during camp operations? You should expect to be able to visit and see camp.
- Has the camp been able and willing to answer all the other questions you’ve asked? Did you receive them forthrightly or was it a struggle? If a camp can’t or won’t answer your questions you don’t want to send kids you love there.
- Does the camp provide parents glimpses into a child’s camp experience via video, photos, text messages or emails? They should unless the program, such as a wilderness program, can’t accommodate them.
- How easy is it to connect to camp staff especially when camp is in session? What’s the process for doing so? You should be able to reach someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when camp is in session.
Outside accountability is an often overlooked but vitally important quality every camp should voluntarily submit themselves to if they’re the kind of camp worthy of the kids you love. So you should look for the following types of certifications and audits in any camp you’re considering:
- Certification by the American Camping Association (ACA)? The ACA is the camping industry’s only general certification program. Their standards are high and the audits beneficial. You should think twice before sending your kids to a camp that has not been certified.
- Meet all state regulations and inspections. Note some states are better at this than others.
- Outside companies that design and certify high adventure activities such as zip lines, ropes courses, climbing walls, etc. There are experts in this field that help camps operate and provide safe activities.
- Best Christian Workplaces certification or others like it. These outside firms provide insight into the kind of leadership and organization a camp is and how it operates.
- Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) or other outside financial groups that assures integrity in the camps financial practices.
When you evaluate your camp options against the criteria from this post and the previous four posts you’ll make the right decision for the kids you love.43.928283-85.286682
If 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.
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.
Where does staff come from?
Look for a broad and comprehensive recruiting plan which includes diversity of camp experience, social economic and geographic backgrounds.
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:
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.
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.
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.43.928283-85.286682
As I stated in my last post there are four critical areas you want to understand when evaluating a summer camp for the child your love.
The first area you want to know is the camp’s leadership and its camping/programming philosophy.
So let’s start with the questions you should ask about leadership followed by questions to ask about the camp’s programing philosophy.
Who is the Executive Director? How long has he or she work for the camp? How long have they been in this position? Have they worked at other camps or in other fields?
You want to find a seasoned camping professional who has 10 or more years of camping or related experience. Running a safe and effective camp requires experience.
Who’s on the board of directors?
You’re looking for a board of experienced, business, educational, and ministry leaders who can provide the appropriate oversight to the camp.
What kind of experience does the other senior leaders of the camp have, such leaders as program and facilities directors?
Once again you’re looking for both a minimum of 5 or more years of experiences in camping and in other related fields.
What is the camp’s mission? What does the camp promise to provide your kids?
It’s important to understand the camp’s promised impact on your kids to see if it matches your expectations and desires for a camp experience.
What is the programmatic theme? Is it focused on athletics, adventure, classic camp, spiritual focus? Is it high energy or laid back?
The camp should be able to articulate their programmatic philosophy so you can evaluate it against what’s best for your kid.
And remember the camp you’re researching should be able to clearly and easily articulate answers to all of these questions either on their website, brochures or by talking with camp staff. If this information isn’t readily available then the camp’s not the place you want to send the kids you love.
In my next post we’ll look at the critical area of staffing policies and practices.
Also check out “Why Kids Need Camp”43.928283-85.286682
Or that the average young person during any given week will:
- Plays 833 minutes or about 14 hours of video games?
- Spends another 623 minutes (over 10 hours) on a computer?
- Or send over 700 texts
That’s a total of more than 59 hours a week inside sitting in front of a screen.
In contrast research tells us that the average young person will spend an average of:
- 30 minutes a week playing outside
- 3.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their parents
- And less than an hour in a church, youth group or youth ministry gathering
59 hours compared to 1.25 hours.
Think for a moment about the long-term implications of this on our kids, on our future.
Kids need much more than screen time to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually:
- Kids need to interact with God’s creation by being outside
- They need to be nurtured within their family – God created the family for just this purpose.
- Finally kids need to be a part of a faith community such as a local church or other ministry
Yet these vital interactions are being squeezed out by technology. Not by war, famine or economic collapse but by a little screen.
- 60 hours outside per week doing incredibly fun, exciting and growing activities
- 300 minutes in a meaningful conversation with a staff person (that’s nearly two years’ worth of meaningful conversation with a parent)
- 10 to 12 hours a week in individual Bible study and small and large group settings learning about God and His plan for their lives.
Now more than ever our Kids Need Camp.
Now that you’re convinced Kids Need Camp, over my next few posts I’ll help you ask the right questions and know the right answers to look for when selecting a summer camp for the kids you love.
- Plays 833 minutes or about 14 hours of video games?
In my last post about being an organizational culture bearer I quoted Max De Pree from his book Leadership Jazz. I now share the context of that quote because I believe it provides weight to De Pree’s quote as well as a deeper understanding of what it means to be a culture bearer.
“Esther, my wife, and I have a granddaughter named Zoe, the Greek word for ‘life’. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound, seven ounces, so small that my wedding band could slide up her arm to her shoulder. The neonatologist who first examined her told us that she had a 5 to 10 percent chance of living three days. When Esther and I scrubbed up for our first visit and saw Zoe in her isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, she had two IV’s in her naval, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest, and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth.
To complicate matters, Zoe’s biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realizing this, a wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave me instructions. ‘For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I would like you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.’
Ruth was doing exactly the right thing on Zoe’s behalf (and, of course, on my behalf as well), and without realizing it she was giving me one of the best possible descriptions of the work of the leader. At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice and one’s touch.”43.928283-85.286682
The greatest accomplishments the world has ever seen are the result of teamwork. Great institutions built, just wars won against incredible odds, and complex social problems solved because of communities of people who worked together to achieve something good, positive, and lasting. In every case these great accomplishments could not have happened through the work of a single person. True, a single person may have led the team, or been the public face, but behind that leader has always been people committed to seeing the work successfully completed.
Even in my life, in the great accomplishments I’ve participated in, I’ve always been member of a community. Whether it’s teaming up with my wife Denise to raise our children, being a part of a winning sports team, or working for an effective organization like SpringHill, it’s always been the team, the community that has brought success.
It’s this reality and the power of people working together to accomplish something significant and lasting that’s made it absolutely critical that SpringHill staff be great team players. It’s why being “Community Focused” is an essential personal quality and a key professional competency for staff who want to make an enduring impact at SpringHill.
“Community Focused” people not only value being part of a team, they value the team’s success over their own. They acknowledge and thrive on the inter-dependency our work requires including valuing the God-given differences each person brings to the community.
So whatever good and lasting thing SpringHill has ever done, or will ever do, will come through the team of people who’ve committed themselves, not only to SpringHill’s mission, vision and goals, but also to each other, working tirelessly as a team to see SpringHill accomplish the good work God’s given it to do.
This is part 6 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
With fall comes high school sports and for the past 7 falls I’ve been oh so thankful our kids attend a small class D school. Why? Because all of my kids have had every opportunity to participate in all the sports they’ve wanted to. You see at small schools, everyone who wants to be an athlete can be, and anyone who wants to be on the team, is on the team.
Even this fall, our youngest son Jonathan, decided he wanted to play soccer again but also try cross-country. So our school’s coaches and administration have worked it out for him and 3 other students to “dual sport”. This is an incredible opportunity for Jonathan to find out how much he really likes running without giving up his spot on the soccer team.
In addition, Jonathan, along with his brother Mitch, can play a sport all three seasons, to be a “3 sport athlete” if they choose. And this is true of every student in our little school.
Now it’s also true that being a “three sport” or “dual sport” athlete doesn’t create specialized athletes who might have a better chance to play Division 1 (though Class D athletes do play Division 1). But many of our students have opportunities to play Division 3 and NAIA sports in college if they choose. And the reality is not many students who specialize in a sport at larger high schools end up playing Division 1 or 2. So the truth is there’s nothing lost in being a well-rounded athlete, but so much to gain.
But why I’m really thankful each fall, isn’t because my kids can be three sport athletes, but because the small school environment allows high school sports to be what they’re supposed to be – opportunities to learn life transforming lessons outside of the classroom. It seems that this purpose is so easily lost when winning and scholarships become more important than providing opportunities for as many students as possible to learn the valuable lessons that sports teach so well.43.928283-85.286682