One of the most important areas to consider when evaluating summer camp options for the kids you love is to understand a camp’s day-to-day operations. And central to a camp’s operations is both its safety and emergency policies and practices, and the condition and care of its facilities and activities.
When considering safety and emergency policies and procedures you should ask the following questions and look for the following answers:
What does the safety program look like? Is it documented? What is the safety record of the camp? Is the staff knowledgeable and committed to the program?
A camp should have a clearly articulated safety program with a professional leading it. This program, including its procedures should be documented and available for your review. Finally the camp should be able to provide you a summary of their safety record based on their record keeping and documentation. If there are no records there is no safety program.
Are there inspections on equipment, activities and buildings? How frequent are the inspections? Who conducts the inspections and is there a record of these inspections?
Camp activities, equipment and buildings receive heavy use, especially during the summer, and proper and timely inspection should be completed by qualified people with records of these inspections to assure the safest camp conditions.
Does the camp have an up-to-date and complete Emergency Action Plans (EAP’s)?
Don’t be afraid to ask the camp for copies of their EAP’s. Camps should have clearly written out and communicated EAP’s and thorough trained staff in preparations for a number of potential emergencies such as severe weather, fire, camp intruders, missing campers, etc.
Ask the following questions about the care and maintenance of activities and facilities:
What is the age of your facilities and activities? When did the last remodeling and updating happen? What is preventative maintenance schedule?
One of the foundations for creating a safe camp experience is well maintained facilities and activities. You can learn a lot about the safety of a camp by how well maintained the facilities and activities are.
So remember, understanding how a camp plans, prepares, maintains, trains and practices these key elements of their camping operations is critical to selecting a camp for the kids you love.
In my final post in this series I will discuss the degree of transparency and outside accountability camps should have.
This weekend I watched our SpringHill Michigan team perform during our second Winter Teen Retreat of 2013. And frankly, it seemed like it was our seventh retreat because it went so smoothly. Yet I know this didn’t just happen, instead it was the result of our team’s good work before the first retreat.
So what was that good work our team did leading them to perform at a mid-season level in our second weekend? Well our team took four intentional and necessary steps to be ready. First, they created a plan, second they prepared, and then they practiced before they ever played the first Winter Retreat.
Let’s take a closer look at the four steps our team took look:
Planning: plans require setting measurable goals and then mapping out in detail how to achieve these goals.
Preparation: preparation is where the identification and the gathering of all the resources necessary to successfully work a plan takes place. A plan without resources is just a dream.
Practice: once the necessary resources are in hand then practice and rehearsal provides insight into what needs to be re-planned and what resources are still needed. It also builds the confidence and habits required to win. This step is the one most often skipped, yet as any coach knows, without practice a team will not be ready for the game.
Play: playing is the outcome of the first three steps. And, as coaches know too well, how the team plays is 100% dependent on the game plan, the preparation, and most importantly, the practice a team’s had before the game.
And so, because our team worked through the first three steps before taking the fourth, this second retreat went as we’d expect our seventh one to go, which a good for our team, but even better for our campers.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been involved with educational opportunities both as a participant and as an educator, including giving a seminar at the Christian Camping and Conference Association (3CA) national conference. As I prepared for this seminar I often referred to four very simple things I learned back when I did corporate training, four factors that help participants remember what they’ve learned.
Participant Centered – This is the foundational factor. The participants are always more important than content. Without their motivation to learn it doesn’t matter how good the material is. So it’s a must that the both the content and the delivery be built around what works best for the participants.
Hearing – People remember more when they hear it spoken, whether it’s through another participant, the teacher, a video. It’s essential that participants hear the most important content.
Seeing – Memory goes up significantly if participants can also see the content. This is why training so often uses such tools as PowerPoint and Keynote. When people both hear and see the key content, the likelihood of retention jumps up.
Doing – But the one factor that can make training unforgettable is assuring participants can do something with the content they’re learning. It can be as simple as providing handouts with blanks to be filled in off the visual presentation, to creating actual exercises that show and teach the key content to be learned. The more participants do the more they’ll remember.
By assuring these four factors are a part of any training experience will make it better, more interesting and, most importantly, more memorable.
This is part one of two posts about making the most out of training and education.
Ben Johson of Camp Berea in New Hampshire and Steve Pate of Tall Timber Ranch in the state of Washington, both SpringHill Staff Alumni
I’m on a plane flying back from the Christian Camp and Conference Association’s (3CA) national conference in San Diego, CA basking in the afterglow of the people I spent time with and the things I learned.
I’ve concluded that among the many great parts of this conference, which included spending time with peers who, over the years, have become close friends as well as listening to inspiring and challenging speakers, that the most encouraging part of the conference was talking with SpringHill staff alumni who are now serving other camps.
These alumni include people now working at camps in New England, the Pacific Northwest, in the heart of the California Redwoods, and even in Spain. Each of these camping professionals spent a part of their early professional years at SpringHill.
And, almost to a person, these professionals told me how much they learned and grew while at SpringHill. As a result they’ve been able to take what they’ve learned and positively impact the camps they’re currently serving.
Now you need to know there’s nothing much more rewarding for me than knowing that SpringHill has played a part in the personal and professional development of our past staff. Especially when it’s enabled them to make a bigger contribution to the organizations (especially camps) they’re currently serving.
And even more rewarding is knowing that this handful of past staff I talked with this week represents a fraternity of literally 1000’s of Springhill alumni who are now making positive contributions in companies, schools, churches, mission agencies, ministries, and families all over the world, and by doing so making an eternal difference in the lives of thousands upon ten thousands of people.
There’s a hard reality we need to accept, and it’s simply this – if something isn’t growing then it’s dying. There’s really no standing still. And by growing I mean getting better, progressing, moving forward, and by dying I mean things are slipping backwards in their usefulness or effectiveness. I know this to be true for myself, I’m either getting in better shape physically, emotionally and spiritually or I’m slowly in decline. I might ignore this reality but I can’t escape it.
But what’s true for us as individuals is also true for organizations, whether it’s a company, an educational institution, a local church, or a nation. Organizations are either moving forward or moving backward. And leadership is the key to which direction an organization will go.
That’s why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies needed by people who work for SpringHill is what we call “Continuous Improvement”. Now understand I’m not a big fan of buzz words especially when they’re code words for something else. But I like “Continuous Improvement” because it’s a phrase that says exactly what it means.
And it’s why we use this phrase to describe the personal quality someone needs to display, both in their personal life and in their work, to have long-term success at SpringHill. You see SpringHill wants to be an effective and an enduring organization, which means every day, SpringHill, needs to be better than it was yesterday. And for this to be a reality SpringHill’s staff also needs to, every day, be better than we were yesterday.
This is part 11 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
You know it when you’ve interacted with a business or organization that has a serious focus on their customers and constituents. You feel as if you’ve interacted with someone who knows and understands you, your needs and wants. It’s almost like you’re an old friend. These are the organizations that you come back to over and over, and recommend to your family and friends.
These organizations have what we call at SpringHill a “Customer Focus”. And being customer focused isn’t just good for business; we believe its, plain and simple, the right way to treat people. Thus being “Customer Focused” is a critical quality all SpringHill staff must possess.
But we need to remember organizations are only customer focused if their employees and staff are customer focused, because it’s people who serve customers, design, build and deliver products and services, not organizations.
Now most of us know what “Customer Focus” looks like from the receiving end, but what does it look like from the giving end? What does a “Customer Focus” person do, how do they think, how is it expressed in their day-to-day work?
They dedicate themselves to exceeding customers’ expectations, which requires getting to know customers well enough to understand their expectations, needs, and wants. Then it’s using this knowledge to, not just meet expectations, but to do everything possible to exceed them, to surprise the customer, to make them feel like an old friend.
Finally, it’s important we understand who the customer is. It’s not just those who pay for our services but anyone who depends on us within or outside our organization. In other words, we all have customers. Our goal then should be to exceed the expectations of all our customers, not just the “paying ones”. And when we embrace that we all have customers and thus all need to have “Customer Focus” we’re creating the kind of organization that will make an enduring impact on the lives of others.
This is part 9 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
The test of our wisdom is found in the decisions we make. It’s displayed in the quality, timeliness, and the process in which we go through to make decisions. So it’s all three of these aspects of decisions – quality, timeliness, and process – that reflect the wisdom we have, or don’t have.
Wisdom requires knowledge, experience, judgment, and analytical ability, combined with a strong sense of right and wrong. And the measure of all these things, the proof that we have wisdom comes through in the decisions we make. Decisions are the tangible, measurable expression of our wisdom. Its wisdom applied.
It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies someone needs to possess if they’re to have long-term success at SpringHill is quality and timely Decision Making.
At SpringHill this competency is absolutely critical because of the freedom we provide our staff to do their jobs and the sense of stewardship we expect them to practice. It’s because we believe that the best people to make decisions are the ones closet to the “action”, not those sitting far behind the “frontlines”. We believe this to be true because those at the “front line” have the best perspective and expertise.
Thus when an organization keeps decision-making closest to the “front lines” it requires staff who can display wisdom through their Decision Making. And, if done right, this kind of Decision Making ends up being the best because it’s almost always faster and higher quality.
And the added benefit of entrusting decision-making to staff on the “front lines” is that they continue to grow in their wisdom and in their ability to make decisions, helping the entire organization continually become better and more effective in fulfilling its mission (it’s all part of Personal Learning I covered in the last post).
This is part 4 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
When you learn, you grow and change, and when you grow and change, it’s almost always a result of learning. There’s an undeniable relationship between these concepts. So if a person or an organization wants to grow, whether it’s in a career, a relationship, or in their impact on people and the world, it almost always requires ongoing learning. Because the reality is growth and change will stall or burn out if not fueled by learning.
This is why one of SpringHill’s core values is to be a learning and mission-driven organization. Without learning we would not experience the necessary change required to grow in our influence, outreach and effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and achieving our long-term goals. As we often remind each other “if we’re not learning we’re dying.”
It’s also why one of the qualities and competencies a person needs to have long-term success at SpringHill is what we call “Personal Learning”. It’s that personal and professional curiosity and inquisitiveness which leads to continuous improvement in one’s self and in the organization.
Personal Learning is evident in people who read, listen to others, ask lots of questions, and seeks out other people and organizations to “go to school on”. It’s also evident in people who take mistakes, defeats, and crises and see them as opportunities to learn , grow, and change. Struggles are an ally to people who love to learn.
One of the tell-tale signs a person (and organization) embraces Personal Learning is that they’re humble. You see Personal Learning requires people who accept and acknowledge to others, and to themselves, that they don’t have it “all figured out” and never will.
So, as you can see, Personal Learning is an absolutely essential part of SpringHill, which also means it is an absolutely essential quality of our staff, board and volunteers, especially if, together, we’re to make an enduring impact on our world.
This is part 3 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
Every organization and team “culture” is different. The culture is the organization’s unique personality, its set of unwritten (and often unspoken) rules and expectations about how work gets done, and how people should treat and how relate to one another. And obviously, for a person to be successful within a specific organization, requires a unique set of personal qualities and competencies that fit that culture.
So because there’s no one right formula of personal qualities and competencies that work in every organization, with the help from an organizational psychologist, we’ve identified those qualities and competencies necessary for a person to be successful, over the long run, at SpringHill. The process we used included gathering feedback from a large number of our staff about the qualities they see in successful SpringHill staff. And to this feedback we added the best that leadership research says on the subject.
When we finished we ended up with 13 different, clearly defined “Leadership Competencies” that members of our team need to possess if they’re going to have a long-term impact within SpringHill. These 13 competencies have become the core to all of our “people” processes such as hiring and selection, performance management and appraisals, training and development, and finally succession planning.
Below are these 13 SpringHill “leadership competencies” divided into four categories:
Mastery of Self
Life/Work balance Personal Learning
Decision Making God Immersed
Mastery of Relationships
Community Focus Compassion and Sensitivity
Spiritual Leadership Customer Focus
Mastery of Performance
Leading People Resourcefulness
Professional Will Continuous Improvement
Mastery of Vision
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share with you more details of each of the competencies and their importance within the SpringHill culture.
This is part 1 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
Somewhere early in my career is when I decided I wanted to work for something (organization or cause) that’s bigger than I am. I wanted to be a part of something that’s making a difference in the lives of people, making a difference in the world, and ultimately, making a difference in God’s Kingdom. But what I discovered was that just being a part of something bigger than me isn’t enough, nor, as I’ve also discovered, is it enough for most people.
What most people want to know is “what do I need to do to contribution to our organization’s success – the fulfillment of its mission and vision?” This question is the final question every organization that desires to make an enduring difference in the world needs to answer, not just for its self, but for the people who work, volunteer, and support the organization. As a good friend said to me recently “I want to know what piece of the SpringHill puzzle God wants to me to be”.
Unfortunately most organizations, including many times SpringHill, don’t always provide clear answers to the people who, not only want to be a part of something bigger than then themselves, but also want to make a meaningful contribution. Yet helping to bring job and role clarity becomes essential for the organization’s ultimate success, because it’s people who make visions and BHAGG’s reality.
At SpringHill we help staff, volunteers and others answer “what do I need to do to contribution?” by clarifying the answers to these simple but critical follow-up questions:
Where do I fit into the organization? Position, job title, team and reporting relationships
What am I responsible for? Defines the scope of the position
What do I do to meet my responsibilities? Goals and objectives (aligned with the answers to the other organizational questions)
What are the personal qualities do I need to fit within the team culture and be successful? Defined leadership competencies
How will I know I’m being successful? Evaluations and performance appraisals
Helping people understand how they can contribute to an organization’s success may be the last question to answer, but it’s also the most important one.
This is part 6 of 6 in a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.
For over twenty years Michael Perry has made it his mission to bring young people closer to Christ through his Bible study publications, his capacity as the President and CEO of SpringHill, and his recent book, Experience = Everything. Over the last fifty years, SpringHill has changed over half a million lives—proving that it is more than just camp, or a place, SpringHill is a transformative experience.