• Leadership,  Organizational Leadership,  SpringHill Experiences

    Working with “Twentysomethings”

    SpringHill summer staff in first aid training.
    SpringHill summer staff in first aid training.

    “One of the largest issues we face is working with ‘twentysomethings’. Their work ethic is poor, they expect everything to be given to them, and they won’t stay with a commitment. We just don’t know what to do. And now we’re even beginning to wonder about the future of the Church if this is who will be taking over in the years ahead.”

    This was the perspective expressed by a leader of a large Christian ministry at a round table discussion of Christian ministry CEO’s I participated in a couple of years ago. And after making his statement most of the other 20 leaders in the room all shook their heads in full agreement with many joining in with their own “horror stories” about working with those” darn twentysomethings”.

    Ironically, there was one other Christian camp CEO in the group and when we heard this statement and the following discussion we just looked at each other with our eyebrows raised. You see, Christian camp ministry’s built on the good and faithful work of those “darn twentysomethings”. We couldn’t do what we’re called to do, nor do it nearly half as well (nor nearly as fun) without them.

    This whole dialogue came rushing back to me earlier this summer as I interact with our nearly 1000 “twentysomethings” staff we hired to help us create SpringHill Experiences this summer.

    Instead what I see in our summer staff is the total opposite what these Christian leaders expressed in that forum. As I shared with that group of leaders we, at SpringHill, serve alongside young adults who are highly committed, deeply concerned about others and the world, and who are willing to make great sacrifices to advance Christ’s Kingdom.

    Then I said to these CEO’s – “maybe, instead of looking at the faults of twentysomethings, we should first examine our own leadership and the culture of our organizations to see if we have our own adjustments to make before we write off an entire generation of leaders, because in my experience poor followers are usually the result of poor leadership.”

  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    Why Kids Need Camp

    005Do you know that the average middle schooler spends 2121 minutes a week in front of a television? That’s over 35 hours.

    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

    This means kids spend just over an hour a week in meaningful interaction with people and places that can positively shape and influence their lives.003

    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.

    Here’s another reality – all those negative trends about kids can be reversed by a week at a Christian camp (such as SpringHill) where the average camper spends:

    • 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.

  • Living as a Leader,  SpringHill Experiences

    Amazing Records – 28 Years and 1200+ Students

    107As I’ve said before, one of my favorite groups of people in the world are the adults who bring students to our Winter Teen and Juniors Retreats. I love them because they give up an entire weekend, many as volunteers, to spend 40 hours hanging out with students, doing crazy activities, and getting very little sleep.

    Why do they do it? Because these adults know they’ll be a part of helping students hear, see and experience Jesus Christ in a life transforming way.

    And this weekend I spent time with one of my favorite of these favorites, Scott Hazel. Scott is a teacher at Cedar Springs High School, just north of Grand Rapids. Every year he brings busloads of students from his public high school to one of our Winter Retreats.

    Here’s the list of some unofficial, but amazing, SpringHill Winter Retreat records Scott has set.

    1. 28 straight years of bringing students to SpringHill Winter Retreats
    2. Over 30 Winter Retreats – In many of these 28 years Scott has attended 2 weekends, one with his high school students, and one with his church’s youth group.
    3. Over 1200 students – Scott brings 1 to 2 bus loads of students (between 40 to 95 students) every year.

    I have no doubt these records, like Cal Ripkin Jr’s consecutive baseball games played record, will stand forever.

    But more importantly than the records is the accumulative effect of what Scott has done over these 28 years. 1200+ students from a public high school have been given the opportunity to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and have their lives changed forever.


    Only in eternity will we see the depth of Scott’s impact.

    So now you know why Scott is one of my favorites of my favorites.

    If you’d like to know more about Scott click here, he’s published a book telling his story.

  • Marriage and Family,  Summer Camp

    Jerry Sandusky and the Hard Reality about Child Abuse

    With the report from Penn State’s internal investigation of the Sandusky affair released this week, we’re all reminded once again of children’s vulnerability to abuse. Yet, as important as the reporting about this horrific situation is, there are two facts that are continually reported that can cloud our vision about the nature of child abuse.

    The first fact is that most of Sandusky’s victims were from broken homes, where no father was present, and the economic challenges were great. The second fact is that the abuse was the result of a known public figure swooping in and taking advantage of these children living in difficult situations.

    Both of these facts are true, but this cannot lead us to believe that this is the most common scenario for child abuse. Because the reality is that abuse happens in every corner of our society including to those kids who come from families that look like, on the surface, that they have it all together. And secondly, the perpetrator, more often or not, is a family member or close friend, not a public figure.

    We know this to be true at SpringHill because nearly every week during summer camp our staff discover campers who have been or are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by family members or close family friends. They’re from rich families and poor families, and families from the city and families from the suburbs. It happens within families who attend church faithfully and those who’ve never entered a church building in their lives. The harsh reality is – where there are children, abuse is always a possibility because kids, being who they are, are by nature vulnerable to predators.

    Fortunately, because SpringHill is a safe place, kids feel the freedom to share with our staff their experiences, including many who’ve never shared their horrors with anyone before doing so at camp. This allows us to do what Penn State failed to do – first, report these situations to the appropriate authorities, and second to assure these young victims receive the support they need to move forward and ultimately be healed.

    So let’s not be lulled into believing child abuse only happens in certain segments of our society. Instead let’s always diligently look for signs of abuse and then, when we see them, to have the courage to do what’s necessary to protect all our children from these horrific evils.

  • Growing as a Leader

    More than a Photography Lesson

    This week I spent some time with one of my favorite photographers and, more importantly, favorite leaders in the world – Mark Beeson. Mark is the Senior Pastor at Granger Community Church (GCC), one of our key local church allies. Mark, the GCC staff, and their middle school students are spending the week at SpringHill experiencing their annual Granger middle school summer camp.

    I snagged some time with Mark with the promises we would do a little exploring in the “backlands” so I could glean some wisdom and practical help in taking better photographs. Mark loves photography, takes incredible photos, and in particular, because he loves the outdoors, does incredible wildlife and landscape photography. So getting him out into the woods for a couple of hours wasn’t hard. And I learned a lot, most of which was basic stuff to him, but for me like gold.

    Such things as:

        “Always have a firm foundation for your camera.”

        “What’s a few extra seconds to get the right shot?”

        “Perspective is what makes a photo interesting.”

        “When photographing a person’s face, capture the eyes, because everyone’s drawn to the eyes.”

        “Nobody wants their picture taken, but everyone likes to look at a photo they’re in.”

        “Capturing a moment in a person’s life blesses them more than we know.”

    As you can see from these morsels of wisdom, my impromptu photography lesson was more than just a lesson in taking better pictures. It was a lesson on leadership because it gave me a glimpse into the perspective and the heart of this passionate and effective leader.

    Click here to read Mark’s blog and see some of his photography.

  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    Embracing All Kids

    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.

  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    The Power of Hearing a Fresh Voice

    I remember a conversation with the youth pastor from our church in Grand Rapids the day after he had taken a group of students to a big Christian concert. He said something to this effect, “whatever this musician said on stage the kids would go crazy. He would say ‘you should read your Bible everyday’ and my kids would scream and jump up and down. I don’t understand it, I’ve been telling my kids they need to be reading their Bibles, but whenever I bring it up, I just get blank stares. Why can this guy, from stage and in such a short period of time, have such a powerful voice in my students’ life?”

    The answer to this amazed youth pastor is simple – there is transformational power a person experiences when they hear an often repeated message in a fresh voice, spoken in a different context.

    This is why going to camp, having a camp experience, is so powerful, so life changing. At camp kids hear the same message they’ve heard repeated at home, at church or in school. But the voice is different; it’s a different person, at a different age, and many times from a different place in life speaking the same message in a totally different environment – camp.

    And it breaks my heart to say this, but it’s an experience that happens so rarely in a young person’s life outside a camp experience. Why? Because there are so few experiences for kids that offer this combination of fresh voice spoken in an exciting and adventuresome context that also aligns with the voices of parents, church and school.

    It’s why at SpringHill, we believe so strongly that all Kids Need Camp.

    Have you experienced the Power of Camp? If so please share your story, it might encourage others to help a child have the same transformational experience this summer.

  • SpringHill Experiences

    Some of My Favorite People

    Leaders from Ridge Point Community Church

    Imagine working a full week and on Friday afternoon, instead of heading home to relax, you rush off to a church parking lot. There you get into a van, school bus or coach loaded with dozens of students. You then make a multiple hour trip to a camp where you’ll be sleeping in a sleeping bag, eating camp food and staying in a cabin with a dozen students for a weekend retreat.

    Anyone willing to give up a weekend to be an adult leader at a student retreat makes my “favorite people in the world” list. These retreats, which are so often life changing experiences for students, couldn’t happen without the volunteer leaders and the pastoral staff who commit themselves to the spiritual development of young people.

    This past weekend we had our first of 14 student retreats that occur between now and the end of March at our Michigan camp. This first weekend was a Juniors Retreat designed for 4th thru 6th grade students. I had the opportunity to have Saturday night dinner with leaders and students from Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, MI.

    Watching these leaders interact with their students was fun and encouraging. It was encouraging because elementary age students are the most important age group of people for the Church to invest in. And it was fun because it was apparent these leaders had special relationships with their students.

    So make it a point to thank the youth leaders and other adults who work with kids that you know. Thank them for giving up their weekends, their sleep and their diets, but more importantly thank them for investing in the lives of our children.

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