12 Reasons Camp Counselors make Great Employees
With the end of summer drawing near 10,000’s of college age adults around the country will be ending their summer jobs at camps and will be looking for new work. So being a former corporate employment manager and current camp professional it seems appropriate for me to highlight the 12 reasons why smart employers will seek out and hire these former camp staff:
Former Summer Camp Staff are:
- Hard working – camp jobs are a 24 hour/7 day a week jobs
- Disciplined and timely – camps run on schedules that need to be followed
- Responsible – what’s more important than the safety and care of children?
- Selfless – camp jobs require putting the needs and desires others before their own
- Flexible and adaptable – camp requires staff to adjust to changing conditions (weather is so unpredictable)
- Team players (they know how to work and play well with others) – camps are small, tight-knit communities where only team players survive
- Very good with the public – these folks interacted professionally daily with parents, camp inspectors, donors and others
- Creative – because their job was to ensure campers had the best week of their summer
- Teachers and coaches, since they were responsible to help others learn life lessons, do new activities, and experience new people, places and things
- Policy followers because camp has rules and it’s important that they’re followed
- Policy questioners, because they’ve learned that following a policy can stand in the way of achieving the higher goals of summer camp which is to provide life changing experiences for campers
Leaders, having led 7 to 15 people everyday for the entire summer
So you can see, smart employers will be first in line to hire these well-trained, experienced, and talented people. Their summer experience puts them miles ahead of their peers.
- Hard working – camp jobs are a 24 hour/7 day a week jobs
A Title that Fits the Job
I’m not big on job titles. To me they’re an organizational necessary evil. But sometimes getting a job title or classification right is important because they often communicate very powerful messages.
Since SpringHill’s first summer in 1969, the people we hired to work with kids and assist in running summer camp were simply called summer staff. It’s a practical title since these people joined our staff team and worked for the summer. But the issue is, like so many titles in the world, it doesn’t do justice to the actual work these people do. It doesn’t come close to communicating the critical roles, responsibilities and impact these people have on the lives of literally 10,000’s of young people every summer.
These important team members provide the moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day leadership required to provide campers with safe, exciting, memorable and life transforming experiences. Every person on our summer team leads. They may lead a group of campers or lead their peers or lead exciting activities and thoughtful programs, but every one of them leads. And every one of them also leads in the most powerful way a person can lead – through their example, by living in a way that when young people see them, they see Christ.
As you can see this job has significantly more responsibility than the title summer staff implies. The people who have these jobs are more than just staff, they are leaders, all 1200 of them.
So, in light of this reality, during summer staff training (in the future to be called leader training) I announced that we would no longer refer to them as summer staff, but instead, from this point forward they would be known as summer leaders. It’s a title that is worthy of the work these committed people do.
My Daily SpringHill Prayer
Every single day during the 100 days of our summer camping season, beginning with staff training, we’re serving and caring for some of our 25,000 campers and 1000 summer staff. As a result, every single day, for 100 straight days I make three specific requests to God. These requests not only reflect our organizational priorities and focus but they also reflect my own personal hopes and desires for those we serve and those serve alongside.
My first request, because it’s our most important responsibility, is that our campers and staff are safe spiritually, emotionally and physically. I ask God to protect each camper, staff member and all those who visit our camps. And I pray for all our lifeguards, activity staff, counselors and other staff with the responsibility for the direct care of our campers.
The second request I make is that God will, through the experiences we create, transform the lives of our campers and staff. I make this request because this is our mission, it’s why we exist, it’s what we’re to do (create experiences) and it’s the outcome (life transformation) we’re working and praying for. The answer to this request is when a camper or staff leaves SpringHill with new attitudes, behaviors and perspective on life that are more aligned with God than before they arrived.
My final request is simply that we fill every one of our camp spots, that we’re granted the opportunity to serve as many kids as we’re capable of providing an outstanding SpringHill Experience for. This request reflects our vision of never-resting until every young person has the opportunity to hear, see, and experience Jesus Christ in a life-transforming way.
So last week we crossed the half-way point of our camping sessions and God has been gracious in answering these prayers. It’s been a safe, powerfully transforming, and record-breaking summer at SpringHill. But the summer isn’t over; we still have more kids to serve and staff to lead, which means my work of making my three daily requests continues.
Working with “Twentysomethings”
“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.”43.928283-85.286682
Summer Camp’s Coming and it Shouldn’t Be a Surprise
Summer camp literally starts in a matter of days. We’ve known for years there’d be summer camp in 2013. We also know we’re going to have summer camp in 2014, 2015 and for as many summers as we can see into the future.
In other words, it’s no surprise that summer camp is upon us. Of course this means there’s no excuse for not being prepared, planned out and ready for staff training and summer campers. Yet it wasn’t that long ago when, if you had visited SpringHill in May, you would have interrupted our frenzied work as being surprised by finding out at the last-minute that summer camp began in June.
This mad scramble had its allies within our team. Many folks, if they were honest, love the adrenaline rush of doing vast amounts of very important work in a very short period of time. As an organization we even unconsciously honored these folks for their great sacrifice for the cause. Unfortunately this only reinforced our organizational addiction to adrenaline and ultimately led to our team entering summer stressed, exhausted and drained.
So a number of years ago we all agreed that summer camp is never a surprise so there’s no good reason to save our all preparation for the month of May. We agreed that we would begin working on next summer during this summer, including pre-registering campers, finalizing host churches for our Day Camps, and signing up returning summer staff.
We also agreed that all the other important work for the next summer such as property and facilities improvements, summer staff recruitment, and curriculum and program development would begin immediately after camp ended, having specific plans with key milestone dates to keep us on track.
And, maybe most importantly, we also agreed to celebrate good, thoughtful and intentional planning and work instead of honoring adrenaline fueled activity.
So take this post as one small piece of our celebration for the good planning and work our team’s done to be ready for the summer of 2013 (and, for that matter, 2014). Though we’d all admit we’re not yet where we want to be, I’m confident in saying we’re in the best position I’ve ever seen us in going into the summer. And for this I tip my hat to our team for a job well done.43.928283-85.286682
Selecting a Summer Camp for the Kids You Love – Part 3 Staffing Policies and Practices
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
Selecting a Summer Camp for the Kids You Love – Part 2 Leadership and Camping Philosophy
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
Selecting a Summer Camp for the Kids You Love – Part 1
Selecting a summer camp experience for the kids you love, whether it’s your own kids, grand-kids or kids you want to invest in is an incredibly important process because camps are not all created equal. Camps differ in leadership and camping/programming philosophy, in their staffing policies, camp operations, and in level of transparency and outside accountability they have.
To select the right camp for the kids you love requires an understanding of all your camp options from each of these four perspectives. Over the next four posts we’ll look at each one of these perspectives with the goal of creating a framework that you can use to evaluate all your available camp options so you can make the right decision.
To begin this process it’s important to make this next statement. Though it’s a statement that really belongs to the last topic, transparency and outside accountability, I need to say it now – all the information you need to evaluate a camp should be readily available in clear and understandable language in the camp’s brochures, websites or through a phone call with a knowledgeable staff member from the camp. If you cannot get answers to your questions, you don’t want to send the kids you love to that camp.
In addition to looking at a camp’s marketing materials it’s equally important to talk to people who’ve experienced the camp. These people will supply you with some of the best information you’ll need to make a good decision. When talking with other “customers” ask them the same questions we’ll cover in the next four posts. Compare their answers to the marketing material of the camp and you’ll quickly learn as much as you need to know to select the right camp for the kids you love.43.928283-85.286682
The Stupid Bucket and the Smart Bucket
In one of our last summer staff meetings two of our summer camp directors, Jason Hoffer and Matt Casburn, challenged our staff to finish the summer strong. They did it by using a simple but memorable illustration. They told our staff “everyone carries around two buckets – the ‘smart bucket’ and the ‘stupid bucket’ – and every day we can take something out of one of these two buckets.”
The question they asked was “which bucket will you grab from during the last days of camp, the stupid one or the smart one?” The message to our summer staff was clear – you’ve been taking from the smart bucket all summer long, so don’t start grabbing from the stupid bucket in the last weeks of camp, meaning don’t start using poor judgment and making poor choices when all summer long you’ve used good judgment and made good choices.
And Matt and Jason, being the leaders they are, made this brief dialogue funny and, more importantly, memorable. So memorable in fact that, over the final days of camp, I heard numerous summer staff half-jokingly and half-seriously saying to each other “don’t take from the stupid bucket” or “let’s not do a stupid bucket thing”. Some of our staff even bought two buckets to remind every one of the two options they had before them.
It’s a sign of great leadership when you can give your team a warning or directive that isn’t threatening or demeaning, but instead funny, memorable, and effective because it gains your team’s commitment, not just their compliance. And even better is when the message is continuously repeated by your team creating a climate of self accountability and encouragement in making the right choices.
So what bucket will you take from this week?43.928283-85.286682
It’s Much More than a Blob!
The lifeguard gathered the Copper Country (4th through 6th grade camp) kids around him after an hour of playing on the Gusher. If you don’t know, the Gusher is a high and long “slip and slide” that empties into one of our lakes. One of the things campers like to do is to try to spin (roll over multiple times) all the way down, seeing how many spins they can achieve before landing in the lake below.
As the campers gathered, the lifeguard asked them a series of questions in what we call a “debrief.” The debrief is where we use the activity the campers just participated in as an object lesson to reinforce and bring to life the spiritual themes of the week. It’s for this reason that we debrief all our activities from the zipline to paintball and even the Gusher, and why debriefs are such a critical part of the SpringHill Experience.
You see our activities are tools for helping campers grasp and remember the spiritual truths we want them to take home with them. It’s one of the main ways we integrate faith and fun.
In the best debriefs, the activity staff asks a series of questions, leading the campers to discover the connection between the activity and the spiritual theme for themselves.
Questions like this lifeguard asked “could you spin a thousand times on your own down the Gusher?” and of course the answer is “no way”. Then the lifeguard asked “can you get to heaven on your own?” and kids answered with “yes”, “no” and “maybe”. Which led lifeguard to explain that to have eternal life requires something outside of ourselves just like spinning a 1000 times down the Gusher would require something outside of our selves. And, of course the lifeguard explained, that something outside ourselves we need to “get to heaven” is Jesus Christ.
It was a simple 5 minute debrief but it beautifully reinforced an important spiritual truth that these young boys will keep with them for a long time.43.928283-85.286682