No, the letters F.T.K. are not secret code, and yes, they have meaning, serious meaning. As a matter of fact these letters stand for two significant but related purposes.
These two purposes highlight the reason why over 1000 summer and year around SpringHill leaders just ran the sprint we call summer camp. It’s why they worked uncountable hours, at times in uncomfortable weather and conditions, and often enduring heartache and disappointment. It’s also why they experienced the joy of loving, serving, teaching, coaching, and leading nearly 28,000 children and students. F.T.K. moved these leaders to do all they could to assure campers had the best week of their year and the most transformative experience of their life.
F.T.K. is also why 1000’s of supporters, ambassadors, prayer partners, volunteers, churches and families invest in the work SpringHill does every summer.
It’s what drives the SpringHill family, every day, to be more creative in their work, and more effective in serving more kids, families and churches in more places.
F.T.K. is how we ultimately evaluate the work we did this summer. It is SpringHill’s plumb line, it’s what moves us, inspires us, sustains us and brought all of us together this summer.
And it’s why, for the past 18 summers, I’ve devoted my vocational life serving SpringHill’s mission. And yes I know, if you’re not connected to SpringHill, you may not know the multiple meanings of F.T.K..
The words behind F.T.K. are significant yet quite straightforward. And as soon as you read them, you’ll understand why they are the guiding force of our work this summer.
F.T.K. represents both – For the Kids, and – For the Kingdom. Hands down, with no serious rivals, there’s no better cause, no more important work, no better way to spend a summer than serving kids and His Kingdom. Just ask the 1000’s of people who did so this summer and the 10,000’s of kids, families and churches who experienced the fruit of their work.
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
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.
When we interact with big, successful organizations we expect professional interactions and excellent products and services. It’s the same expectation for any large organization whether it business, educational institution, church or other not-for-profit organization.
On the other hand, when working with smaller organizations, we expect personal attention and friendliness. We may cut the organization some slack when it comes to quality products and services because we’re willing to exchange them for personal attention and friendliness.
This was the idea my good friend and SpringHill ally, Mark Beeson, was sharing with me recently.
Mark’s thesis is – if a small organization wants to exceed expectations it needs to provide excellence in its products and services while never losing that personal touch people expect. But if larger organizations like his church, Granger Community Church, or SpringHill, want to exceed expectations then they must provide, as Marked called it, unexpected goodness and kindness. In other words, treat people like a smaller organization would.
So what does unexpected goodness and kindness look like for larger organizations? It’s…
- Providing personal touch and the extra friendliness
- Creating a sense of belonging to the people being lead and served
- Making people feel like an individual and not a number or a statistic
- Simply knowing and remembering people’s names
- Taking care of an issue or request personally and promptly
- Sending hand written notes
- Returning phone calls, emails and text messages like you would your dearest friends (or your mom)
- All levels of leadership being approachable, accessible and authentic with the people they serve and lead
- Providing as much attention to individual people as to tasks, projects, programs, facilities, etc.
In other words, unexpected goodness and kindness is what small organizations find so easy and natural to do but bigger organizations find hard to achieve.
Which leads to the question Mark and I pondered – can organizations like SpringHill and Granger Community Church interact with people with goodness and kindness like smaller organizations?
Both Mark and I answered that question with a resounding yes, if we’re intentional, focused and prepared. As I thought more about this question I realized that for SpringHill this discussion isn’t just theoretical, it’s literally our integrity, of living consistently with one of our core values – to exceed expectations.
You see when we articulated this core value over 20 years ago SpringHill wasn’t nearly as big. To exceed expectations then meant to provide an outstanding experience and service. Today, people expect outstanding experiences and service from SpringHill. But if we’re to live out this value today, it most certainly means providing on a regular and intentional basis, authentic and unexpected goodness and kindness to all we serve and lead. This needs to be our goal; it has to be our focus, it needs to be our reality, if we’re to have integrity as an organization.
So I’m once again thankful for my annual walk around SpringHill with Mark Beeson, because the best way to learn a new concept is to experience it firsthand. This I did in my time with Mark, and both I and SpringHill have benefited from his authentic and unexpected goodness and kindness.