Planning ahead is crucial for almost all elements of youth group programming. This is especially true for any kind of camp or trip. For summer camp planning, you need to secure a location, transportation, leaders and volunteers. You also need to choose a theme and prepare speakers, games, lessons and activities. Then you must publicize the event, giving teens and volunteers plenty of advance notice for their busy schedules.
This doesn’t mean you need to focus all your attention on summer camp when it’s still snowing. I’m merely hoping you step away from social media long enough to start thinking ahead for some summer camp planning.
For us, summer camp is our biggest event outside of our regular Wednesday night program. We see huge life changes happen at summer camp, so I want to make sure we’re ready!
This year we had our location slotted, spots reserved, and buses booked about 10 months prior to the departure date. Note that this isn’t my natural tendency; I’m not usually this ahead of the curve. But I’ve trained myself to think ahead for situations that require intense planning and require other people’s involvement.
Remember these three ingredients for successful summer camp planning:
1. Know the location.
Do you already know where you’re heading? (You may want to avoid Las Vegas, where I live, because it’s really hot!) The location is your first big decision in summer camp planning. Next, you need to learn about the camp:
- How long is the drive?
- What is the cost per attendee?
- How much money is required for a deposit?
- Are the camp’s doctrines similar to your church’s?
If you’re fairly new at your church, find and contact a ministry peer in your area. See if they can recommend some places for you to take your group.
2. Ask the right leaders.
As the time for summer camp approaches, begin asking the right leaders to attend. You may have a plethora of leaders and need to sift out who can come from year to year. Or you may need to start asking some people in the congregation. In either situation make sure you’re clear when you communicate about camp requirements. Think through your decision prior to asking the person. That’s much better than having to turn someone away afterward. I look for leaders who will continue to invest in students’ lives after the camp experience ends.
3. Pray hard!
This has been vital for our previous success in summer camp planning. We take time to pray hard for non-Christian students to attend camp and for their friends to step out and invite them. The main purpose of our summer camp is to reach out to lost kids.
That may not be the same reason you’re going, which is fine. Just make sure you know the main goal.
We ask student leaders to brainstorm a list of kids who they’ll pray for to come to camp. We call this the “hit list” (it works for Vegas) and turn it into a bookmark. Then we give one to all adult and student leaders so they can pray through the list of names daily. As students sign up, we take them off the list and update it. This has been extremely effective in helping to reach out to students and get them to camp!
What other tips do you have for summer camp planning? Please share them in the comments below!