If you’ve ever led at a week-long summer camp, you knowthe exhaustion, both mentally and physically of the ride home. It feels like you’re crossing the finish line of a year investing in students and reveling in what the Lord has done. Not to mention… a long bus ride with kids who are passing their candy wrappers to you and asking when the next bathroom stop is. Leading at camp is truly a labor of love.
Years ago, sitting in a leaders’ meeting at camp, I heard a Head Leader share that “the end of camp is just the beginning.”
I thought, what?! No way! We’ve been talking about this trip all year, it’s the finish line, right? I was wrong.
A great summer camp trip is just the beginning of the next year of ministry, and when we view it that way, camp follow-up becomes much more valuable and important.
So what does it look like to walk alongside students as you return home from The Best Week of Your Life?
Every area looks different in the summer, but not having a post-camp plan is truly a let down to kids, dare I even say irresponsible.
If your area has mostly college-aged leaders who go home for the summer, and just return for a week of camp, it can be challenging. Could you mentally extend the week of camp by two days and encourage volunteer leaders to stick around, staying with staff or committee families, to meet with kids for a first few days after you’ve arrived home?
If you do have the leadership available to you as you return home, I would encourage you to simply keep meeting with kids who went to camp.
Here are some ideas:
1-2 days after camp, start meeting in the mornings at the Young Life office, a student’s home, a local coffee shop or a restaurant. Don’t make it so early in the morning that kids miss it by sleeping in, but 9am-11am is a good range for kids in the summer.Meet by cabins, or by schools and huddle around a booth or table and continue to have cabin times.
- Model what it looks like to spend time alone with the Lord. You could use books like My First 30 Quiet Times (you can buy this at the camp store, or order online when you get home), Mark in a Month, or another devotional that you have personally vetted. The goal is to get kids in the Word daily and meeting together.
Meet weekly for summer Campaigners (starting the first week back). Maybe your area needs to do one big Campaigner group post-camp because you don’t have enough leaders, and that’s okay! The kids who just spent a week of their life together at camp will love to be together again. This is a great time to lead a discussion of what it looks like to follow Jesus at home. Help walk kids through scripture, encourage them to bring a Bible and a notebook, to ask questions and to be reading on their own.
Host a Post Camp Party/Gathering. Get creative! Do you have access to a neighborhood pool? A community center or clubhouse? Use a neutral location that appeals to every kid on the trip. If the venue space allows it, invite parents and families to join in the fun. We like to show a new video or slideshow that hasn’t been shared on social media yet, to entice families to come and see a part of camp. If you have parents there, have a separate time with them where you share the vision of being involved in YL as an adult (committee, banquet table sponsor, cooking a meal for leaders, etc). It’s a great time to engage with parents because they have just seen their son or daughter have an amazing experience. With high school kids, our aim is to reconnect after camp, relive memories and figure out the next time we will all be together.
In an ideal world, every leader would return home from camp and be able to connect with kids in their cabin daily or a few times a week. But, that’s not always realistic. Leaders leave town, have internships, jobs, not to mention, the kids who have volleyball camps, sports practices, 4th of July trips and on and on. Let’s not let those factors cause us to fail to plan an effective post-camp strategy or simply offering meeting times with kids as they return home. Even if you took 55 of your friends to camp, and 10 show up for morning meetings at Panera, it’s worth it to invest in those students who are hungry to learn more.
Share the Details
Whatever you plan, I’d encourage you to share with your team of leaders, your committee, and most importantly the kids on your trip! During camp, we will mail a postcard to parents with the details of the Post Camp party and follow up plan, so parents know what is to come after camp. As kids walk off the bus, we hand them a paper filled with all the details of our post-camp plans. Make this information easy for kids to obtain. Don’t depend on social media and cabin group texts- make it known even while you’re still at camp in your area meeting.
Whatever you do, just plan to keep meeting with kids after camp. Let us follow the model that Jesus set before to simply spend time with each other.
Here are some Post-Camp Resourcesyou can download and borrow, including graphics, “Camp Follow Up Party” Invite, “Parent Bus Flyer”, and Campaigners Invite.
Written by Susan Nixon.
Susan is the Area Director for Young Life in Rowan County, NC. She is a leader at Salisbury High School (Go Hornets!). Susan grew up in Westerville, OH, was a volunteer leader while at Ohio State University, before joining the Young Life staff in Annapolis, MD. She has lived and led in Salisbury for the last nine years. She is married to Kenton, who is a teacher, and they are expecting their first baby, a boy, in August.