Camps, Retreats, Missions, and Service Ideas

(Paperback - Oct 1997)
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Nearly 200 ideas for planning meaningful, memorable experiences for your kids -Camps & Retreats . . . The drive up the mountain . . . The opening talk . . . The outdoor activities . . . The closing fireside -- here's a lodgeful of ideas for organizing successful camps and retreats. - Missions . . . Because even foreign mission work can start within our own borders, you'll find dozens of ideas for helping overseas missionaries right here at home. A used-Bible drive, a scavenger hunt for missionary supplies -- activities like these not only benefit missionaries, but also help your kids understand the personal, local aspects of mission work. - Service . . . Expose your students to others' needs Inside you'll find ways to help children, the community at large, the elderly, the poor and homeless, shut-ins, and the sick and disabled Whether you're a youth worker or recreation director in a church, school, club, or camp -- Camps, Retreats, Missions, & Service Ideas is your storehouse of proven, youth-group tested ideas.


  • SKU: 9780310220329
  • UPC: 025986220327
  • SKU10: 0310220327
  • Title: Camps, Retreats, Missions, and Service Ideas
  • Series: Ideas Library
  • Qty Remaining Online: 5
  • Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties
  • Date Published: Oct 1997
  • Pages: 92
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 0.63
  • Dimensions: 10.98" L x 8.55" W x 0.31" H
  • Features: Price on Product, Illustrated
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: YOUTH MINISTRY
  • Subject: Christian Education - Children & Youth

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

Camps and Retreats

Organizing successful camp and retreats is one of the more complex and time-consuming tasks a youth leader faces. It can also be one of the most life-changing experiences your students can have during their adolescence. No matter what kind of camp or retreat you're planning, you'll find vital information here to help you.


Basic Principles of Running Camps and Retreats

Most churches have some kind of camping program, but many churches do not have a consistent, well-thought-out camping philosophy.

It is obvious that at some point your youth group ought to formulate a camping philosophy notebook which can be used indefinitely for whoever is responsible for the camping program. To help you with that formulation, we have attempted to provide you with a summary of the most effective camping information available.

People-Program-Facility. That is the fundamental order of priorities for any camping philosophy. For some, the facilities are most important. But fancy cabins with carpeting and drapes cannot compensate for poor leadership and shabby programming. Many churches meet at campgrounds where the camp director is also the director of maintenance. Too often this results in a program that serves the facility. The kids get lectured for scuffing the floor or a game gets canceled because it might dirty the meeting hall, etc. The most important aspect of any camping program is the leadership personnel. Poor, even inadequate facilities can be compensated for if the program and personnel are tops.

Food. Good food does not mean expensive food. Spaghetti is fine as long as it is not overcooked. Hot dogs and sloppy joes are great as long as they are not soggy. If the food is poor, the kids will never forget it. Not only must you have good quality food, but you must have plenty of food so that the kids feel free to go back for seconds and thirds.

Results. Many decisions are made at camps and conferences. But for many churches the only justification of the camping program is the number of decisions made at camp. It is more important to be concerned with the process of contemplation that occurs at camp rather than the results, meaning overt public response to a message or messages. Camp is a time for self-evaluation away from the rut of the teenage environment. It is a time for new thoughts and new experiences. Kids are able to concentrate their thinking while hearing the message in concentrated form.

It's not unusual to hear young people talk about their decision made at a conference and subsequent failure to live up to it. It is so important to prepare campers for the inevitable "honeymoon's over" feeling. Prepare them for the sobering reality of going home where everything is exactly the way they left it. Be careful that you do not communicate to kids that the entire value of their time at camp is determined by their positive response to the call for commitment.

Post-Camp. After each conference, consider having the campers take over one of the church services. Include a camp choir (made up of all the campers), testimonies, report on camp, and, if possible, a short talk by the camp speaker. (Encourage the speaker to relate his or her remarks to what was said at camp.) A general report to the church accomplishes a number of important goals: First of all, those who did not attend will get a feeling for the spiritual progress made at camp. Secondly, those parents who have just heard about the worst things at camp (kids always tell their parents the worst) will get a more complete view of the conference by hearing the positive and constructive side. Another suggestion is to have a camp reunion about a month or so after camp, where camp movies are shown along with refreshments and a short follow-up message by the camp speaker. This is an excellent way to keep contact with those who attended camp but for some reason haven't kept in touch with the church or youth group.

Camp Survey

The survey on page 15 was used at a large high school camp to feel the pulse of the kids. It was a great help to the camp leaders and speakers in determining just what direction to move in.

Personal Goal Setting

Before your group leaves for a retreat, give personal goals charts on page 16 to group members. Encourage teens to list their goals for the retreat in the right-hand column. They may want to include goals such as making new friends, controlling their temper, or growing closer to God. They can share their goals with one other person if they like. During the retreat, give your teens time each night to fill in their charts using the symbols found beneath it. At the end of the week, discuss whether or not goals were reached and why. Ben Sharpton.

Camping Schedules

Believe it or not, the schedule of a camp is one of the prime factors affecting the outcome of the conference. If the schedule is too structured, the campers will complain and rebel; but if the schedule is too unstructured, then the campers will be bored and complain that there is nothing to do. The following schedules are representative schedules from some of the most effective camping programs in the country:

Weekend Camp

Friday 6:00 Dinner 7:30 Evening meeting 9:00 Special activity 11:00 Lights out

Saturday 7:00 Wake up 8:30 Breakfast 11:30 Discussions, small groups, lecture 12:30 Lunch 1:30 Free time 4:30 Elective 6:00 Dinner 7:30 Evening meeting 11:00 Lights out

Sunday 7:00 Wake up 8:30 Breakfast 11:30 Morning meeting 12:30 Lunch 1:30 Head for home

Junior high may require a slightly earlier lights-out time. College age can go to bed when they want to.

Weekly Camp 7:00 Wake up 8:00 Breakfast 9:15 Cabin cleanup (for junior high only) 10:00 Morning meeting 11:15 Elective seminars 12:30 Lunch 1:30 Free time 4:30 Optional seminars 6:00 Dinner 7:00 Evening meeting 8:30 Evening activity (some groups reverse the order and have the evening activity first with the meeting afterward) 11:00 Lights out

Junior high usually requires more structure; therefore, we recommend the following adaptation of the preceding morning schedule:

7:00 Wake up 8:00 Breakfast 9:00 Cabin cleanup 9:40 Morning meeting 10:30 Organized individual activity (archery, riflery) 11:30 Special team competition 12:30 Lunch

Camp Time

Most teens complain about having to go to bed so early and get up so early. By establishing camp time, you can let them go to bed at 2 a.m. and get up at 9 a.m. Make the first matter of camp business the establishment of camp time. Have all the campers move their watches ahead two hours (maybe more or less). All activities will be held according to camp time. Even though the teens know about the time change, they really respond to the new hours. This works most effectively at a week-long resident camp. Ron Wells

The First Day

The most important day in camp is the first. Make sure the first impression is best by providing plenty of good food, varied and exciting activities, and quality content. Give the campers enough free time to explore and get acquainted with the surroundings. If travel has been long, have very short meetings and plenty of activity. The first message should be light, allowing the campers an insight into the speaker as a person as well as a preview of what's going to be discussed.


Morning Meeting. The morning meeting should be designed for maximum participation from the campers. The following suggestions represent some of the most effective ways to accomplish this:

-Precede the morning meeting with a personal or cabin devotional time where the passage for the morning can be studied and discussed. Then during the morning meeting the campers can share what they learned.

-Have the entire group watch a short role-play that presents an unresolved dilemma. Then have the campers meet in cabin groups or discussion groups and discuss the role-play. Bring the group back together again and have them share their conclusions. They could do the role-play again, changing it however they wanted.

Seminars. Seminars are 1- to 1 1/2-hour sessions on specialized subjects. There can be open seminars (no limit to the number that can attend) or closed seminars (limited attendance). A variety of seminars should be offered so that the campers have a good choice of topics. Seminars can be theology oriented (the Holy Spirit, the justice of God), issue oriented (materialism, sex), Bible oriented (study of Romans), or small-group oriented.

Limited seminars should offer class cards on a first-come-first-serve basis. When a class is full, campers can then attend their second choice. Total class cards should equal total number of campers.

Evening Meeting. This meeting is the most important of the day. It should be looked forward to. A good evening meeting includes lots of singing, good fun, quality special music, and a lot of variety. It should not last longer than an hour and a half.

Lunchtime Fun. Lunchtime can and should be the focal point of fun and information. It can include announcements of the afternoon schedule, special events, point totals, cabin cleanup, birthdays, skits, stunts, entertainment, and mail call. The following is typical of the lunchtime humor:

Cabin-Cleanup Fashion Show. All the items are modeled by the cabin inspector. The clothes have been found lying around the cabins. Sometimes the clothing must be helped out of a suitcase. As the week progresses campers begin to catch on and leave some of their friends' items out.

The cabin inspector puts on all the clothes at the same time. There should be a good combination of bathing suits, pajamas, robes, and nighties. By careful planning, the clothes can be put on in such a way that as each piece is taken off and given to the owner (who must claim it), the next item is seen for the first time. For example, you would have a bathing suit covered by a nightie covered by long john pajamas covered by a robe.

Camp Recreation

Non-Skilled Competitive Activities. The most effective recreation program consists of a mixture of skilled and non-skilled competitive activities. Skilled competition, such as volleyball, baseball, and football, should be available on a voluntary basis during free time. Team competition or required recreation should be non-skilled, such as broom hockey, balloon basketball, American Eagle, etc. Non-skilled activities like those are fun to watch, fun to participate in, and never depend on ability.

Consider water carnivals, swim meets, water balloon events, boating events, snow activities, special events, and much more appropriate for camps and recreation.

Teams. In camping situations longer than a weekend, it is desirable to divide the group into teams. Teams can benefit the camping program or be detrimental, depending on your view of competition. If every activity in camp is based on team competition, campers become polarized with the success or failure of camp resting on whether or not their team wins the competition. You can overcome this by:

-Limiting competitive activities to one or two a day.

-Allowing the first place team to compete first in all events. Almost always the teams following learn from the others' mistakes.

-Announcing competition results only once a day.

Names of teams can be anything from serious to ridiculous. Teams can elect captains, cheerleaders, mascots, and write their own cheers, fight songs, etc. The ridiculous teams can be anything from cartoons ("Peanuts") to their own creation (The Olive Pits). For serious names one group named their teams Faith, Love, Hope, and Charity. Each team was given a camcorder and told to make a short three-minute video (serious or humorous) that communicated the name of their team.

Points. Points are free, so why give a team three points when you can give them 300 or 3000? When a team receives 3000 points, they really feel like they've won something.

Points can be given for just about anything. Remember, the important thing is not winning but having a good time. So don't overdo it. If one team is running away with the score, you can always even things out by giving penalty points, bonus points, etc.

Points can be used to recognize a variety of interests or skills:

-Polar Bear Swim: A delightful morning swim around 6 a.m. Those who manage to make it to the water then must fulfill certain requirements (swim out to the diving platform, etc.). These brave souls not only receive points for their team, but they also receive a membership card in the Polar Bear Club.

-Midnight Swim: Another chilly way to spend the late evening.

-Mountain Climb: A semi-difficult march through some rugged terrain for points and membership card.

The weekly team winner can receive a special prize, such as an ice cream sundae, but most of the time winning is enough.


Rules are a necessary part of every camp. Many church camps suffer from an overabundance of rules, however. Too many rules and you begin to create more problems than you prevent. Certainly we cannot dictate a specific set of rules, but we can give you some important guidelines for establishing your own set.

The fewer the better. Many rules do not need to be mentioned. The kids already know they cannot bring drugs to camp, for example.

Do not try to establish your authority by a stern demeanor or an authoritarian lecture. Make the rules light, firm with a slight touch of humor. (Instead of saying, "No rocks thrown in the lake," say "We have a game that you are not allowed to play at camp; it's called 'bomb the duck.'")

Never bluff. When you announce certain consequences for breaking a rule, be sure to carry it out. It is better to keep quiet about punishment and deal with each situation individually.

Deal with situations as they arise privately with those involved. Public flogging happened in the Middle Ages. Stay away from punishments that involve the entire camp. Public incidents that cause the whole camp to suffer can ruin the entire experience for the campers.

Never deprive a camper of food, sleep, or shelter. Rules should be stated positively to create the understanding that they are for the betterment of the camping experience. Rules are not set to force people to act like Christians.

Camp Leadership

The Dean. The dean's responsibilities are to coordinate the total recreation and entertainment function of the program. This person is the platform personality and makes all decisions regarding the program. The dean is the liaison between the campground personnel and the program personnel, and is in charge of all counselor meetings.

Boy's Dean and Girl's Dean. These two handle most of the discipline (except in serious cases which require involvement by the dean). Their main responsibility is to check cabins after lights out and make periodic checks during meetings.

Speaker. The speaker presents much of the content of the conference. One meeting per day should be the maximum expected of this person for the general meetings. Seminars or electives allow the campers freedom not to hear the speaker again. Of course, speakers can teach seminars or electives to a smaller group, but too much exposure can hurt their effectiveness. You should always provide the speaker with the following:

-Private lodging and restroom

-Bedding and linens

-Free time

-Honorarium (previously agreed upon) before he or she leaves

Recreation Director. This person is in charge of all recreation regardless of whether it is competitive or free time. The director also organizes team competition that involves judging, point totals, rules, and equipment.

Counselors. The counselors' responsibilities should not be limited to the actual time spent at camp. Ideally, there should be a relationship begun before camp and continued long after camp is over.Relationship, leadership, and responsibility are the key words for the effective counselor. First of all, the counselor is there to build a close relationship with the camper that, hopefully, will result in an atmosphere of openness and trust. It is the counselor's responsibility, secondly, to discern where leadership is needed to guide the camper toward growth. Of course, it is after camp when the counselor can be of real help by encouraging and making time available to be together. Counselors should be at least college age, be from the same church, and be well trained.



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