Right now we are beginning to plan and pull together our annual winter camp. This is something that I have now been doing since 1991. I hope I have learned a few things, but I am at times guilty of going into auto-pilot mode and just letting things role out. At the same time I buck against doing things the same way just because "we have always done it that way." So here is a list of what we always do, along with some ideas to make it fresh each year.
- We tend to go to the same place each year. Once you have found a place that meets your needs and can help fulfill your vision, one of the biggest challenges is then complete.
- Transportation can also be a big win or a big headache. So, we have partnered with the same charter company each year. The downside is that there is a significant cost, but I believe that the safety concern and the carpool challenge make the extra cost worth it.
- Releasing leaders. I have written before that there are three roles that a youth pastor needs to fill at camp. One is the role of YP. This means I get to spend a lot of time with students. Second, being the main speaker. Taking the weekend to cast vision and teach is always a privilege. Third, program director. The program role is high stress and takes a lot of your energy. You must make sure all the details and systems of camp are running smoothly. I suggest that as the YP you take on one of these roles and recruit and equip leaders to lead the other two.
- Recruiting leaders: We are privileged to have a number of small group leaders and we make it clear that one of the commitments for the year is coming to winter camp. This always helps us in securing enough leaders.
- Recruiting Support Staff: This is something we start working on 3-4 months before camp. Tech staff, cooks, worship band, Videographer and program staff.
- Gift bags for students and leaders. Each year when all the students arrive at camp we give them a gift bag that is waiting on their beds. It is full of candy, dollar-type toys, something that links to the theme of camp, a notebook for taking notes and journaling throughout the weekend. Leaders get the same things and a nice thank-you gift from us for taking the time to invest in students and the ministry.
- One new thing we are trying this year is to do three camps in one weekend at the same location. Our YM is soon to be divided into three groups: grades 6-7, 8-10 and 11-12. Each group has its own lodge, games, meals, activities and small groups. The only time we join together will be for worship and teaching time. It's going to be crazy.
- We also change the theme each year and offer a new vision for our students to follow.
- Different Speakers also keep things fresh and new. Make sure you go with someone you know and trust.
These are just a few simple thoughts as we move forward in planning our winter camp. Hope they help. What things do you do to plan?