That all camps should emulate
I’ve been speaking at Camp Timber-lee in Wisconsin for over a decade now, and this past weekend I was thinking, This camp does soooooooooo many things right… I wish every camp could visit and glean from the experience.
So here’s the next best thing. Here are 7 things I see them doing right again and again and again for their winter camp weekend retreats…
1. Kids start having fun the second they arrive.I’ve been to countless camps where kids don’t get to do their favorite thing—hang out—until literally the second day after lunch. Really. A lot of camps immediately file kids into a long program, then small groups, then bed, then breakfast, then another program, some forced rec time, then lunch… THEN finally free time! Camp Timber-lee has free time programmed for the first hour kids arrive, then again after small groups the first night. Kids can do tube runs on a hill that’s lit (and by “lit” I mean illuminated with lights, not, “Hey man, that tube run was lit!!!”) they can do Karaoke in a coffee bar, and plenty of other options. And counselors can hang with them… which leads me to the second thing Timber-lee does right…
2. Counselors are free to focus on connecting with kids. Timber-lee’s staff runs everything so all counselors need to do is hang with kids. In fact, Timber-lee tells the church leaders, “Please, if your kids forgot something and you need to run to Wal Mart, please don’t leave and waste that valuable time—let one of our staff go get it for you. You hang with your kids and focus on the four desired outcomes of the weekend”… which leads to my next example of what they do sooooooooo right…
3. They have a quick counselor meeting (while the kids are hanging) that clearly lays out the camps’ 4 “desired outcomes” for the weekend. Timber-lee’s 4 desired outcomes are the “end results” that they hope kids experience for the weekend. They are:
- Learning experiences (not only spiritual truths, but skills like how to canoe or cross country ski)
- Spiritual transformation (through chapel time, small group time, and one-on-one time with leaders)
- Meaningful relationships (surrounding yourself with a community of believers)
- Significant memories (“Remember when our team won the broomball tournament!”)
The leaders aren’t micromanaged, they are just encouraged to do activities with kids that promote these four desired outcomes.
4. They keep the chapel time to 1-hour total. This is huge! The worship band did three songs, then I talked for 25-30 minutes, the band did one more song… then we divide to small groups. Less is more!
5. They follow up everychapel time with small group time. Small groups are the perfect opportunity for the kids to grapple with what they just heard and discuss how it relates to their life specifically (when our leaders know how to lead a small group).
6. The “Wins” Meeting. After chapel the camp staff meet for a quick 10-minute meeting (which I crashed) and discuss a little bit of logistical, but then share, “What wins have we seen for the Kingdom so far this weekend?” The staff was excited to share what they had seen and experienced.
7. The food is actually good. In fact, it’s excellent. This camp takes pride in everything they do. For lunch Saturday they do what they call the food court where they literally have soups, salad bar, sandwich bar, hot wings, fries and all kinds of other fun options. (Hot wings! Whodathunkit!)
Kids love every aspect of this camp and they always walk away with significant memories, learning experiences, spiritual transformation, and having built meaningful relationships (almost as if those four elements were desired from the beginning).