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My Summer Camp Secrets

I’ve spoken about our experiences at Dry Gulch USA earlier this week, and I hope you’ll take the time to visit that post and see my thoughts on what is really a stellar Summer Camp.  In this post I would like to share many of my Summer Camp secrets from many  years of leading kids and volunteers to Summer Camp.

  • Google Voice -> This is a great tool for Summer Camp.  You can setup one local number that will ring through to as many numbers as you want.  It’s a cool way to avoid giving out 10 emergency numbers, and at the same time have 10 different people on your emergency contact list.
  • Directions -> I always give parents the physical location of where we will be.  Even though I know that parents will most likely not be making the 9 hour drive to our Summer Camp destination, it comforts them when I show them on a map where we will be with their children all week.
  • Online Updates -> I’m not sure how I ever avoided doing this in the past, but for the past few years I’ve posted nightly updates of our days activities and photos.  I avoid video’s because they take too long, and when I talk to parents they dont’ want the videos; they want to see their kids!  So I update about 100-150 pictures each night, with minimal editing, and then throw them into a Picasa slideshow that I embed on our Parents Blog.
  • Facebook -> I also make all our camp adult sponsors administrators on our Facebook Page, and ask that they periodically update the page with pictures and updates.
  • Make it Personal -> I send occasional individual image text of kids to their parents, thanking them for allowing us to spend a week with their kids.  This year, I posted a ton of individual images on parents Facebook pages thanking them for sending their kids, and bragging on what great kids they have.
  • Parents Blog -> I put all these updates on our normal church Parent’s Blog, so that after camp I still have 50+ families familiar with the online presence.  I encourage email subscriptions to the blog, and this helps us add to our list for the rest of the  year.
  • Do What I Say I’ll Do -> The policies on our camp packet are things we actually enforce.  If you register for camp with us, you will have paid 100% of your money and turned in 100% of your paperwork weeks prior to us leaving.  If I have a parent that will not return phone calls, won’t pay in full, or refuses to take ownership of meeting our deadlines; then I drop that kid from our camp roster.
  • Leave When I Say I’ll Leave -> If the bus pulls out at 8:00am, and I’ve told parents for weeks that it leaves at 8:00am…then we leave at 8:00am.  This year we actually left two kids that didn’t wake up in time.  Their mother drove them the 9 hours and met us within an hour of arriving at camp.  Amazingly, the mother wasn’t upset me.  She knew I’d keep my word, and I did.
  • Much, Much, Much More -> I have many more little things I do each year, but for the sake of time and words…I’ll end here!  For more then take me to lunch sometime, and buy me a hamburger and I’ll share more!
Calling all Summer Camp Professionals…what are your secrets?  Any travel tips for making it in a bus with 100 kids to Summer Camp?  Let’s here it in the comment section!

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.

1 Comment

  1. Jeff · July 12, 2011

    Love the tip about the Parents Blog. I definitely need to do that next year!