As we march closer to the summer church camp months, it’s looking more and more like we’re in for a different sort of season. I’ve received emails from several conferences and regions who are suspending the 2020 camping season. This obviously is a tough decision, but one that has to be made one way or the other. I have a gut feeling many others will be following suit in some way and decisions will be coming soon.
Even if regulations begin to lift, there are factors of advance planning, the non-existent registration window (which has usually been right now!), and overcoming the mental hurdle of attending overnight events, even if they are in July!
The downside is that kids need church camp more than ever! After this isolated and non structured season, students need an opportunity to experience all that summer church camp offers!
For those camps and events that won’t happen, here are some things you need to do once you make the difficult decisions:
Set Your 2021 Dates Now
Be diligent and take decisive action on setting dates for the 2021 season. Of course there are unknowns. Some camps and programs my change forever. Next summer might have different challenges. But setting the dates will help drive the focus and help your people look forward.
Go Virtual At Least For A Day
Be creative with this, but go virtual at least at the beginning of what would have been your camp dates. Publicize it, create a video of camp highlights, and do something the week of your event to connect and let people in. Church camps are interesting places. They really do become holy ground. Lives are changed and people are often connected to a physical place that grounds them again in their commitment to Jesus. I know some people are trying virtual camps all week, and for full time camp programmers, I think you should be at work considering something along these lines. For the volunteer leaders who serve for a week of camp, a one shot, well publicized event at the start of what would have been camp for you, would do wonders to keep people engaged. Do it from the grounds if you can!
Stay In Close Touch With Your Team
Now is the time to meet with your volunteer leadership team! Get commitments to stay on the team for another year. Work out the dates and sharpen the team roles. Delegate the virtual event. Spruce up your team contact list and communication. It would be too easy to not meet (virtually or in person) again until next year and that wouldn’t be good! For full time ministry camp programmers and directors, you have so many aspects to deal with in terms of your staff and team. Everyone understand that it’s unknown, but do your best to provide direction, be clear and frank.
Send Correspondence To Your Regulars
Now is the time to compile your list for all those connected to your camp. Send notes, newsletters and updates. Keep in touch with your regular folks! If you don’t have a list, delegate a team member to sign your camp up for Constant Contact or A Texting Service and grow your group! (If you use these two links, both you and Harvest get a discount, and if you have questions, let me know)!
Raise Awareness Of Your Needs
Don’t be afraid to share the needs your camp has. Be creative in inviting people to give. Develop gift certificates for future camp events (just an idea), build a prayer partner team, and share the vision you have for upgrades during this year! Of course, our primary concern right now is getting through this health crisis, but there are no doubt financial issues that will arise. Don’t shoulder the burden alone! But be optimistic in sharing and invitation to help and let people know your needs.
Tentatively Plan One Big Day
Keep in the back of your mind that if regulations lift mid summer, there may be an opportunity to host one big day for your camp. With all the unknowns, it’s difficult to plan now, so I’m just planting the seed. An end-of-summer event with music, worship, fundraising, etc., could be a jolt and a “reunion” for students and families. This event could be livestreamed and the options are limitless. If the summer opens up and these kind of events are able to happen, call Harvest! We would love to bring a sound system and lead in worship!
Look For New Ways God Might Be Leading
Who knows how God might lead in new ways through this! There are opportunities to grow and be stretched. Summer camps are still a great vehicle to pull students away, share God’s word, and invite students to respond. It’s a spring board for discipleship at home. Camp is a place students can point back to and remember their commitment to Christ, their call to ministry, their relationships and connections in the kingdom. We want to be ready for next year and we want we want to be open to how God might shift our focus. New doors may open! It’s a season of trust for every Christian ministry leader.
*On a personal, Harvest Ministry note, we have some potential plans for some creative summer ministry components that would respect social distancing and other regulations should it all work out! We’re not making any major decisions or announcements until the first of May. We know some of the camps on our schedule won’t happen this summer and we’re bummed, but for those camps and events that haven’t yet made any decisions, you’re still on our calendar. Praying for you and the decisions we all have to make! [Read our Covid-19 Statement Here]