As a parent of 3 children in elementary and middle schools and a former Executive Director of an established Christian youth camp in Ohio (Camp Patmos), here are a few guidelines to think about when looking for a place to help "grow" your children this summer.
1. Location, Location, Location: This is important for the placement of camps as well, because you need to find a space that can become your children's own place a safe place they can be themselves and be willing to listen to constructive input into their lives. My previous camp experience was on an island and the anticipation and separation from the location helped them come to camp expecting great things. Since Florida has no christian camps on an island, try to afind a camp that is a bit of a drive from your city. What you will find, is that the drive will help prepare your kids for the week(s) ahead. And be sure to volunteer to pick them up so that you can hear the God stories all the way home as they will make your eyes well up for joy!
2. Relevant programs? There is a fine line between your kid being bored or your child having the time of their life and it all hinges on relevant programs. The days of flannel graph and puppet shows are long gone. I preach to my camping friends that in order for the students to take down their facades and walls you must first show them you care. They have a sixth sense to pick up on genuiness and true love. If the staff goes over the top to serve and prepare and create incredible food, engaging games, themed programs, then the campers know that they are loved. It is sad how many camps are missing the boat on this one and wondering why they are having to close their doors. Don't be afraid to ask "what makes your program relevant to my kid?"
3.Making Disciples. Jesus spent his ministry days building into the lives of his disciples to prepare them to go out on their own, just like a great camp should be building into the lives of each staff member which will result in a "trickle down" effect where their see your child as a disciple and pour into their lives as well. Make sure your camp of choice has a disciple making mindset to help develop Kingdom class character into your children's lives. Find a camp with the focus on Christ and not focused on denominational differences. A quality camp will push that back to the individual's pastor if questioned about a denomination doctrine outside of the scope of the Gospel of Christ.
4. Safe Environment. Make sure the camp has a serious and robust set of hiring practices and background checks. If you need to make a visit to the office or speak directly to the Executive Director don't be afraid. Ask questions to make sure that they operate by their standards.
5. Pray about this decision and let the Lord give you peace about which camp will be a great fit. Since you know their needs you can match that up to a camp's offerings and character development. This will be the most rewarding investment you've ever made in life, so choose wisely and let God do the rest!
Written By Tim Richardson
who just recently moved from Kelleys Island, Ohio (after 10 years) to work withThe Master's Academy folks to re-develop Camp Sparta in Central Florida (a Christian Camp and Conference center)