Sticky Faith camp ministry ideas from camp leaders themselves

A few months back I had the privilege of sharing Sticky Faith findings and ministry ideas with leaders from camp and retreat centers across the U.S. and Canada. Given my love for camp ministry, it was a really fun two days.

One of the best parts for me was hearing insights from camp leaders for how to connect some key Sticky Faith concepts with camp ministry more concretely. Here’s a list of some of the best ideas I heard.

  • Inviting (or requiring) parents to come early to pick kids up. One camp asks parents to arrive three hours early on the last day of camp. They create a special program that helps parents understand what the week was like and gives them ideas for engaging their kids later. They show a recap video, have the speaker share about the theme, and invite families to stay for lunch. Another camp sends a parent debrief email home at the end of the week, including questions to process with their kids.

  • Grad camp. The summer after high school, campers come for their own grad track. They sleep in a separate part of the camp from the rest of the high school camp, and have opportunities to process some of the changes coming in their lives. Other camps hire graduates as summer staff and pair them with older staff members to help mentor them and talk about the transition to college.

  • Family or all-church service day. Churches or families help the camp together by serving in practical ways or helping with major projects. Some do this as an annual event. It provides an opportunity for kids to introduce their parents to particularly meaningful places, and talk about experiences they had. It rekindles stories and memories while also making new ones.

  • Parent-Child Camps. One leader shared that his camp has been doing father-daughter weekends for over 20 years. Some have returned into adulthood, with grown daughters bringing their own kids back along with grandpa. And a number of camps we know offer some version of “family camp” weeks or weekends.

  • Camp grandparents. At another camp, retired grandparents volunteer 1-2 weeks or the whole summer to come and be pastoral support to staff as intergenerational mentors.

  • Giving parents tools for growth. One leader wondered out loud, “What if parents were studying the same scripture passages at home during the week as kids were at camp, and they could share some of their own reflections on the impact that had on them as a way to open doors for their kids to share?” I think this was my favorite idea!

Be sure to check out camp veteran Mindy Coates Smith's article "Beyond Camp-As-Usual" for more ideas and best practices.

What ideas do you have for connecting camp ministry and Sticky Faith? How could you support your favorite camp in implementing some new practices?