This has been a summer to remember! Looking back to the beginning of summer, I had many sleepless nights on whether offering summer camps was the right decision for our children and youth and their families. With so many questions and unknown variables, the amount of research was immense and changed daily. Camps across the country were shutting down for a variety of reasons or limitations that we were not facing. I knew moving forward was going to require new ways of envisioning camp, trainings, communication, practices, policies, and relationship building.
We are blessed with SCC Board Members and Camp Council members that have the ability to formulate best practices for care and well-being of young people juxtaposed the concerns for not being a cause for spreading a virus that is destroying lives and targeting high risk populations. The acknowledgement of balancing our young people’s well-being is brought to the forefront as school districts are trying to decide the best course of action for opening back up. While the focus on wellness and the needs of our young people are being discussed more, I am thankful that our church leaders tackled these topics and were proactive in making decisions when uncertainty was high but the calling to minister was great.
Moving forward into the unknown without models or guides to look to for best practices is daunting to say the least. Slumber Falls Camp and I are blessed with many relationships that allowed for our success this summer. We did not have any outbreaks of COVID-19 at our camps, nor did we have any reports of positive cases following any of our camps from our campers or volunteers. While the camp initiated many new practices and increased some of our prior practices, we recognize that our success rests in our volunteers and our camping families. While the camp could minimize the risk of spreading communicable diseases, we knew from the start that our potential weakest link in our approach rested with our weekly volunteers and families. The camp does not have any control over how they will conduct themselves before camp, the comfortability with risk, or how truthful they will answer our health and screening questions when their camper is super excited to attend summer camp.
I was amazed each and every week at the families that brought their kids to camp and talked about what they were doing to keep their families healthy and how thankful they were that we decided to move forward with camps this summer. What amazed me more were life-long campers who adore Slumber Falls Camp chose not to come because they were afraid that they might have been exposed to the virus and testing would not yield results in time for camp, so they chose to not come in order to protect the ministry. This pandemic has brought about many revelations, but I was not prepared for the amount of love and sacrifice people were willing to make to protect the summer camping programs and the ministries of Slumber Falls. As a result, campers and volunteers were able to experience camp and Christian community in new ways. The excitement for most of the campers to be out of their homes and experiencing others and what Slumber Falls Camp has to offer was palpable. Eyes were shining with excitement during registration, and I was blessed to hear so many stories about what our campers had been doing since last summer. Even behind masks, the eyes and eyebrows could convey so much emotion. The most common question asked of me while families were waiting to go in for their health screening was what
are the changes this summer and were they still going to be able to swim, do arts and crafts, or play Gaga ball. They were excited that so many elements were the same and open to some of the adjustments this summer, which may become new traditions. We brought back some traditional SFC practices of using individual songbooks and singing outside rather that indoors. Every person received their own songbook this summer. Home in the Woods was revived for some of the camps that encouraged meals and fellowship outdoors. Our already small cabin sizes were cut in half allowing for closer knit cabin groups. The pool was a hit as well as the new CORCLS – kayak like donuts (https://crs4rec.com/product/corcl/). Stargazing shifted back to laying in the parking lot or around the swimming pool as a camp and experiencing the Texas night sky, shooting stars, and a comet!
While this summer required assessing every aspect of how we do camp, we grew this summer as a staff and a ministry. One silver lining of offering summer camps, was a reevaluation of what camp is about at Slumber Falls? We discovered that some of the traditions that had disappeared were powerful elements of camps this summer and adopting new methods from other camps infused excitement and newness into the programs. Camps are still one of the most transformative ministries that our church has to help nurture and guide both campers and volunteers into stronger, more capable individuals. So many different components make up camp from spiritual development, to leadership skills, creativity, community living, sacred play, and education to name a few. The Ah-Ha moments that occur when campers have an epiphany that changes an aspect of their being. The church’s ability to proclaim the gospel will inevitably take on a new dimension. I hope and pray that our leadership greets these changes as opportunities to grow and strengthen the work of the church. These conversations should hopefully be had with excitement and smiles because of the potential impact of our ministries.
I welcome future conversations on how we grew this summer, and if our experiences can help shape your ministries or direction, please let me know how we can help. We are one church and one body, and together we will change the world!