Eight Tips for Beginning a Day Camp
By: Helen Tindel
Have you ever wished there was a simplified version for how to do a day camp? Well, wish no more! This article will give you helpful guidelines to assist you in what could be one of the most meaningful experiences for the children of your church and community.
1. Define your target group
Decide what group you want to reach through your day camping program. Will the day camp you operate be for your church members only or will you invite the children in your community to participate? Is the purpose of your day camp to assist working parents who need childcare for their children during the summer months? Answering these questions will help you determine the type of program you will need to develop.
2. Set goals
Decide your desired outcome for the children who will attend and for the day camp staff. What do you wish to accomplish through your day camping program? Setting goals will help you as you plan. A goal setting method I like to use is what I call the 252 Principle, which is based on Luke 2:52. Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with people; therefore, set goals for your day campers and day camp staff in each of these four areas.
3. Establish policies and procedures
Policies are simply the written rules and plans by which you will operate your day camp. The rules and plans ensure the health, happiness, and safety of the campers and staff. They serve as solutions to problems before they arise. State your policies clearly so that they will be effective and not offensive. Make sure that your staff, the parents, and the campers are all well aware of the policies and procedures that have been established.
4. Determine the dates and times
Consider the best dates for a day camp and the daily schedule by asking these questions:
* When does the school year end, and when will it begin again?
* Do you have year-round school in your area?
* Are there other church programs for the summer that you will need to work around?
* Will you have consecutive sessions or will you have day camp one week each month?
All of these factors will determine when you hold day camp. Work with your pastor and church staff to determine the best dates. Once you know the dates, place them on the church calendar.
5. Location! Location! Location!
In real estate, location is everything! It is important for day camping, as well. The site you select to conduct your day camp will determine the type of program you can plan. Will you hold your day camp on church property or off-site? Will day camp take place outdoors or inside a building? If you opt for outdoors, make sure you have a contingency plan for rain and that restrooms are available. Plan for special needs campers. Consider security issues. If your day camp will take place inside the church facility, work through your church staff to reserve the rooms that will be needed. If your day camp is at an off-site location, such as an apartment complex, make sure to go through the proper channels to reserve the areas you will need.
6. Consider the cost
Design a budget to cover the cost of the day camp. Here are some things you might want to include in your budget: site rental, staff training, curriculum materials and supplies, t-shirts, transportation, salaries (if applicable), food and refreshments, insurance, site preparation. Your particular day camp may have expenditures other than those listed. Once you have considered the total cost for the number of children your day camp can accommodate, determine the fee you will charge each camper. Your church may be able to underwrite the entire cost of the programs. Decide if you will offer scholarships or other reduced feed for more than one child attending from the same family.
7. Select the staff
Decide who will direct your day camp, and if that position will be paid or volunteer. There may be a staff person at your church who directs the program or it may be a church member. Determine how many counselors are needed and if they will be paid or volunteer. One thing is sure: You must be adequately staffed. The number of staffers needed will be determined by the number of campers, their ages, and their special needs.
Once you have determined your staffing needs, advertise for workers and begin the application process. Know the qualification for which you are looking. Consider using parents, older youth, and college students who are home for the summer. Remember to follow the procedures that your church has established for those who work with children, such as age requirements, background checks, interviews, and so forth.
8. Plan a schedule
The day camp experience begins when the first day camper arrives and ends when the last camper leaves. Remember the saying, "Plan your work, and work your plan." If you do not have something planned, rest assured that the campers will create a plan of their own. Once you have your plan, clearly communicate each day's schedule to the day camp staff. Your schedule should be well-balanced and varied. Include the following areas in your schedule: crafts, recreation, rest and relaxation, music, activity times, worship times. Above all, remember to be flexible. Some of the most teachable moments happen when things do not go as planned.
By following these steps, you can create a fun experience for your day campers, as well as a safe one.
Helen Tindel is the children's minister at First Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This article is courtesy of Lifeway Christian Resources.