Camp is one of THE BEST WEEKS of the summer, but some kids have never been away from home. We hear from kids ministry leaders who ask about helping young campers get ready for their first time away at overnight camp.
One leader wrote to me and asked:
“I am having kind of a difficult time recruiting because this is the first time a group has gone, our ministry is relatively small right now, and we have a lot of younger children that are hesitant to leave home for a week. If you have any tips, I would greatly appreciate it!”
As a leader recruiting kids (and parents) for the first time, you need to provide as many answers to questions as possible. Anticipate questions and concerns that parents or kids may ask and hold a meeting to talk through it all. An “interest meeting” or “Q&A session” can be a way to discuss camp without parents feeling the pressure of having to sign up or commit to going just by coming to the meeting.
Consider getting parents to go with kids who are nervous about the first time away. I know for some groups that could be problematic to have too many parents, but for other groups that is a key to helping kids feel less nervous and a way to get the needed adult sponsors or chaperones that you need.
With young campers who just haven’t been away from mom and dad before, a test-run might help prepare the families for overnight camp. Encourage parents to find a safe/trusted place for kids to have an overnight (away from home) experience. It might be a couple of nights with grandparents, or possibly some families may want to group up and have a sleepover with some of the girls from the group and another with some of the boys … this could be the type of thing that helps kids have a good time, enjoy their friends, and realize they will survive a night away from home.
More than anything … don’t force it. Take whoever is willing to attend this year and then those who go will come back and help sell it to the other kids for next year. Better to have a smaller group Year 1 than to have a bunch of kids you coerced into going, and they end up having a shaky start to their camp experience.
For more about talking with parents about sending their kids to camp, read “Camp Creates Courageous Parents”
Jeremy Echols leads the camps area for Lifeway Kids. He, his wife Emily, and their precious daughter love their church, their neighborhood, and spending time together. Jeremy enjoys reading, watching sports, and all of his daughter’s after-school activities.