Branching Out

Kanakuk Kamps has remained true to its roots while expanding beyond its base of Ozark operations.


Kanakuk Kamps

Branson, Mo.

Ages: 7-18

Cost: Prices vary by camp

It’s tough to say which is busier for Kanakuk Kamps, summers or winters. Summer sees thousands of campers traveling to the shores of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., for Kanakuk’s brand of Christian athletic fun.

Road Warriors

From October through February Kanakuk directors hit the road for all points east and west in the continental United States to visit with their campers, recruit the next summer’s staff and introduce Kanakuk to potential new campers.

Beginning in early August Kanakuk sends out packets to its contacts in cities and campuses with letters, postcards, posters and videos. The contacts set up the location and time and Kanakuk posts the information on its website (

Past campers are encouraged with gift incentives to bring friends who have never been to camp. The road show, which Kanakuk calls its Winter Trail, is a tried and true program consisting of 30 directors, five vans loaded down with staff and camper applications, AV equipment, and an interactive video.

Families and former staff will host and set the stage for the annual road show in their prospective cities by securing a venue, putting up posters in their communities, mailing invitations and making personal phone invitations.

The show has two components that operate simultaneously. Camp staff is typically recruited on campuses and universities where a Kanakuk counselor, often in conjunction with the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) or similar organizations, acts as a point person to get the word out.

Kanakuk will need to hire about 2,500 college counselors to ensure that campers’ needs are met with the best-qualified staff possible.

“At some of our bigger, traditional schools, like Baylor and Texas A&M, we’ll interview approximately 150 students, while at other campuses we’ll interview only 10 or 20 students. We travel everywhere from North Carolina and Virginia to California,” says Doug Goodwin, Kanakuk’s executive director of administration.

The road show that aims for new counselors verses the show for the campers are very similar, though each has different goals in mind.

The goal for the camper show is to continue to build on the solid relationships the directors have developed with campers over the years.

“We’ll do lots of family shows where we’ll show up in a place like Dallas. All the Dallas kids will be there and we’ll have a big Kanakuk party,” says Goodwin. “We visit with our campers, meet their friends, answer any questions, tell them a little bit about Kamp and show the highlight video of the previous summer.

It doesn’t take long… about 45 minutes to an hour at the max,” says Goodwin.

Rubber Meets the Road

Mixing boys and girls is one thing, but finding counselors who mix with campers is another challenge that Kanakuk has successfully met.

With about a 50-60 percent return rate among its counselors, Kanakuk has a solid veteran staff. What that return rate means, however, is that of the 2,500 counselors hired, there are fewer positions available for talented newcomers found by Kanakuk on college campuses across the nation.

“We’re a Christian sports camp so when we arrive at a college we’re looking for someone who has a relationship with Christ and is growing in that relationship. We certainly don’t expect someone to be perfect, but it’s important for us to know where they are spiritually,” says Goodwin. “They also have to like kids and have some athletic ability.”

Goodwin adds that most counselors have participated in athletics at least in high school. In order to determine their ability levels Kanakuk has developed a scale where potential counselors rate themselves.

The scale is based on where the candidates participated in athletics — Division I, Division II, large high school or small private school.

“If you’ve run track at the University of Iowa you’d be classified a 10, or 9 for a Division II school and so on,” says Goodwin. “Then we can compare the skills of the athletes and fit them to their positions. We go over their applications with the directors and evaluate the different areas on the application — sports, skills, spiritually, what terms they can work and so on. We rate them from 10-6 and start out by hiring all of our 10s and 9s and then look at our 8s.”

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