Take Camp On The Road

At Camp Hanover, a Presbyterian camp outside Richmond, Va., that has sponsored traveling day camps since 1998, the differences are understood in two ways:

1. The focus of the program is on community building among the campers and enjoyment of God’s creation.

2. Although each day’s activities are based on a Bible story, the emphasis is not on facts, but shared experiences.

At Hanover, the total enrollment is limited to 32 campers who are then divided into four groups with one counselor. Part of the day is spent in small-group activities, and part is spent doing things together as a whole camp. The day begins and ends with a circle time that includes the daily Bible story, singing, announcements and prayer. A cookout is included in each week’s schedule that introduces campers to building fires, preparing a simple meal, and cleaning up afterwards.

The congregational planning committee can decide whether to provide beverages for lunch and/or morning snacks, whether the day campers will go on a field trip during the week, and when to hold a program for parents. Camp sets the schedule for each day, including activities.

A parents’ program on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon offers an opportunity to share the songs and stories campers have learned, and to provide information about the sponsoring camp. This is a chance to invite parents and campers to visit the camp and to consider attending. For some parents, it may be the first time they learn the camp exists!

Staff

The camp recruits and trains staff according to its personnel practices and policies. Staff members work under the supervision of the residential camp director or his/her representative.

Congregations agree to comply with the risk-management plan of the camp, and both share in the liability risk. Congregational leaders undergo a background check, but do not have any programmatic contact or responsibilities for campers.

Several models for staffing can be used for traveling day camp. The camp can hire a director just for day camp, who coordinates the pre-camp arrangements and then gives oversight to the onsite director and counselors who go to the churches each week. This person works year-round and is accountable to the camp director. In another model, the summer-program director coordinates all the pre-camp arrangements with a congregation, and hires a day-camp director who goes with counselors each week and directs the program.

Counselors can be part of the residential staff, splitting the summer between day camp and residential camp, and live at camp. Or counselors can be recruited just for day camp and not have any interaction with the residential staff. One of the challenges of traveling day camp is that enrollment for day camps can vary from week to week, requiring different numbers of counselors and leaving some without a job.

The outcomes and benefits of this program are abundant. First, the traveling day camp results in stronger relationships between the camp and churches, leading to more involvement of the congregations in the camp’s program opportunities and possibly even a desire to support the camp financially.

The day-camp program offers children who might never go to residential camp an opportunity to experience relationships with other children in the program. Finally, taking camp on the road can boost camp enrollment by building trust in the camp and its ministry with campers and parents.

Nancy Ferguson has retired recently after directing the Traveling Day Camp program at Camp Hanover for 10 years. The author of eight books for camp leaders, Ferguson was also the editor of the New Earth camp curriculum and the management consultant for RAC of ACA. She is available to talk to camps interested in starting a traveling day-camp program. Visit her Web site at www.BlueTreeRecources.org.

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