Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.
Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.
These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.
From my recent talks with several camp leaders, summer camp numbers appear to be heading up. I know this is not the case for all of our sites, but it is exciting to see a trend moving up when the past years have been either generally even like last year or declining in the previous few years.
So now what? Now is the time to get a plan together to figure out what really happened to bring your camper or retreat numbers up. Often we use general knowledge to justify change – “the economy was down so less groups booked,” “the economy was up so more groups are coming,” “parents are scared so less groups are coming,” “church leadership has changed so less groups are coming” and the list goes on. Often we make these pronouncements with our guts, not with evidence.
So, how can you, without making things complicated, as the right questions and gather the right information?
What are you asking campers? Hopefully more than “did you like the food? What was your favorite activity? Will you come again?” What are “level 2” questions to bring in more information.
Asking questions of parents such as “why did you choose to send your child to camp? Will you send them again? Why or why not? What makes our program different than other choices? What other choices for summer activities did you have to choose from?”
These are just a few questions the elicit specific information. What other questions would you or do you ask?
How do you gather the information? Many use SurveyMonkey while most of us are probably still relying on camper or participant surveys that we can collect immediately on paper. However, getting parent feedback can be harder?
If you are successful at getting parent feedback, how are you doing it?
Growth is good. It shows our program and facility is valued and it is great to be able to affect more people with our ministries. However, if we don’t know why, then our growth or decline is left to educated guesses and I think we can do better.