This week we had FLIP, the Woodside Kids Summer Camp, a 4 day camp on 5 of our campuses. The other 3 will be hosting modified versions of FLIP later this summer. It has been a great week and as I reflect on it, I believe I would call it a success, but only because so many things and people had to come together.
Here are 8 things I believe are necessary for a successful kids camp or event…
#1 A Plan & Purpose
This is #1 for a reason, it sets the tone and direction of the event. Even if it is an event you have done year in and year out, their needs to be an identified plan and purpose for the event. If it can’t be defined clearly and consciously, then it probably shouldn’t be done. Once you have defined it, then you have to communicate it to volunteers: before meetings, before planning sessions, before trainings, in promotion, and everyday during the event.
Our vision for Flip was to be a fun camp where we shared Jesus with kids. We wanted non-Woodsiders at this camp and we wanted the gospel to be presented clearly. We met with our volunteers every morning at 8am and reviewed the purpose… to WIN SOME (1 Cor. 9:22). As a result they made themselves slaves to the gospel and God blessed the camp.
No matter the size of event, you can’t make it in our business without volunteers. They are the back bone of our ministry and the event. From packing snack bags to counseling small groups, from leading worship to security, from volunteering to appreciate volunteers to running a camera our volunteers made FLIP happen.
Staff and leaders have to be in constant communication with volunteers making sure they have the resources and correct information to succeed in their service. Leaders set volunteers up to succeed or fail. Don’t assume anything and don’t worry about over communicating.
My favorite thing to do is keep volunteers motivated through vision casting and appreciation. This year we put more effort into creating time and space to celebrate and to connect. Everyday after camp we had something special for them. Monday it was ice cream sundaes in the student cafe celebrating the kick off of camp. Tuesday our Student Ministry staff provided popsicles on the patio for all our volunteers and it was there I sat with a group of 8 high school students and listened to them recount their small group time and how they led kids to Christ. Wednesday we had a lunch cook out for all the volunteers and their kids and kept all our water activities open so they could enjoy the afternoon. All of our volunteers have loved serving, and have done so with such joy. I believe there is a connection here.
Volunteers need to be led and leaders multiply paid staff. Great leaders learn to lead others by delegating authority. This year we really focused on empowering our leaders to help own camp and leadership of it. I have a limited staff and there is no way 1 or 2 staff can lead 200 volunteers. You have to have leaders that feel they have your support and authority to lead. That means things don’t always go the way you wish, but they will get done. All the while you are developing leaders that will multiply your leadership.
Kids and fun go together like chocolate and peanut butter. It just makes sense. When you do a kids event, it better include a great deal of fun. Fun breaks down barriers. Fun helps you connect relationally. Fun is what a parent wants to know a kid experienced. “Did you have fun today?” Fun is spiritual, it’s a measure of the amount of joy in your life. Fun is, well FUN.
# 5 Flexibility
Nothing ever goes as planned all the time, so you have to be flexible. You can’t plan around weather. You can’t plan around a leader having a crisis that calls them away for the week. You can’t plan for everything, so plan to be flexible.
#6 Stay Calm
Maybe this should be higher up on the list. Leaders have to stay calm through it all. I regret to say, I have had my moments over the years when the stress of an event like this would get the better of me. On the inside you might be losing it, but you can’t let others see you frustrated. A couple of weeks ago, I had a gentlemen I greatly respect say to me, “I never see you sweat. You always seem to be under control.” If he only knew what goes on inside of me sometimes.
This includes being gracious with those that aren’t so gracious. I’ve experienced this with church attendees and non-attendees. I had an 18-year-old babysitter who was trying to pick up her cousin without the child claim card, tell me she understood safety better than I do. I had to navigate a messy game gone out of control with our custodial staff. I had to talk with volunteers that needed to know that I was listening. Stay Calm and lead well.
#7 Communication with Parents
Parents love knowing what is going on and they feel better if they have a direct line of communication to you. We send out a daily parent email blast that includes a summary of the teaching, activity, instructions for tomorrow, and reminders. You can actually type up these emails ahead of time, add what you need and tweak before sending out. I prefer to use mail chimp, but this year we triedbecause it syncs with our Fellowship 1 database. This email came directly from me, and parents could reply directly to me..
We also used live picture updates on Facebook and Instagram. The video feature on Instagram is a great tool for camp or any ministry event. Parents can get a quick look into your program, and you can upload from your phone in seconds. At the end of each day we also uploaded pictures to the Woodside Kids Facebook page.
#8 Whole Church Buy In
The larger your church becomes the harder it is to get each department to support and participate in your event. We couldn’t pull this week off if it wasn’t for many of our staff and leadership supporting. We had volunteers involved from Lighthouse (young adults), WSM (students), and senior adults. Our Creative Arts staff and their volunteers were right in the mix making the Studio A (large group sessions) experience memorable. The sound, lighting, stage and props, video, and cameras help create an irresistible environment.
The Facilities and Custodial staff were freaking amazing! When you have over 1,000 people tearing through the building everyday you get stuff broken, messy messy rooms, and a ton of additional work. Although we gave them plenty of things to complain about, I never once heard them get upset. They cleaned up and helped us reset each day.
We had this amazing group of ladies that had breakfast ready for our volunteers every morning at 7 am, then turned right around and had some kind of treat ready for them at noon. On Wednesday, they cooked a slew of burgers and hotdogs to reward all of our volunteers.
This Sunday I’ll be given the opportunity from our main stage to celebrate what God did this week through all of our volunteer and leadership efforts. I’m grateful to be at a church that is fully bought in to this kind of experience.