It’s so easy for people directly involved in camping ministry to see the impact it makes. We can count the smiles and the s’mores and know that Christ is changing lives in real and lasting ways in these spaces. What can be more difficult to track is the hard data that inspires congregations to continue the work that begins during a week at camp. Being able to show a local church the pivotal decisions that campers often make while away at camp is essential as they continue guiding these students on their faith journey all throughout the year.
Years ago the Warren Willis Camp developed a system of “Commitment Cards” to give students a space to acknowledge any important faith decisions made during a week at summer camp. These cards are entered into a database and then shared with their home church, or local UM church, so that a church leader can follow up on those decisions. These decisions can be as simple as dedicating to walk closer with God everyday, or as monumental as deciding to give their life to Christ. We also leave space for students who are struggling and still looking for more information. In passing this information along to local churches, we give leaders there the opening for a conversation more focused than your normal, “So how was your week at camp?” By giving churches an inside look into campers’ experiences, we have created a partnership that opens doors of communication for future camps and events while allowing them to care better for students in their home community.
While we recognize that our sole impact cannot be measured in campers making faith commitments, we acknowledge that it is one of the most tangible benchmarks of success in our industry. Tracking this data year to year can give camps, conferences, and donors the data to celebrate successes or quickly spot declines. The nature of our ministry is that it is fleeting; we are given a brief moment in the lives of the students we are charged with. It is our responsibility and privilege to share the love of Christ in a powerful way and then equip those who will follow us in the faith formation journey with a personal way to connect with young people.
Tanner Smith and Amy Scism are part of the program staff at the newly merged Life Enrichment Center and Warren Willis Camp in the Florida Annual Conference. Amy has recently joined the staff full-time after earning a Masters of Social Work from Florida State University. Tanner is a newlywed who joined the staff in 2012. Together along with the rest of Program Staff they oversee 6 summer camp programs and more than 10 weekend retreats for adults, youth and children.