10 Steps to Setting Up a Day Camp

10 Steps to Setting Up a Day Camp

Help, We Want to Run a Day Camp!

A day camp is a valuable ministry. It can provide a wonderful way to serve your community with both church and non-churched families. It is a fun event that gives children a positive experience of church. Large or single parent families can more easily afford a day camp compared with some other camp or day care options.

Day camps provide:

  • a concentrated block of time to spend time with children, teaching them about Jesus
  • an opportunity for non-churched children to have a great experience at church
  • parents with a safe option for summer or holiday activity for their child
  • a place for children who are too young to go to overnight camp
  • a less expensive alternative to an overnight camp

If you have run a camp before you may have a template in place and you will have learned by experience what went well and what needs improvement.

If you haven’t run a camp before, you may wonder where to start. In designing a day camp for your church, it can be helpful to have a checklist to mark off the steps of preparation.

We have compiled some questions and suggestions that may be helpful for you and your team as you put your plans together.

Step 1: Prayer

Pray about all the aspects of planning that are listed below.

Step 2: What Do You Want to Do?

  • Who is the target group of campers?
    • Ages of children
    • Local neighbourhood children and /or church children
    • Children with special needs
  • What is the goal of the camp?
    • What do you want to accomplish? i.e. teach skills, teach spiritual truth, provide a service for working parents, provide a safe place for children or all the above
  • What activities will you include?
    • Spiritual content
    • Science
    • The Arts; music, drama, visual arts
    • Crafts
    • Sports
  • How long will you run the camp?
    • All summer?
    • For March break?
    • One or more weeks?
    • One or more weekends?
  • What length of day will you run camp?
    • ½ day (9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.) or full day (9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
    • Before (8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) or after care (3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
    • Evenings
    • Weekends

Step 3: Putting Together a Budget

What resources do you have available to accomplish your camp?

  • Ways to fund the camp:
    • Will you recoup a portion or all of the funds from a registration fee?
    • What other sources of funding are available? Church budget, sponsorship of children, fund raising, personal donations, government funding (i.e. Summer Student Grants), other grants
  • Costs are important and depends on your vision or goals for the camp.
  • Things to consider:
    • Will you pay staff; if not paid, will you give an honorarium?
    • Will you pay special speakers or entertainers?
    • Do you need to rent space?
    • Curriculum: Will you write your own curriculum? Will you purchase curriculum? There are several VBS curriculums available that can be used or modified to fit the needs of your camp.
    • Purchase of supplies: stationary or craft supplies, sports or arts equipment, decorations/props, snacks or meals, technology that you will need (videos, downloads)
    • Advertising
    • Training the team
    • Awards
    • Will there be field trips? include transportation and entrance costs

Step 4: Location

  • Where will you hold camp?
    • Your own building (what part of the building and do you need to pre-book it?)
    • A building in the neighbourhood (community centre, school etc.)? What process is needed to book and use this facility?
  • Some of the things you need to consider in a location
    • Distance from public transit
    • Parking
    • Proximity to parks
    • Proximity to possible field trip activities
    • How many rooms will you need and how many will you have access to?
    • Who else uses the site and will overlap in space or time with the camp?

Step 5: Set Out Your Camp Policies and Procedures

Plan how you will run your day so things operate smoothly. These policies and procedures will help with the health, happiness, and safety of the campers and staff. Keep the list with camp rules short but meaningful and make sure parents, children and leaders understand them.

Some items to think about:

  • Respect by and for all participants
  • Sign in and sign out policy
  • Use of name tags
  • What food can be brought to camp
  • Use of personal technology
  • Where a child may go in the building and with whom
  • How will parents reach the camp director during camp hours?
  • When are the doors open for drop off?
  • What is the pickup time window?
  • Taking of photos and policy for posting to social media sites

Step 6: Legal Preparation

Consult your church administrator or church board to determine what legal obligations you may have including if you need to obtain liability and accident insurance for the site (especially if it is not your own building)?

Step 7: Advertising

  • Compile the camp data into a brochure, bulletin notice, banner notice, newspaper ad….
  • Make up a ‘spiel’ that can be spoken conveying your enthusiasm and highlighting key features of the theme and activities. Use this with parents who call, in a public setting where you can do an announcement and as you meet people in the neighbourhood.
  • Seek out community fairs or events where you can hand out brochures.
  • Put up signs in local shops and apartment buildings.
  • Word of mouth!
  • Dream up other creative ways to get the word out.

Step 8: Leadership

Leadership is very important and will determine the success and atmosphere of your camp.

  • Who will run the camp?
    • Camp director
    • Volunteers
    • Students
    • Summer interns (paid or not)
    • Parent volunteers
    • Community volunteers
  • Recruiting Leaders:
    • Know what qualifications you desire in staff.
    • Prepare an ad and post on your church website, in the bulletin, newsletter or other internal communication. Post on Christian job websites such as www.christiancareerscanada.com.
    • Pray about leaders you know and personally ask them to be involved.
    • Prepare a job description to clearly spell out the roles, including the accountability structure.
  • Engaging Leaders:
    • Follow your church’s established policies for those who work with children such as age requirements, background checks, references, and interviews. Additionally, keep to the recommended ratios of child to leader. This may determine the size of your camp.
    • Prepare an ‘agreement of service’ for all (paid and volunteer) to sign as a commitment to the vision of camp.

Step 9: Leadership Training

  • Who will train the leaders?
    • Camp director
    • Outside agency
    • Cooperation with another camp organization
  • Some suggested training topics for staff before camp:
    • Camp vision
    • Safety training, child protection training
    • Classroom management
    • Learning skills/characteristics of different ages groups
    • How to handle special needs
    • Outline policies; for example, be sure that everyone understands policies about food, taking photos, posting photos or news clips on social media, contact with campers before and after camp, etc.
  • Encouraging leaders as camp approaches and for the duration of camp:
    • Build team spirit, for example: bring surprise snacks during debrief, get team shirts or hats, send out encouraging text or emails.
    • Plan regular short meetings for leader preparation and debrief during camp.

Step 10: Camper Registration

  • Pray for God to send the ones who will benefit.
  •  Pricing:
    • Do you want to charge?
    • What is a fair cost? (compare with other camps in the community to help you figure out a price that will work)
    • Do you want to subsidize for low income families?
  • How will families register?
    • In advance or at the door?
    • What information do you need on your registration form? Personal information such as name, age, birthdate address, contact information, who will drop the child and pickup the child, allergies, other health information, emergency contact, waiver form, school the child attends.
    • Will you make an online form available?

You are ready to embark on your camp adventure!

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