24 Nov Church Camp Planning Guide – 2023
Church Camp Planning Guide – 2023
There is a lot of detail to consider when planning a church camp. QCCC (QLD Baptists’ camping ministry) has many helpful resources and expert staff who can help your church too. If a church camp is well organised, people will notice and remember that. However, as a starting point, here is a short guide to planning a Church Camp.
Church Camp Purpose:
What is the purpose of your camp? Who is your camp aimed at to get involved?
For some, a camp may be targeted at general families in your church, on other occasions it might be youth or young adults, or the target may be everyone from your congregation. Whomever is the target focus of your camp will help inform the rest of your planning.
Once settled on the target group of the camp, consider what you want this group to get out of the camp. Are you hoping to pour into participants’ spiritual development, or is this going to be more of an opportunity to do activities aimed at building relationships amongst participants? Or there is a need within your church congregation for building some skills for sharing the gospel with others, or even an opportunity to do some strategic planning.
To help identify key activities for training, conduct a survey amongst your church congregation to find out what are the areas of need. Free tools such as Google Forms can be utilized to seek this kind of feedback from congregants.
Church Camp Venue:
There are many great campsite options around to host your church camp. However, here are a few things to consider.
- Look for accredited and professional venues like QCCC’s venues (QCCC’s three main sites all have NARTA accreditation).
- Is the venue well maintained, safe, and trained venue staff?
- Consider whether you would prefer catered accommodation packages or would like budget self-catering camping options. This impacts the cost passed on to congregants.
- Does the campsite catering have an excellent reputation for food/menu provided?
- What are the opportunities for activities that may appeal to your group?
- What capacity does the venue have not only for people to sleep comfortably but to host your planned activities, guest speakers, and training? How family and child friendly is the venue?
- Is the venue easy to get to? What about those who may not have their own transport to get there?
Planning a church camp schedule:
It is recommended that the initial planning of a camp starts at least 6-9 months beforehand. However, the earlier the better as securing the date you want at the venue you desire may become more challenging the later the booking is left.
Firstly, work out the length of stay. Do you need 1, 2 or 3 days to achieve the camp purpose?
The easiest starting point for planning a camp schedule is to start by setting the mealtimes. Then plan the rest of the camp’s activities in timeslots around those mealtimes (some venues have set mealtimes for instance). This could be the first time some people in your church are sharing a meal with others from your congregation.
Allow sufficient time to pack up at the end of camp. It can be stressful for families having to pack up and leave in a hurry because activities have been crammed in right up to a venue’s latest check out time.
Select activities that suit your demographic, so this is where surveying can help again. Also, what church staff and volunteers do you have available and willing to commit to leading/organising an activity? There are always popular leisure activities that involve swimming, nature, and sport that provide opportunities for people to participate, relax, and enjoy. Leaders of activities are a critical role as these people help motivate others to get involved in camp activities, and support people to overcome any of those social fears to take up an activity. Make sure that your volunteers have ‘working with children checks’ and have completed any other training required by legislation.
Do you want to invest in bringing in External Guest Speakers and Trainers versus providing internal input from your own church community? Having a guest speaker or trainer can be an extra factor that attracts congregants to take part particularly where the topic contributes to the fulfilment of the camp’s purpose. Of course, the cost of bringing in external people with any activity must be factored in.
According to a 2017 Christian Venues Association report (based on The National Church Life Survey data), some of the most motivating factors that engage people in camps and retreats include, quality speakers (46%), friends attending (28%), time for prayer or contemplation (26%), relationship building opportunity (25%), and workshops (16%). Good food for thought.
It is helpful to understand that you have a duty of care to the people coming to your camp. Which is why we have mentioned it here in our Church Camp Planning Guide – 2023. After you have booked your venue for your church camp, it is worth chatting with the venue staff and your own team to conduct a risk assessment for your event. This will help you plan some strategies around how to avoid or manage the potential risks involved with taking groups. For example, if it is likely that you have many families with children coming to the camp, what extra precautions and management strategies need to be implemented (e.g., supervision ratios). What does the host venue require of you to comply with their risk management policies? Make sure you understand what insurance you and your venue have and what you are covered for. How accessible is first aid at the venue? Have an understanding of where local medical services (e.g. ambulance, hospitals) are located and a management plan (including incident recording) for what happened if someone on your camp sustained injury or illness.
Promoting your church camp:
Where possible, a good practice is to put a “save the date” notice of your camp out to the congregation around 4-6 months out. Particularly as there is some financial cost and time required for people to put aside for the event. This “save the date” notice will create some early interest and anticipation of more information to come.
It is then recommended to start regular advertisement of the camp 12 weeks out from the camp.
Church communities are made up of such a broad range of people who communicate best across multiple approaches. Therefore, promoting a church via multiple modes of communication is highly recommended. These modes or platforms could include:
- Social Media groups
- Text Message
- Printed promotional flyers
- Live presentation during services
- Intentional one-on-one conversations with people
Church Camp Registrations:
Online registration and payments make the task of signing participants up so much easier. When considering an online platform to use for camp registration and payment, consider what platforms have excellent online security for collecting people’s personal and payment information. Some platforms are easier than others to integrate with payment platforms (or payment gateway merchants) to perform the payment side of things. For example, if your church has a PayPal account, online registration platforms could integrate with your church PayPal account to collect payment. Make sure you do your research on what the fees are for the online registration platform and what the merchant/transaction fees are. Example platforms for camp online registration could be:
Whilst COVID restrictions are now behind us, one thing that is good to include in your camp planning is how to manage sick participants. Does your church already have a policy? As part of the registration process are you asking participants to provide an emergency contact in case of illness or an emergency? What contingencies can you have ready in case something does not go to plan?
There is a lot to consider in planning a church camp. However, the research shows that the effect camps have on strengthening your church community, makes church camps worth your while to plan. A 2017 report commissioned by Christian Venues Association through the National Church Life Survey, showed that 58% of people experienced a strengthening or nurturing of their faith from a Christian camp, conference, or spiritual retreat they attended. Furthermore, building Church community/relationships (39%), and time away to focus on God (37%), were the second and third place survey responses, respectively.
For a helpful checklist to help plan your next camp, check out this helpful checklist from the Christian Venues Association – Click here to view
Article: Church Camp Planning Guide – 2023