Choosing the right camp experience for your youth group is a lot of pressure. You hope to find one that your teens will enjoy while still learning more about God and how to improve their spiritual walk. Here are some of the most important questions to consider when looking for a camp.
What's your focus?
The first step in choosing a youth camp is deciding on what you want the focus to be. Are you looking for a camp that's more service-based, or are you looking for one based around teaching and digging into Scripture? There are great options for both tracks and some camps that have elements of both. Make this decision based on your teens' spiritual walks and what you want them to get out of the experience.
If you decide to go with a more teaching-heavy option, you still have to think about who is teaching and what they'll be focusing on during your session. Some camps will allow you to pick the curriculum, but if you're looking for something more all-inclusive where the staff plans and teaches the lessons, look into what they'll be teaching. Most camps have this information on their websites long before their registration deadlines to help you decide if their focus will benefit your teens.
We also suggest that you make sure the camp's values and mission correlate with what you're already teaching your teens. If there are some teachings that your church heavily emphasizes, make sure the same topics are important to the youth experience your teens attend.
Does denomination matter to you?
Along with considering what the camp will be teaching, you should also think about the denomination the camp is associated with. If something like denomination matters to your leadership team, take it into consideration before deciding on a camp. Thinking about this before you make a decision will save you a lot of time and energy down the line.
If you're able to, and your leadership team is okay with it, looking at camps outside your church's denomination will give you more options. Again, we encourage you to do some research into what a camp is teaching, and if those teachings align with the values and truths your church holds.
Where do you want to go?
Even though the youth camp will stay within the perimeters of the campus, you should still consider the location when deciding which youth camp to attend.
We suggest going to a camp that's relatively close to where you live. The added travel days will add strain on you, sponsors, and the kids.
A closer camp also allows your teens to continue their relationships with the community of believers they get to know during camp. Even with social media, it can be difficult for them to cultivate the meaningful friendships they make during their time at camp. If you take your teens to a youth experience that's closer to home, they'll have an easier time maintaining these relationships throughout the school year.
How much do you want to spend?
No matter your price range or the budget of the youth group, you'll be able to find something that will fit your needs. But the price can be a significant factor in finding the right youth camp experience. There are experiences for every price range – it's only a matter of finding one that fits your budget.
Some camps offer scholarships or reduced registration costs. If you're looking for a cost-efficient experience, call the camps you're researching to see if they have these options available.
Do you want to work with the camp staff?
Even if a camp is all-inclusive, you'll still have to work with them throughout the week. Does their staff have the youth camp experience down to a science, or are they still working out some of the issues? Will you worry or focus on their problems, or will you be able to devote all your attention to your teens and what they need?
From the small interactions you've had, their online presence, and what you've heard from other youth ministers, is this camp ready to help your teens?
How long do you want to be gone?
When deciding on a youth camp experience, consider how long you want to be at camp. This might vary based on the age of kids you take. The younger kids in your youth group might not be ready for a whole week away from home. Consider a long weekend experience instead!
The personality of the kids in your youth group might also play a part in deciding the length of the camp you attend. Do you think the teens in your group can be around each other for a whole week without there being drama? Will everyone get along the entire time? If your group is on the less mature side, you might consider a shorter time away.
Is this an experience you want your teens to have year after year?
Think about what your teens need this summer and what will help them in the immediate future, but also consider if you want them to come back year after year. It's a good idea to think about the longevity of the camp. Researching a camp takes time and effort that you might not want to do every year. Think about if your teens will want to come back in the future and if they'll continue to learn from this camp, before investing a lot of time and energy into registering your kids and taking them there for the week.
Think about what your teens are going through, their stages of life, and what they need to learn about. Use the needs of your teens to lead you to the camp they'll get the most out of.
If you're having trouble deciding on a youth camp experience, talk to your team about it. Whether it's sponsors, adults involved in the teen ministry, or other youth ministers, asking a second opinion isn't going to hurt.
Most importantly, pray about it. If you can't decide which camp experience will be the best for your teens, leave that decision up to the only one who has all the answers.