“I wish I had an experience like Lake Ann Camp when I was a kid”. I have heard this many times in my years with Lake Ann. It resonates with me because I wish I had been challenged like Lake Ann challenges its campers. Not every camper will be an outstanding leader in their future, nor is that the goal of the camp. However, everyone has a sphere of influence. Some small and some great. The point is, how can we help campers to the best “them” in the sphere in which they live. Tomorrow’s leaders need a camp experience to learn how to lead today.
As a camp we take campers outside of the norm of their life. We offer opportunities that stretch them to expand their view of who they are and who they can become. How does this happen?
Challenging Cabin Leaders:
Chances are that the teachers/leaders that moved you forward in life weren’t the ones who were “easy” on you. They noticed when we were holding back and not giving our best effort. They challenged you to step it up.
At Lake Ann we teach counselors that the word facilitate comes from a root word that means to “make easy”. Counselors are taught to “ask the question that begs asking” with a goal of making learning hard to miss. This is the opposite of saying, “good job” when it really isn’t. It is more like, “at what point in that activity did you give your best effort?” Helping campers to step out of their comfort zone and into a “grown/groan zone.” This is an important step in helping them to take on other challenges when they get back home. It also gives them a genuine sense of satisfaction for a job well done.
Pass the Baton:
Beyond having a counselor that challenging campers outside of their comfort zone is the nee campers have to be placed in roles where they can try out their ability to lead. A camper can learn from sitting at a teacher’s feet but not nearly as much as taking actual steps of growth on under their guidance. Problem solving activities like the Challenge Course put campers in situations that are new and difficult to resolve without someone stepping up and leading the cabin forward.
For many students this is the first time that they have had a group of people depend on them for leadership. Small successes lead to the initiative to take on greater challenges. When a counselor doesn’t step in and rescue a young leader the baton is being passed for them to take their newly discovered skill to other areas of their life. Our counselors are trained to facilitate the activity and how what they learned realistically applies to life back home.
An Opportunity to Lead:
Society will always be changing and the methodologies of leadership may differ. But one thing that will not change are the qualities needed to lead will remain the same. Leaders will always need to be able to solve problems, leaders will always need to be able to inspire others and they will need to find new pathways to lead their people forward. Camping is a great tool to teach all of those qualities from a Biblical perspective. When a camper steps up in their cabin or on the challenge course, they are in many cases, seeing for the first time the effect of their influence in action. In turn, they are learning what it takes to make a difference in the world and what they learn will impact the paths they choose as they move forward in their leadership development.
In our intentional programming we start teaching leadership skills in Junior camp. Those who emerge will likely be given the opportunity to attend Reborne Rangers when they are in High School. Over the years many of our campers have been class officers or student body presidents in major universities. Today many of those campers are leading powerfully all over the world. It all began with a well chosen activity. A counselor then facilitated and put the cookies on the bottom shelf. They inspired the camper to play the movie forward into their lives back home. It’s a pretty cool and powerful privilege to do this week in and week out in our camper’s lives.