We’ve said it often because it is how we think at Lake Ann Camp. The goal of parenting is not to raise children, but rather adults who can be productive members of society and can impact their world for Jesus Christ. Victoria Prooday hit on some key components in this process and I would like to springboard off of her ideas. Lake Ann Camp has been successful at coming alongside parents in the process of raising children. We love watching our campers grow up to be productive members of society and their churches.
1). Technology is limited at camp
We allow campers to have cell phones for one purpose and one alone and that is to connect with their parents. Parents are a higher authority than the camp and we support that relationship. If a camper is constantly on their phone for social media or to connect with friends back home it will be either taken away or allowed on a limited scale under supervision of the counselor. Camp is about connections with real people in real time doing real activities together.
2). Train delayed gratification
I first arrived at Lake Ann Camp in 1986. We had 750 Juniors, 250 Junior Highers, and 68 Senior High campers in the summer. Executive Administrator, Eldon Brock told me, I think the problem is that we are not age-graded. When campers come back as older campers they do the same things they did in junior camp. That started the pathway that led us to where we are today with over half of our campers being senior higher’s.
Along the way there was a lot of delayed gratification. Each program is developmentally designed to meet the age characteristics of each age level. With that, there are activities you cannot do until you reach the next age level. Like the blob for instance. It is off limits to juniors and jump starters get to use it once on Friday. When you get to junior high or senior high you have it every time you go to the waterfront. Part of the limitations take into consideration the limitations of the age level and part of it is to simply to give campers something to look forward to in their development. I wouldn’t even let my own children do things like the climbing wall until they were at camp as campers (not their favorite by the way).
3). Provide limits as limits help students to grow happy and healthy
I heard on the radio this week that a Traverse City school is allowing students to have open seating options. If students want to sit at a desk they can, if they want to sit on the floor they can, if they want to sit in the corner with a blanket that is fine as well. “We find that students learn best when they can choose their own seating arrangements” was the comment made.
Honestly, I don’t know a camp in the country that provides more structure than Lake Ann Camp. Why, this comes partly from my own camping experience as a kid. We had chapel all morning and free time all afternoon. I even created games that got a lot of bored campers involved. I don’t want campers to be bored, more than that I want to stimulate real connections between campers. Activities have always been carefully chosen to peak the mind and create meaningful interaction. Oh and we have rest time, not the favorite of junior campers but relished by high school students. Bedtimes are also not an option. In the end, well planned structure makes for Happy Campers!
4). Monotonous work from early years is foundational for future “workability”
There are many illustrations of this in the camp world at Lake Ann but let me talk about the challenge course for one. The challenge course is a series of group problem solving activities that can only be solved when a group interacts with each other and then cooperates to finish a task. Each activity has a goal, a task and rules. Some tasks are very challenging and failure is inevitable if the group does not “put their minds to it”. The comment will be, “this is boring”. It is not so much that it is boring but that the group has not or is not capable of cooperating with each other. Interesting enough, when a group tackles the challenge and succeeds you would think they won the World Series. The pent-up emotion of tedium has given way to “we did it”.
The counselor is trained, from the beginning, that this is the group’s problem and not the counselor’s so no help is given to solve the problem as that is the group’s opportunity for growth. The counselor then facilitates a discussion on how what was learned about trust, cooperation and effective communication can make campers a better member of their family, church or society. It is powerful to see this in action.
5). Teach Social Skills
A leading Fortune 500 consultant has said that “sleep overs” are one of the most important activities a child can do in their childhood years. His reason may surprise you. He says that kids are brutally honest with each other. Parents want their kids to have a strong self-esteem so they look for ways to support and encourage their children, even if that means telling them they did well when they really don’t have a particular skill in life. Friends, however, will tell it like it is ”that stinks” or “you’re not very good at that”.
The truth is, we are not all good at everything and childhood is an opportunity to learn what we do well and what we don’t. Putting campers in a cabin with people they don’t know helps them to get in touch with reality. Trained counselors can temper negative discussions but in the end we grow through hardy counsel. By the way, we are very strong on not having more than one or two friends in a cabin. This provides campers an opportunity to expand in areas their friends may not be ready for them to expand in like leadership. Groups tend to notch each other into categories and we get stuck believing those are true. New groups don’t have preconceived ideas and the members of those groups are then free to experiment and learn new skills. It is a beautiful thing!
Changing cultural norms is hard but that doesn’t mean it is not appropriate. For 70 years Lake Ann Camp has been perfecting its ability to get deep into the hearts of its campers. We are thankful for every church and every pastor who gives us an opportunity to share in their responsibility to raise up a godly heritage in the next generation. Our heart is to continue to help in the raising of adults for generations to come.