Top Things We Want to Teach in Staff Training
By Aaron Miller
When planning for staff training, it can be daunting to determine what to include, what to emphasize, and what can be taught along the way during summer camp. At New Life Camp we have developed a ladder of priorities that we not only want our full-time staff to understand, but we also want our summer staff to know. When everything goes wrong and I can only focus on one thing, what is that one thing? And if I can manage more, what comes next? This ladder helps our staff navigate such decisions and we plan our staff training to reflect these priorities.
- Our first priority is safety. Crassly put, if we do this right, our campers could come back, if they want to, because they are still alive.
- Next is Love. Just because they can come back doesn’t mean they will. Beyond our facilities, our activities, and everything else, we feel our best bet to get campers to come back is that they know camp is a place where they are loved and accepted just as they are.
- Now we come to Gospel Immersion. This is the reason we want them to come back! We want every activity not to just have a spiritual component but, specifically, a Gospel component. But shouldn’t Gospel Immersion come first? Good question. If campers aren’t safe, parents will not send their kids here. If campers don’t know they are loved, they don’t care what we have to say about the Gospel. If Gospel Immersion is sowing seeds, we consider safety and love tilling the soil.
- Next up is Production Value – We want our presentations, from parent orientation to our night of worship, to be first class productions. We want them scripted, rehearsed, and ready. If it’s good, no one will notice. If it’s bad, it will distract from everything else. We want our music, visuals, and communications executed with precision. When we do this right, our job looks easy, if anyone notices us at all.
- Now we come to Details. Was the A/C turned on in time to cool the Dining Hall? Is the next activity set up before the campers get there? Are the bathrooms clean? Attention to details eliminates distractions.
- Next up is Exhilaration – Adventure, Experience, Belonging. These are the things that, if they occur on top of love, campers will not only come back, they’ll come back with their friends. Does our program encourage campers to try things they’ve never done before? Do we offer an experience they can’t get anywhere else? Do we foster an environment in each cabin where every camper feels like they belong in that cabin?
- Next we want to emphasize Equipping. We point out to our staff, if you don’t come back next year, there will still be someone else that will be getting campers to return because you took the time to replicate yourself. This includes walking alongside younger staff and being intentional with leaders in training.
- Lastly, we want to express, especially to our veteran staff, that there are always opportunities to exceed these expectations; to find things that are not on any job description or training and do them because they know it will make camp better. We make sure they understand that these things are additions to everything previous, not instead of them.
We want to reiterate to our staff, especially first-time staff, in their first week, if everything else falls apart, to make sure the campers are safe. Once you are ready for the next thing, make sure they are loved, and continue up the ladder. There are times during camp that there are so many things you “need” to do and you can’t do them all at once. We just want our staff to do the next thing. This ladder helps them determine what is that next thing.
Aaron Miller is the.Program Director and Director of Camps at New Life Camp. Aaron was a camper at New Life Camp. After a few years of serving on summer staff, he was asked to be the summer program director. At the end of that summer, he felt God’s call to apply as a full time missionary. He graduated from Tennessee Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, coming to serve full-time at camp in 2000. The activities Aaron began have transformed New Life Camp into a wonderful place for children all year long. Aaron has been coaching high school basketball for 10 years as well as running camps and sports leagues. Aaron is married to Laura and they have three children: Liam, Claira, and Grayson.