The past two summers have been difficult for summer camps.
One of the struggles we face this year is the loss of many of our older, experienced staff. The uncertainties and shorter camp season has meant many of them have had to find other ways to fill the summer months and their bank accounts. Applications for our leadership staff positions have been slow to trickle in, and more encouragement and invitations have been necessary. But they are coming in!
I was especially struck this year in reading the answers to the questions: “Why do you want to work at camp?” and “What has motivated you to apply?” Some of these applicants have been challenged and exhausted by the difficulties of running summer camps during a pandemic. So why are they coming back? I noticed three main themes in their answers:
- Camp provides a unique and special community. Our staff find a community that is centred on faith, creation care, kindness and inclusion. The camp community is a safe place, a sanctuary, a place that feels like home.
- Camp provides a place to embody their faith. Not only does camp affirm their faith, it allows them to express it and develop it. Staff feel close to God and are given space to deepen their relationship with God. Working at camp also becomes a way to practise living out that faith tangibly and bodily.
- Camp provides a space in which to grow and develop as people and as leaders. Staff notice growth in who they are as people and in how they relate to others. They are able build on their strengths, as well as to identify and work at their weaknesses.
This personal and spiritual growth within a strong community gives our staff a sense of purpose and belonging, which they find beautifully fulfilling. And as someone whose job it is to hire these folks, these responses fill me with wonder, hope and joy as we look ahead to providing that community and growth for the younger staff and campers who will join us this summer. It also reminds me why I came back and continue to work for camp—because I, too, am embraced by an amazing community and am able to embody my faith and grow in so many ways.
Janet Peters is the program director for Camps with Meaning, the camping ministry of Mennonite Church Manitoba that operates camps Assiniboia and Koinonia.