To begin with, Camp OUTT was my friend Misty's idea. She had spent the summer in Russia teaching English, and her young students followed her around from morning until night (even when not in class). She did way more than teach them English, she invested time in them, and saw how responsive they were to her when she was playing wiffle ball, watching movies, cooking, reading stories out loud or just hanging out with them. She had the idea that we try to recreate such a thing as an outreach from our church, and spend a whole summer with kids in the community -- running a daycamp, which provides a service many parents need anyway.
Our church in Illinois owns this ideal property that was formerly a putt-putt golf course. It is a huge fenced in park-like property which is just big enough to really feel like you are living in the great outdoors, but totally safe because of the fence. It has trees and a bit of a hill, a sand volleyball court, and a pavilion to eat in, as well as a small building with a kitchen, bathrooms and enough room to all sit down and read in the air-conditioning. So that is where we began Camp OUTT.
Here is a typical day:
- Kids arrive as early as 7:30. We jump rope, draw with chalk, play cards, and talk to the kids.
- Opening time -- announcements, active worship songs
- Bible lesson and small group application time
- Game time (capture the flag absolute FAV!)
- Small group reading time/morning snack (split up, take your group under a lovely tree and read from some wonderful chapter book and rest on a quilt together)
- Encouragement time* (points given to individuals/teams) and more singing
- Short time of free play before clean-up
- Inside whole group reading time -- we always read Narnia
- Craft time
- Surf 'n' Turf (fancy name for go put on your swim suit and play in the slip 'n' slide, wading pool, sprinklers, sand pit, hoses, etc.)
- Afternoon snack and more awards
- Maybe another round of game time (if desired)
- Free time and clean-up.
*Encouragement time is designed to award kids for showing character qualities throughout the day. For example: "I'd like to give a coin to Rebekah for showing initiative by gathering up all the wrappers after our snack this morning. She did it on her own without being asked" (that carries a bit more weight than just awarding kids for being "helpers"). Each leader keeps a chart of character qualities and their meanings on a clip board and writes names down through the day. Last year we had a pirate theme, so we awarded coins all day, and then one camper of the day would win the Pirate Medalian to wear around their neck (and keep). This year we are having a cowboy theme and the coins can be spent at the "General Store".
We do charge for Camp OUTT to cover costs and adult leaders are compensated with a sort of "thank you" check (not much but not nothing). Teen helpers are given camp scholarships, or another form of reimbursement (but not just straight up money -- you can't pay minors for child care).
That about wraps it up! I hope I didn't give so much info that it bored everyone, but I just get carried away because I love this ministry so much. The Lord has blessed us with fruit both summers we ran Camp OUTT, and we are praying for that again this year!
I'm taking suggestions for books to read aloud, active games that about 40 people can play, cowboyish snacks, etc. You can help with Camp OUTT by helping me with ideas!
Camp O.U.T.T. (opening up to truth)