Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Camp OUTT 101

Due to my last post, I've had quite a few people asking me exactly what Camp OUTT is, and I find myself answering in a brief, concise way, as not to bore anyone (I love this thing so much that I could ramble on and on). But then my blog buddy Karen asked me to give a little detail, and it seemed as though the Lord was prompting me to share more about what a unique ministry it is, in case it would inspire anyone else to do something like this someday!

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 i
n 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
  • Lunch
  • 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.
As you can imagine, all the leaders play with the kids, talk to the kids, join in during craft time and reading time, making it a day when we really invest in being with and becoming friends with the kids. The leaders freely share Christ with the kids, and use the everyday circumstances to point them to Christ (you see how sin, forgiveness, etc. become a topic constantly in the midst of 30 kids).

*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)


Steph said...

Hey Gret
Thanks for the prayers - Mom is doing okay, I think yesterday morning we were all pretty scared but now things seem to be smoothing out.
THANKS for the link to Mr. Licht! HOW FUN!!! Now he can have students from all decades writing and bugging him!:) Seriously, I graduated in 1997 - I can't believe this graduation makes it 10 years ago...
WOW - I think that may deserve a blog! :)

Anonymous said...

Do you know when Camp OUTT is? My girls will really want to go. It might make for a great week for me too! hehe!


Anonymous said...

What a great ministry! A read-aloud book we've really enjoyed is Swift Arrow by Josephine Cunnington Edwards. It has a pioneer/Native American theme that may work with your cowboy camp. :)

Gretchen said...

Steph, I KNOW it! Too funny. It really is weird to think of 10 years! (so does that mean you'll be making the trek for alumni days?)

Brit -- hey, Camp OUTT will mainly be as an outreach for unchurched kids, but if we end up with extra spaces I'll let ya know. For now, we're saying no church kids (yet).

MR -- looked it up and it sounds GREAT! Thanks for the suggestion! I should have known you'd have one for me!

sara said...

Gretchen, Thank you so much for sharing that! It is amazing how just one little sentence can be so helpful...when you talked about giving a coin for "initiative" and then explaining why, I was so inspired to do this more with my kids. You are a genius with kids...and have such a spiritual, and character-building focus.

Since you have a good knowledge of books, kids, and homeschooling I want to pick your brain about something. I am thinking of writing a book about homeschooling (not from a professional "I know what I am doing" point of view, rather a "look what fun we are having learning how to do this" attitude). Anyway I was thinking of taking pics of the kids (and using pics I have) and going through our routine, etc. Sort of a scrapbook format...with applicable verses throughout, and even drawings from the kids. I would appreciate ANY input you have on this! You can email me at sara@mincymedia.com. Just if you have the time...it is not a rush thing.

Anonymous said...

Gret - that is a great idea! i'm thinking that this summer maybe I could do something like this with some of the kids from the neighborhood on Saturdays. hmm...

Anonymous said...

I honestly cannot wait!!
I thought I wouldn't get to do it either, but now I will be able to!
I get this weird sensation while I'm working each day at Camp Outt that my life really counts for something. This encourages me greatly in my goal for full-time ministry.
PS--My current myspace quote is, "Siblings who claim to get along all of the time are definitly hiding something."-Lemony Snicket..:)

Hindto said...

Thanks Gretchen for sharing! I have one more question (sorry!) I appreciate you taking time 'outt' of our busy schedule to answer all those questions!

How long does camp run? One week? The whole summer? How do you advertise for help? Do you gain help from the youth group? Is it kind of like 'bible school' w/o calling it that--yet all day long? Okay, thats 4 questions. No hurry to answer..just curious.
Thanks again for sharing my friend! I just LOVE this idea!

Hindto said...

That was 'your' busy schedule not 'our' DUH, me.

Gretchen said...


Yes, the first summer we ran Camp OUTT all summer, which is really ideal, because of the LONG term relationships that enables you to build. However, that was not a possibility last year or this year. We ran it for 3 weeks in 2006, and it will be just 2 weeks this year. Maybe next year we can go for a whole month at least, but it just wasn't possible this year because of my job.

As for help, we've always pretty much hand-picked our team out of people we most think would invest in the kids. It is good to have at least 2 or 3 adults. Last year, we had 3 full time adults, and then my husband and another girl's husband came over to do our Bible time every day. They led the singing, taught, everything. It was GREAT. One thing we didn't have to get ready for. As for teens, there is no perfect system of course, but I've found choosing your helper and inviting them personally is always a better option than a general cattle call. You also don't want TOO MANY teen helpers because they'll just hang out (a fear I have for this year -- love you guys if you read this!). You want specific assignments, etc. I didn't include a detail about the system that works really well -- the old divide and conquer philosophy. We divide the kids into teams of a variety of strengths, ages, and genders, and then you have small groups to work with. Also, you have a little bit of group identity by making up team names, colors, etc. You have ready made teams to play games, fulfill duties, etc. We also made it a contest -- which team earned the most points, so the kids would be proud of each other if they showed character.

LONG answers! Finally -- it is rather like an all-day Bible school, but we try to fit in time for teaching mostly one-on-one and during reading times, and small groups. We do have a time when we all gather to sing and have a Bible lesson, but most of the day is other stuff. Of course, we are constantly looking to teach them "as we walk in the way, as we lie down and rise up". Choosing the right books to read aloud does this well, and targeting kids in your group that seem spiritually open/searching to talk to during free time is good for this, too. But some kids just aren't ready, and so we just have to do our best to plant seeds.

Thanks for the questions!

Hindto said...

Thanks for all the info...not like you have lots of extra time to do that...but I really appreciate it!