Christian Camp and Conference Center Association Super Sectional – 2017

We headed up to Bonclarken this past Monday-Wednesday to attend the Carolina and Virginia section’s annual Christian Camp and Conference Association (3CA) conference. It’s always a great time to get away and meet with other camps to share ideas and improve ourselves. This year is what we call a “super sectional” because we also had Georgia, Florida, and  Tennessee join us this year, so we had a lot of opportunities to get together with other camps that we don’t normally see.

For me, it’s one of my favorite times of the year, because it’s so refreshing and encouraging to meet with people who do the same things I do and face some of the same obstacles. It’s also a great place to learn from other people that have been doing this for many more years than you have and see how they’ve handled things that you’re facing now or will soon. All of it is done in the spirit of helping each other better their camps and each other, so I tend to go away with renewed fervor.

On Monday, we went to a 5 hour seminar put on by MinistrySafe to help ensure that camps are doing their very best to prevent any potential sexual assault. Everything from effective screening prior for staff before they even set foot on the property, to policies and practices to prevent any assault, to recognizing and analyzing risky behavior and proper actions. Prior to this, me and Caleb Myers, our Camp Director, went through another similar training through Darkness to Light, which prompted us to schedule similar training for both the rest of our full time staff, as well as for our upcoming staff training. We’ve always done training in this before, but we felt it was important to better equip our staff further going forward. It’s always a solemn and jarring topic, but not one that should ever be ignored. Whenever kids are on our property we want to make sure that we’ve done all we can to ensure their safety, and that parents can feel comfortable leaving their kids with us.

That conference continued a few hour later where everyone got together for the main session taught by Matt Orth, who did a great job throughout the conference. Very engaging and solid teaching. The music was fantastic too, but I suppose that’s what you get when probably half of the group that’s there is involved in leading music in one way or another.

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The meat of the conference though, I think, is interacting with the other camps that attend. Each seminar is put on by the camps that attend to try to share what they’ve been doing and what’s worked for them. The sessions can be anything from risk management, to developing environmental education centers, to food service and hospitality, to technical tree climbing.

There’s generally something there for everyone during each of the scheduled seminars. So I went to a seminar about breaking boards with your hands and how to use that to debrief and dig a little deeper after a series of message and introspection.  Maybe that sounds strange at first, but there may be something to it. If I end up incorporating it later, I’ll go into more detail.

I also went to the environment education seminar, and we discussed how we could each use our camp’s natural features to reach out to new groups that may not have come otherwise. We already do a little bit of that, but in the future I’d like to further develop what we have and create solid lesson plans so that we can reach out to the public school around us. We may be limited in what we can say, but bringing kids out to camp at least exposes them to what we have to offer so that they may want to come back in the summer.

During the conference we also get together to informally talk about specific areas that we work with. The discussions can be pretty broad because there’s varying levels of experience. In my session we discussed how to plan for your curriculum, so we talked about how we decide on our curriculum, theme cycling, the place of activities and in what ways they can be effective, how experiential learning can be a very powerful tool, and what resources for ideas and how to improve our programs.

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There’s also a bit of free time built in in the afternoon so that you can meet and talk to other staff or just rest and relax. We took advantage of Bonclarken’s Disc-golf course for the better part of an afternoon and walked around their property, even though it was a bit overcast.

 

I also tried out the technical tree climbing in afternoon before the session. I had attended the session a few years ago but never got a chance to try it out. It was pretty fun and not that expensive to start, so I may consider it in the future if I can find a good location and tree. Essentially, it boils down to ropes on the upper limbs of the tree and then using a series of knots designed to let you inch up the rope until you’re able to walk around on some of the lower limbs. They say that for theirs they sometimes put hammocks up in the trees, and the kids love just walking around.

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During the conference we also have a vendor hall, so it’s a nice place to just walk around and get ideas. Obviously they’re trying to sell you on their products, but it’s still a good place to get ideas and maybe find something that’s better than what you’re currently using for a service.

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Overall, I love going to these. I made a bunch of new contacts got a ton of great ideas for the future.

Be sure to check back here for future updates. Maybe I’ll be using some of the things I learned at this conference. And as always, if you’re interested in what events we have upcoming at camp, check out our website at hickorycove.org.

 

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