Youth Camp Transformed by Staff Focusing on ‘Why?’

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Leading up to the 2016 summer season, the A/U Ranches management team prayed deeply about how to improve camper engagement by more clearly communicating staff expectations. “We wanted to help the staff clearly focus on what is most important about camp,” explains the Ranch director, Alison Peticolas.

The first step was to start with the “why” of camp – Cap Andrews’ reason for starting Adventure Unlimited: “to help [youth] appreciate God, and to be willing to turn to Him in prayer.”

The second step was for the summer management team to help staff understand what was expected of them and – importantly – for staff to participate in identifying and articulating the behaviors that matched those expectations.

What happened next was the result of that prayer, Alison says. Using the ideas from a brainstorming session that the entire staff participated in, a matrix was created that served as the basis for staff evaluations. Every word of the matrix was reviewed, revised, and ultimately accepted by each staff member, until everyone was clear on why they were at camp.

“It wasn’t about the staff, it was about the campers,” says Brooke Engel, a counselor at Sky Valley Ranch, which serves campers in second through eighth grade. “Having something so in-depth allowed for staff members to hold each other accountable throughout the summer. That’s the only way a shift as monumental as this would work – was if we all bought in. It came down to having divinely inspired expectations and striving towards meeting or exceeding them as a group, rather than individually. It was more than being your own best staff member. It was about being the best collective staff for the campers and guests.”

Those campers felt the difference. “We’ve had several parents tell us that their kids enjoyed their best summer ever at camp,” Alison says. “We’re excited to revisit the matrix this summer to see how it can be authentic and meaningful for our new staff.”

Was camp an important part of your life? Tell us about it by emailing [email protected].


Expectations outlined for A/U Ranches summer staff

An Adventure Unlimited staff member…

  1. Is an engaged student of Christian Science
  2. Is an effective community member
  3. Provides a quality camp experience

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