The Words of the Sayre Family
2nd Generation Education - How To Start Your Own Summer Camp And Program
December 17, 1998
Over the last 4-5 years a group of parents have been learning, mostly by trial and error the ins and outs of imparting the theology, experience, wisdom and teaching of the Unification Principle to our children. In this article, I want to focus on very practical issues instead of a theological treatise or a Divine Principle oriented article relating to this time in the providence. These issues have been addressed by many more articulate and experienced than I. I hope these practical issues will be useful to others in thinking about starting their own programs and activities.
We began 4 years ago with nine families in tents at a run down camping resort. The cost per family was $35/family for the camping spot. Each family brought their own food and did their own cooking. We had three lecture groups 4 and 5 year olds, 6 and 7 year olds and 8 and up. There were crafts and quite a bit of time for kids and adults to socialize.
The next year we moved to a different camping resort, attracted around 14 families and had around 35 kids. This was still tent camping and only three days.
We decided to try a week long Youth Camp along with our Family Camp at this same resort the next summer. This resort had an old, large, but functional farm type building that could house 60-70 people. This workshop ended up having 54 kids from 4th-9th grade. The Family Camp had around 30 kids and 8-9 families.
Last year, 1998, we moved again to a State Park to use one of their campgrounds with cabins. This was a huge step. We ended up having 94 kids in two different lecture groups (one for 4th-sixth grades and another for 7th and up. The Family Camp had 14 families and around 50 kids. Their lectures were in two age groups as well. All in all we had around 200 people in this one area. It was an amazing experience.
Timing And Finding A Place
When I've talked to others about this the usual response is, well, you have a special talent at doing this. Or, how in the world did you get permission to do this? My response has been to question # 1, perhaps, but we have been learning as we go and anyway, we get a lot of good people involved and the burden is not too heavy on any one person. To question # 2, my answer has been, when did I need permission to teach my own children my faith? Inertia and lack of confidence is the biggest problem in getting things going.
One important issue in establishing a Summer Camp is finding a location. My rule of thumb is start one year in advance. Six months is the absolute minimum. It s important because you need as much time as possible to let people know what your plans are, do they can make theirs and get involved with you. Also, the best and cheapest facilities are booked up long in advance of the summer season.
Where should you look? Try camping resorts, your state department of environmental resources (the people who run your parks and campgrounds), the boy and girl scouts, churches and organizations like granges, volunteer fire companies and non-profit organizations like The Appalachian Mountain Club, the Sierra Club and the like. They often have facilities for rent or know of those that do.
In the past, our movement always purchased properties. This seems like the best idea, but I do not advocate this strategy. It is very expensive to maintain facilities, pay the full time staff, insurance and so on. Even the Girl Scouts with millions of members and vast resources have trouble maintaining their facilities. Our camp last summer cost a total of around $900 for a week. We had close to 200 people utilize it, so the cost was approx. $4.50/person for the week. When we were done, we cleaned up, turned in the keys and left. When there were problems, we called their maintenance people and it was their problem. This is definitely the way to go; unless the local church community can definitely afford the expense of it s own facility.
Our philosophy has been like casting a play. I am learning this from my wife, who is a drama major, worked in the NYC Theater, and now directs plays for the Middle School where we live. You first have to determine the types of parts or roles you need, define them and search for the best people you can find. The parts for the workshop are lecturer, coordinator/song leader and group leaders. For the Camp staff, you need someone overall to recruit people, make the financial plan and make sure everything works. You need a reliable person to plan the meals and you need a few people to pitch in to keep the place clean and just get things done. If the workshop is small, people can fill several roles, but it is very helpful, no matter what the size to have roles designated.
We began with a few other committed couples. I have often told people that our workshops are really only for my kids, I just need the others to round out the experience. This is not completely true, but what is true is that parents want what is best for their children. If you make it as easy as possible to get involved and send their kids, they will respond.
I never ask people, can you help. I try to ask them, do you think you could help organize sports for the workshop? Some people are willing and able to do pretty much anything; others are only comfortable in specific roles.
We had 26 adult staff for 94 kids last summer. The workshop people needed more people, while the Camp staff was fine. Two people per group should be what you are trying to get.
In recruiting, I respect no geographic territory or church organization or structure. We have had people from Minnesota to Maine on our staff. We began with people we knew who had the following characteristics: they had experience in the area we wanted them to help in, i.e., lecturers, cooks, song leaders, etc. They are reliable people, when they say they will do something, they will do it. They often do not have an essential or providential role in the movement. Why this one? Well, we needed people who would be available to us, no matter what. Church leaders have so many responsibilities and commitments; they are often unable to fulfill their roles. Not that there heart is not there; they just have a lot on their plates.
As one sister shared with me, I need someone who, if True Parents arrived at the exact moment they were leaving for Camp would say to them, here are the keys, help yourself to what's in the fridge, I'm off to Camp and will be back in a week. I think Father would smile and send them on their way.
Our experience has also been that if you get parents to organize the Summer Camps and let the leaders participate as they can, they are very happy to have the opportunity and often do something.
Costs And Making The Financial Plan
Our thinking is to make this as cheap as possible. There is no paid staff of any kind and no long-term commitments in terms of buildings, etc. Food typically costs $3.00/day/person. Add another $15/person (not per day -- for the entire workshop) for songbooks, crafts and miscellaneous stuff and you have everything except the cost of your facility. These are the essentials.
It is vital to keep the workshop as affordable as possible and to give families 3-6 months notice of when it will occur so they can make financial plans well in advance. It is also important that you get a commitment from people in terms of a deposit, early on so you can make the necessary plans. People appreciate advance planning and well-organized activities. When you provide this, they are happy to spend the money to send their children.
We also use incentive to recruit staff. The basic offer is that for every parent who volunteers as a full-time staff person, one of their children can attend free. There is no cost to the parent as well. We have also offered discounts for children from the same family. This allows siblings to attend, which is good as well.
Anytime you get a group of kids together, they will want to wander off, seek adventure and they are not experienced enough to recognize a dangerous situation when they encounter it. The older the kids the more this is true. Teens feel invincible and can show remarkable bad judgement in this area. The number one hazard is water. No swimming alone and no swimming without a lifeguard present. This is an absolute rule. Getting lost is a problem as well. This is why groups with enough adults and leaders are essential. We provide each group leader with a whistle, and instruct every adult to think and act as if of each child is his or she own. They have the right to call kids on stupid and dangerous activities. Poison ivy can be a problem as can bee stings, but these can be treated. We have never had more than a bee sting and a few skinned knees or elbows.
Size -- How Big Is Too Big?
Bigger is very often not better. It is important to focus on providing a quality experience for every child. I think that 90-100 kids in any one workshop are as big as any should be. Larger than that and there is too much herding of kids involved and the logistics tend to rule the day, instead of inspiration and spirit.
Curriculum And Teaching Goals
We stick with the basics here. For kids up until the sixth grade, we stick with basic 2-3 day workshop material. For older kids, who have heard Divine Principle several times, more emphasis can be placed on prayer, life of faith, etc. If you find experienced lecturers, they will know what to do. We keep the lectures to a maximum of 45 minutes and have no more than 3 per day. Our goal is to help the children experience the Divine Principle as their own, to take ownership and make decisions and commitments based upon their understanding of it. This is so much more powerful than just doing what Mom or Dad says.
Singing is very, very important. Kids really respond to singing, whether it is Holy Songs, old Dan Fefferman or Oakland songs, or Christian hymns. I would say, there is never enough singing.
Our Kids Perspective
Our children did not quit school, roar around the country on campaigns, fundraising, living with people from all over the world. Yankee Stadium, MSG and Washington Monument are no more real to them than D-Day, Guadal Canal or The Battle of Gettysburg.
They live and function in two worlds. One is the world of school, their local neighborhoods and their relatives. These are comprised mostly of non-Unificationist s. The other world is the world of their parent s faith. They learn mostly by what their parents do and what they see other adults do.
We need to help them integrate these two worlds, to help them see the Divine Principle as a powerful tool for living a spiritual and productive life and to experience God s Heart and his love for them. They need to understand and make a commitment to these on their own.
It's essential that kids have lots of time for fun and socialization. We provide around 3 hours of structured activities such as crafts, hiking and sports as well as 1.5-2.0 hours of free time a day. In the evenings, we have campfires, with singing, prayer and other activities. We have had square dances as well, which the kids love, once they give it a try. Fun and varied activities are the key here.
Evening campfires and times for personal prayer provide the opportunity for our kids to connect directly to God. They do it much easier than you can imagine. I've seen lots of kids in tears, feeling God s Heart and his love for them.
For the Youth camp, we've found structured activities lasting around 3 hours on a rotating basis works best. For example a group might do crafts for an hour, then play sports and then swim. An hour or two after the activities, of free time allows kids to socialize, swim again, and just have fun. It also allows the staff to catch a nap, visit or get ready for the next activity.
Make It Fun For The Staff And Adults Also
Recruit enough staff, so the adults can have fun as well. They don t mind working hard, but they need inspiration, relaxation and fun like anyone else. Take care of the people who are taking care of the kids. We never have staff meetings later than 11 pm. They are counter-productive and you need people to be well rested during the day.
Making The Commitment
People often ask me, how can I make a commitment to something, when Rev. Moon, a leader or other providential activities might get in the way? What I've learned is that if I make the commitment to provide this for the Blessed Children, things work out. I was directly ordered by an elder one year to postpone the Camp because it was on the same day as an important speaking tour. He was worried about attendance and feeling lots of pressure. I did not cancel the Camp and did not make a big protest. When the time came, we took the older kids to the speech, had them act as ushers and they were able to attend a celebration afterward. For the kids, this was the highlight of the workshop. The leader was supported and we held our Camp. The lesson is God can do several things at once. Also remember that Church leaders are people like anyone else, they worry, suffer doubt but still try to offer their time and talent to God. Each of us can do the same.
Finally, I see the education of the 2nd Generation as fundamentally a parental role. Especially until they are out of High School. Kids also learn by what they see their parents doing. If their parents are involved in the workshops as well, this speaks much more loudly and clearly about the real priorities in there lives. Think about it
Spring 99 Blessed Children Camps Conference And Retreat
We are planning a retreat/conference in April or May to plan our own summer camps and to share with others the planning process and whatever else we can. This will occur at Hickory Run State Park or somewhere in East Central Pennsylvania. If you would like to attend this contact any of the people listed below.
For More Information
See www.bccamps.a9.org or e-mail Rob and Sally Sayre at email@example.com, Kyle and Cynthia Toffey at firstname.lastname@example.org or Robert and Kyoko Pickell at email@example.com.
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