We spend months hyping our summer camp experience and trying to get students to sign up. There are countless hours put into planning and executing the best experience possible. Then… we often drop the ball on followup. Here are some practical methods that I have used to remind students of what happened at camp and to reinforce those positive spiritual experiences to fuel their faith journeys moving forward.
1. Take Notes for Your Students
When we are in main sessions at any camp or retreat, I take notes of the messages. Each night, I quickly type up the key points or takeaways from that day’s messages and add them to a doc. When we get back home, I send out a few pages to remind students of what we covered. That impactful verse or illustration may jog their memory about the week. You can also use these notes as a springboard to write an after the event devotional for your ministry.
2. Neat Things
I totally stole this idea from my childhood youth minister, Ron Bull (aren’t the best ideas the ones you rip off?). It impacted me growing up, so I carried on the tradition in my own group. In your group’s evening youth group or small group time, make a list of everyone’s favorite part of each day. This can be where they saw God, what they learned, or just a great memory. Our rules are: try to capture your memory in 2-3 words, it must be a story that is appropriate if your grandma looked at the list, and no inside jokes — everything on the list has to explained to the group.
This may look like lists of names and random phrases to the untrained eye, but some students squirrel these away like mini time capsules over the years.
3. Encouragement Papers
Before you go to camp, print out a paper for each student with their name in large font in the center. On the last night of camp, have small groups sit together and have the leaders pass out their paper to each student. Explain that you are going to take time to encourage one another. Have everyone pass their paper to the right, and write an encouraging note to the person whose name is on the page. Keep rotating around until everyone has written on each paper. When the papers circle back around to the owner, take time to let them read what the rest of the group appreciates and admires about them. You can either let them keep the papers that night or collect them and send them out a few months later when you think they need a shot of encouragement.
Note: Some groups may need a pep talk on what is appropriate/inappropriate before this exercise begins. It’d be terrible to have a paper full of kindness with some pop off statement snuck in.
4. Photo Albums
Parents LOVE pictures. Here are a couple of ways I make photos available after the trip:
- I create a google drive folder with our group’s best pictures. This gives parents high quality pics for graduation slideshows instead of making them screenshot whatever ends up in the recap video.
- Oftentimes, I create an 8×8 Shutterfly album from our trip. I love photo albums and rely on them to keep my memories straight about what we did each year and who was in each graduating class. Creating an album only takes a few hours and parents love them. Shutterfly lets you share a link to the album where parents can go in, view, and even buy the album without ever interacting with you. It’s a completely independent sale. Shutterfly often has promo codes for free 8×8 albums so you’ll be a rockstar if you include one of those sale codes and provide a parent with the opportunity to buy an album from their student’s camp experience for the price of shipping! Your student then has a reminder of that experience on their shelf (so sneak in those spiritual takeaways!).
Note: Make sure you have a photo release that covers these suggestions.
Trip followup isn’t a science. Most ministries are forever reinventing what works for their culture. However, if we spend months leading up to a trip then just drop the now what aspect we are missing the mark. See if you can add one of these ideas to your post camp celebration this year!
Allison has been in full-time ministry for 14 years. She loves the pastoral care aspect of ministry and seeks out ways to shepherd and encourage students and youth workers. Her current ministry is crib-to-college. In her free time, Allison loves reading, taking barre classes, and cooking. Connect with her on twitter: @allisoneliza