Two years ago, I experienced something new in youth ministry. I stood on the curb in front of the church, waving goodbye as our oldest headed to weeklong summer camp for the first time. I was not on the bus. I was a parent who was left behind, unable to take the time away from my work at the Fuller Youth Institute and my remaining children to go myself.

Recently, I was standing on the church’s curb again, but this time I was waving at two buses as our two oldest went to camp.

Based on what our church has done to support families in the midst of camp, or what I wish they would have done, I have some ideas for how parents and youth ministries could better partner for more long-term results in camps. No one youth ministry can do all of these ideas, but I’m guessing most could add one or two of these ideas to the camp experience. Not only would these ideas increase the fruit from camp, they would likely generate good will and a sense of partnership with parents that would last for months to come:

  1. Ideas on how to talk to my kid about camp beforehand.
  2. Special tips on how to prepare my kid ahead of time if it’s their first time gone from home for that long.
  3. Specific ways I can support my kid during camp such as sending care packages (please provide the address and the timeframe so I know when I should be mailing the packages), or giving them gifts or notes to open each day.
  4. Pictures! Pictures! Pictures! During the week, I’d love to see pictures of the kids.
  5. Ideas on how to pray during the week, ideally correlating with the content theme of the day.
  6. Some sort of daily update (via social media or a voice mail I could call into) that gives a few highlights and a sense of what God is doing.
  7. Questions I can ask my kid when they return.
  8. A summary of what themes and portions of Scripture were studied.

If you’re a parent, what else do you want at camp? If you’re a youth leader, how else have you tried to partner with parents at camp?