My travels are over for the Spring; I have visited nine different camps over the past seven weeks. I have seen and heard enough. My last trip was to Wisconsin for a regional Christian camping conference; 13 of us attended from Hidden Acres.
This last trip was different from the other trips; I was accompanied by many of our staff. They had a chance to watch another camp in operation; and they began to compare: “ We serve our food this way – I didn’t like how they served their food. We plow our snow off the sidewalks and roads – they left their snow on most trails and roads. Our office space is big and spacious as guest check into our office – their office was cramped and crowded. “
For me, observing another camp functioning is a bigger learning opportunity than sitting in seminars or hearing a chapel speaker: it forces staff to see and understand why we do certain things a certain way. It cements into their thoughts our culture and our system of “doing camp.”
However, I also reminded our staff, that certain camps have developed their own “particular” cultures to fit their own guest groups and their needs. Not all people who attend camps are “farm folk” from Iowa who have a tendency to be extra friendly and trusting. The camp we visited this past week was a teaching camp owned and operated by Wheaton College in the Chicago area; and Chicago is different from Dayton, Iowa. This was a great camp with a great reputation as a learning center and training grounds for students.
Consistent camp culture is usually developed and maintained by a leader who is willing to stay with an organization longer than a 3-5 year window. Culture is developed and maintained by leadership who remains resolved to stick with something through good and bad times – through fat and lean times – through smooth and rough sailing.
My takeaway from it all: Know your culture, teach your culture, live your culture, and build around your culture: but also to protect your culture, guard it from vacillations, and push back on those who wish to change your culture.