Never Give Up!


Without question my favorite mantra in life is, “Never Give Up!”  As I wrote my book, Be All You Could Be, this theme permeated every chapter.  As I consult with other camps who are struggling and needing direction, “never give up” is my main advice.

I have been at my current job for 30 years.  I am a camp-lifer.  I signed up in 1985 with a small, new camp in central Iowa.  We had no money, we had a mortgage on the property, and the camp had little to offer compared to other camps in our state: they were established and doing well.  We struggled to generate enough business to pay the bills.

However, I fast-forwarded the movie; I saw how I wanted the movie to end; I knew what I wanted the camp to become.  I began to take little steps towards creating a camp.  Over 30 years many little steps grew into miles and miles.  From one building, we now have over 70 and we are still building and developing the programing and enhancing our ministry.

Have I stumbled?  Almost every year!  Have I been discouraged and weary?  Almost every year.  Do I face setbacks and disappointments?  Almost every month!  But I persist on!

I sat next to a high school girl during a recent potluck at our church.  I engaged her in conversation; asking her detailed questions about school, future plans and her perspective on her schooling.  I asked, “What are you learning?  Do you know what you are going to do with what you are learning?”  She had no clue what I was getting at.  I then asked her, “Do you want to be learning something new when you are 60 like me?”  I only received a blank stare as an answer.

Professionally, I read several blogs nearly every morning.  See attached links to two of my favorites.  I read about 40 leadership books a year.  I read from other disciplines as well. I just finished the biography of Benjamin Franklin and am now reading Evolution 2.0.  Reading and learning something new creates energy and helps generate persistence.

If you are involved in a ministry, be assured you will have dry times.  Times when you think your work is not being appreciated and your heart, mind and body are weary.  Don’t quit.  Stop looking in the mirror and start looking out the window.  Stop and read a book about someone else who has overcome adversity and dissensions.  I love what Henry Cloud writes in his book, 9 Things a Leader Must Do: ” Successful leaders do not make decisions based on the fear of other people’s reaction; successful leaders decide to do what is right first and deal with the fallout second.”  Read a book about someone who had to make hard decisions and who stayed the course regardless the pushback from those around them.

It is now September: summer camp is over.  The rush of ministry and plans and programs have slowed down to a manageable degree.  It is time to build up, have time to think and dream of next year, and be encouraged by reading and learning something new.

Maintaining a Camp Culture


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.