Prepping our campers for camp often starts with the basics: Where are the trunks? Who needs new swimsuits? Do anyone’s shorts or Chacos still fit? In the feverish pace of spring, we can (understandably) forget to help our kids prepare for the deeper, meaningful currents of their camp experiences.

How can families be intentional in our camp preparation for those formational experiences? How can we encourage openness in our campers?

LLYC Echo Valley Directors, Tom Bowyer and Karla Heath, offer genuine insight and encouragement.  

Tom says, “I hope this kind of preparation is the absolute opposite of a to-do list and instead just an invitation for campers (and their families) to lean into all the best parts of camp.” Tom encourages parents to simply begin cracking the door early for conversation with their campers. “There is such value in giving our kids permission and space to share whatever is on their mind or heart—questions, hopes, concerns, reflections on what they came away with last year.” Simple conversation, says Tom,  “is a great opportunity for families to practice the nuance of dropping expectations about camp and replacing them with hopes.”

Karla agrees wholeheartedly, “When we establish an early, open line of communication about camp, we can help our camper reframe any expectations they may have into hopes. And at the same time, we’re helping them learn how to engage in good conversation—both at camp and at home.”

“Give your kids permission and space to share whatever is on their mind or heart—questions, hopes, concerns, reflections.”

Tom Bowyer

It’s natural for campers to be asking questions like “What cabin? What activities? What counselors?”

But the questions don’t have to stop there. Karla and Tom offer up some simple questions that families can use to foster deeper reflection as campers prepare for the summer:

  • Who are you most excited to see at camp?
  • Is there anything new that you would like to learn about this year?
  • When you think about camp, what makes you the most excited?
  • Are there things you’ve been wondering or thinking about God that you would like to talk about at camp?
  • Are there things about this year you’ve been hoping to talk with someone about?
  • What feels unique or different about the people you experience at LLYC? Is there anything that sets them apart?
  • What are some of your favorite downtimes at camp?
  • Are there unique or special ways you feel accepted or celebrated at camp? What are some ways you’ve seen other campers have that experience?

“Tell me more” is a great follow up to any of these questions.

Hopeful, open-ended questions help lay the groundwork for deeper thinking and conversation—even if that conversation takes place at another time. If your camper doesn’t have an answer for you, that is okay.

“Pray for your camper’s experience. Pray for your camper’s openness to engage in camp. Pray for your camper’s heart to be open to God.”

Karla Heath

“At camp, we deliberately create plenty of unstructured time in our schedule,” Tom explains. “This is very intentional—to allow plenty of space for campers to think, while also cultivating healthy, restful rhythms we hope they will carry with them beyond camp.”

Karla offers one final encouragement for families as they prepare to send a camper to LLYC: “Pray. Pray for your camper’s experience. Pray for your camper’s openness to engage in camp. Pray for your camper’s heart to be open to God. Pray for your camper’s counselors and cabin mates. Pray for programming and Staff. Pray.”

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