I’m going to speak a bit candidly… There was a time in my neck of the woods where there were not enough spots at summer camp for everyone who wanted to go. This meshed nicely with the purpose and intent of YL camp, to introduce people to Jesus (and help them grow in their faith). There are lots of good reasons why kids who have already heard the gospel at camp may need to go back, and there are lots of good reasons why this is not a good idea, but when there simply are not enough spots, the situation is simple: you better have a good reason to go again. This may have included a leader vouching for a specific kid, a challenge thrown down by the leader such as bringing a certain number of kids to camp who have never been to camp, the student going as a junior leader, etc. Then there seemed to be a change, either there were empty beds at camp or weeks added to YL camps that were not filled, and/or, due to the economy, there were not as many kids who could afford camp (or could be fundraised for to go to camp), and there were now more spots available at camp. Also adding to the equation was the growth of Wyldlife.
All of this adds up to a story that I can tell you. Lots of times over the years I have been on the ropes course helping kids. One of the questions I ask pretty much every kid is, “have you ever been on a ropes course before?”, usually followed up by, “have you been to Wyldlife/Young Life camp before?” Last summer I was doing this at a Wyldlife camp and there were quite a few kids who would say, “This is my third time to Wyldlife summer camp, and I’ve been to all the weekend camps too, so this is my sixth time here.” Sometimes leaders were bringing their 5th graders to camp too. I’m sure this is not news to anyone who has been around for a while, and it is not only a WL issue, it continues on up to YL. On the other hand I have received a memo from another division because I was 1% over their second timer policy at a recent summer camp.
When I was in high school there was a girl at my club who was a lot of “drama”. This girl was loud, wild, created all kinds of problems and didn’t cooperate with anything at summer camp, including the cabin times and anything to do with the spiritual aspect. The following year, she wanted to go to summer camp again (funny how that happens huh?) The leaders got together and really did not think it was going to be a good idea to bring her again, so they threw down, what they thought, was an unreachable goal. They told her she could not go to camp unless she brought 15 people who had never been to church or YL camp. Guess what? You know the answer. She did. And she met the Lord. And she now has a wonderful Christian family and many of her friends met the Lord too.
I have friends that are doing a great job with “rites of passage” and other approaches to successive and sequential camping plans. But I am interested to know what works for you. In our area we are taking another look at our second timer policy for this summer. I am specifically interested in what you do with second, or perhaps third timers, at summer camp. What do you do with campaigner kids? What do you do with kids who do not yet know the Lord? Do you have a plan? Do you use the national policy or a variation of it? Does it work? Is it enforced? What have you learned? I am aware of the official policy and the second timer training manual (which is from 2001 I believe).
Thank you in advance for your help! (Also feel free to email me if that works better… s mcgever at gmail.
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8 thoughts on “Effective Second Timer Policies”
The reality is, the kids in our area are so cynical of “camp” and afraid of going by themselves that we actually need the second timers to convince them it’s legit by going themselves again. So our hope is to make it more difficult for 2nd timers to go, and when they still sign up it show the others that it may be worthwhile. Our policy:
1st timers get $100 off by signing up before a certain date (beginning of March). 2nd timers have to either receive no discount or get 3 friends to sign up with them to receive the $100 off.
Does it work? I’m not sure, it’s the first time we’ve done it this way. The other years doing it other ways haven’t worked so well. We live in a lower income community, so the financial incentive is big for us (we’re charging $500 for camp- $400 after early sign up). We don’t let kids go a 3rd time, we point them in the direction of our backpacking trip and work crew.
The only time I am willing to bring a second timer to camp is if they have yet to make a commitment to Christ and/or partner with a leader to bring kids to camp (goal is 5 which is high for small town kids). I took an outspoken atheist kid a few years ago that qualified for both, but he couldn’t get any of his friends to go. It was a life changing trip for him. I dislike to see kids fail when they really try to sign up there friends. Directly overseeing ministry in a small town does help. The surrounding towns I oversee didn’t follow the guidelines last year, but they clearly know our area and regional expectations of 15% or less second timers. We very rarely give campership money to second timers unless they fundraise it themselves. Our trip is priced this year at $500 with actual costs over $700 per kid.
Don’t forge that YL offers several summer experiences for kids that have either been to camp previously or who might not necessarily be a good fit for a traditional camp…. Beyond Malibu is fantastic option and Expeditions can provide service/mission experiences serving Young Life in cross cultural settings here in the US and on every continent. It’s a great discipleship and outreach tool that many YL areas are utilizing more and more..
Michele, absolutely! I’ve done Beyond and other YL trips as well. I’ve never done an Expeditions trip but several churches in my area have gone and had a great time. Thanks for mentioning this!
In the Northwest we have 4 properties to go to, so we have a progression of camps for each age. However they’re all gospel outreach camps. So while they might be going to a new property, they’re hearing basically the same message.
I’d echo others sentiments that many kids need to hear the gospel more than once (stats stay the average person hears it 7 times before accepting it). I think the individual leader should make the call, as they know best where the kid is at spiritually, and whether another camp experience will be beneficial. If spots are limited, new kids come first, but we want to get every kid we know in front of the gospel as often as possible. Also with WyldLife, kids might have heard the gospel as 6th graders, and they’re in a completely different spot 2 or 4 years later.
Thank you all for the comments. I’ve also received a lot of email with feedback as well. I want to get more feedback and then I’ll likely write a post with some of the collected thoughts I’ve received (some will be anonymous). Thank you to all! Keep them coming!
I have taken 2nd timers to camp before and it has never turned out as good as I hoped. Sometimes okay experiences. Mostly bad. So we eliminated taking 2nd timers to camp and came up with a better camping strategy. We found that taking 2nd timers to camp by getting them to bring 5 friends was lazy on our part. We were relying too much on kids to do the ministry instead of empowering our Leaders to go chase after kids adn get them to camp. And we weren’t empowering our Campaigners enough before to tell their friends to go to camp just because they wanted to (instead of selfish gain of getting to go back). We also did away with taking freshmen to camp and created a Freshman Trip.
The results have been way better than we dreamed. Now we have Leaders who follow a class all the way through from Freshman Trip in 9th grade, summer camp in 10th or 11th, and Wilderness for 11th and 12th graders. More kids are meeting Christ and having a deeper walk than before. Kids are discipled. And now kids are going on Work Crew who need to be on Work Crew.
And the astounding thing is… we are actually bringing MORE kids to summer camp than when we were allowing 2nd timers to come and bring friends!
By delaying kids going to summer camp until after their 10th grade year it’s given them something to look forward to, and created “critical mass” for others to want to go as well.
Lastly, Wilderness Ranch is still a widely underutilized resource in our mission. You don’t have to be crazy athletic to do it. You just have to be willing. It’s like having Campaigners in the woods. The memories and adventures you experience are like nothing else you can find, and the friendships only grow deeper from there.
We don’t take second timers to camp, with the exception of WyldLife camp. Our progression is WL Camp, Sr High Outreach camp as freshmen, YL Adventures discipleship camp as sophomores, WL leader at camp as Jr’s, and Work Crew as seniors. Obviously, that progression doesn’t work in all situations, for example a jr who hasn’t been to sr high camp. We work with those kids but the key for us is not camp, it’s what’s happening outside of camp through campaigners and contact work.