Amidst the multiple and varied ministries, properties and programs that make up The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory, 10 summer camps feature prominently. Passionately loved by children, young-adult staff and older alumni alike, they often serve as rallying points for divisional life.
And at this time of year they are all looking for staff, from earnest teenagers in the dining hall, kitchen and maintenance operations, to counselors, lifeguards and program specialists working with children. Staff will often come from several countries and numerous denominational backgrounds. Yes, our summer camp staff are international and ecumenical.
Know anyone who might fit the bill? This could be a life-changing summer, packed with unforgettable memories. Untold numbers of campers and staff over the years reliably say so.
Starting around 100 years ago as part of a broader national cultural movement, ‘fresh air camps’ aimed to provide children with a means to connect with the great outdoors, and maybe city children especially. The historical records note that campers were often weighed on the first and last days of camp, with weight gain the expected healthy outcome.
The Salvation Army quickly evolved into a leading contributor in the field with well-planned and resourced American Camping Association (ACA) accredited summer camps. This has only strengthened over succeeding decades. Our summer camps are some of the best in the nation.
The USA Eastern territory has 10 summer camps that hosted over 5,000 children last year and hired 650 summer staff. Territorial Youth Leaders, Majors Jason and Leslie Knaggs say: ‘There is not another program in the Salvation Army that impacts the life of children and youth more than our summer camps.’
The mission effectiveness of the summer camp ministry is, in some way, unparalleled. The sheer number of hours per day that staff can interact with children in a variety of settings makes for quite remarkable potential to impact them for good. A summer at camp is equivalent to a year of student teaching practice in terms of child engagement according to one estimate. So this is not for the faint of heart. But what sheer fun and adventure.
A final word, USA East summer camps have developed the quite astounding ‘Jesus Theater’ program in recent years, through drama, dance and creative choreography depicting the gospel story. And, children regularly respond in significantly large numbers to follow Christ. Jesus Theater is one of the most evangelistically effective strategies in Salvation Army outreach.
So, three cheers for camp. Sign up, step up, show up. Hoorah!