A Christian Camp Director in Ohio was struggling one year to find a creative way to find out how their programs were being received by their campers. A written survey would likely not be taken seriously and the challenge of constructing the proper questions was overwhelming.
He knew in his gut that there had been many young campers that had life changing experiences based on the chatter he’d overheard during the course of the summer and feedback he had received from staff, but this was not the qualitative feedback he was searching for. So he had an idea. What if he could get each camper to write a letter home explaining what the experience at his youth Christian camps was like, and what they thought was the most important lessons they learned. This was in the form of a pre-written template that had a few specific questions on it. The director, of course, had their parents consent for this and would share the letter with the parents. So he embarked on the campaign near the end of the term.
He had instructed the kids to turn their letters in to their camp leaders a few days before camp ended. Then, he and a few key members reviewed the letters and noted in summary fashion the results of the exercise.
There were the occasional complaints about food (not quality, but the “forced” vegetable and fruit regimens), but most letters took on a very positive outlook. Most of them cited that they started new friendships and especially close ones. Many spoke of becoming closer to God through the many activities in the natural settings of camp, and the programs and exercises that focused on reflection, study, and practice.
The most touching however came from those that shared their personal stories about gaining a new and stronger relationship with Christ. One young lady in particular talked about how camp taught her to ask Christ for strength and to take on her burdens while her mother fought breast cancer. She felt a renewed sense of hope and acceptance at the same time that if she trusted the Lord, she could make it through anything.
The letters from the youth Christian camps affirmed that when you provide a safe environment and encourage kids through challenging programs in both team and individual realms in a natural setting, good things will happen. That is all they needed to know.