How to Run Your Church Camp Effectively on a Budget

In a world filled with background noise and distractions, summer camps and retreats are a haven where disciples of all ages can unplug, unwind, and get closer to what really matters.

But keeping your ministry’s budget in line with your projected expenses can be difficult when money is tight for your church and you’re trying to run a summer camp.

It may seem like a challenging task, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. Want to know what’s even better? Everything you need may be in your wheelhouse already.

By leveraging your existing resources and doing just a little research, you can not only carry out your ministry’s mission but also bring people closer to each other and their faith.

Select the venue that’s just right for your group.

It’s important to secure a venue for a camp or retreat before you start mapping out plans for possible activities. In many cases, a site can either limit the type of fellowship activities you can do or open the door for more options.

When searching for a venue, ask the following questions:

  • Do the venue’s operators or owners understand your group’s needs, mission, and goals?
  • Apart from the space that your group would be renting, can the facility provide anything else, such as tables or chairs?
  • What other costs may be associated with using the facilities, such as criminal background checks or adequate liability insurance coverage?
  • Does the facility have the adequate space and layout to accommodate all of the activities you have in mind?
  • Does the site operator or owner offer any options to reduce costs?
  • If costs are an issue, is it possible for you to rent only a portion of the available space? This may require your group to share the site with other organizations or churches at the same time.
  • Is there an opportunity to partner with another church, nonprofit, or organization to have a joint event at the site, especially if they have similar goals and needs? This could not only reduce your costs but allow participants to socialize with new people.

Church groups often use the same venues for camps or retreats each year. If you have an existing relationship with site operators and owners, be sure to secure the necessary facilities as soon as possible. Before doing so, however, take stock of your group’s needs by considering these questions:

  • What kind of feedback have you received about the venue?
  • Does the venue provide a level of service that meets your group’s needs and expectations?
  • Does the venue have the infrastructure and capacity in place to support the scope of your group’s activities and any possible growth over time?
  • Have venue-related factors had an impact on your group, such as increased costs or compliance requirements? If so, how has the venue worked with you to solve these issues?
  • Use the answers to these questions to determine the next steps, and work with venue operators or owners to address any issues.

Compare camp insurance options.

A number of insurance options are available for camp operators, so it’s important to compare prices and coverage options. Certain policy options, such as property, liability, accident, and automobile, may be required by venue operators or owners, so be sure to cover all of your bases.

The type of insurance coverage you need will depend on your specific circumstances. For example, you may not need automobile coverage if participants provide their own transportation to and from a camp or retreat venue. Universities, meanwhile, generally require non-sponsored organizations to have a certain amount of liability coverage.

You also should collect medical insurance information from all participants, volunteers, and leaders. This can be done when they fill out their registration forms, or you can ask them to fill out a separate medical form to keep the information organized.

Ask campers to bring some supplies with them.

The cost of providing supplies for a retreat or camp can add up, whether it’s printer ink and paper or writing instruments.

You can pare down these expenses by asking participants to bring some items with them to the camp or retreat.

You could, for instance, send PDF copies of reading materials to participants so they can print them at home to bring to the camp or retreat. You can also ask participants to provide pens, pencils, notebooks, erasers, or markers for group discussions and activities.

Tap into your church’s volunteer network.

Send out written announcements — and make verbal ones, too — in the months and weeks leading up to the camp or retreat. This helps you drum up interest and support for the event.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Youth and adult leaders, for instance, may be willing to serve as volunteers, facilitators, or chaperones.

Even if people cannot attend, they may want to help with any possible preparations, provide transportation, or donate supplies or food to offset possible expenses.

Collect information from participants and archive it for reference.
After you’ve created and sent out all the forms for your retreat or camp, keep all of the collected information handy in a safe place. This will not only help if something arises during the event but also serve as a starting point for future outreach efforts.

Don’t forget to follow up after everyone goes home.

Once it’s time for everyone to return home, you may be thinking about next year’s camp already. Although it’s wise to think ahead, you should also follow up on the camp or retreat that just ended by collecting feedback.

What did people think about the activities? How could they be better? How was the overall experience? Would participants come back to the camp or retreat again, given the chance?

You won’t know unless you ask.

Summer camps or retreats are relaxing environments for participants to engage in deep reflections and introspection. With these six tips, your church group can focus on creating memories and having an enriching spiritual experience.

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