What is your philosophy of ministry for Summer Festival Camp?
Jesus is at the Center
We believe in encouraging students to walk closer to Jesus, wherever they are in their faith life. Whether it’s starting a relationship with Him for the first time or taking a big step in trusting Him more fully, Summer Festival Camp is designed with content and messages for all our students.
Building Healthy Relationships
Faith is meant to be lived out in community. Our camp focuses on helping students build a healthy relationship with an adult who will be in their life beyond a week of camp. Summer Festival does not employ camp counselors to counsel our campers all week. Instead, adults come from the church and experience the week with the student. We strive to equip these adults before and after camp to walk with teens in their faith lives.
In John 10:10, Christ came to give us life and life abundant. At Summer Festival Camp, we strive to take Him up on his offer. This means that camp is packed with a lot of fun and laughter. We love to play, we love to get messy, we love to jump up and down, we love to scream and we love to dance.
Can you accommodate my child’s food allergy of <fill in the blank>?
The great thing about camp being held on a college campus is that the cafeteria is very in tune with food allergies and provides lots of options. We read through the medical forms, pass on any pertinent information to the dining services crew and they make sure it is handled.
Will the campers be well supervised?
Totally. Churches bring 1 chaperone for every 8 students and we bring an additional 30 young adults to help us run Summer Festival. This makes for close to a 1:5 ratio. Students are given two hours of free time every day. This time is supervised by our young adults and includes all of the great activities a college campus has to offer: Swimming, playing frisbee on the quad, hanging out in a coffee shop. The rest of the day is fully programmed where students are in both big and small groups.
What kind of fun things will my students experience?
Every week of Summer Festival Camp is unique. So, although we never publish our exact schedules, we’ve got a lot of very common elements–large group games, a messy fight, a Saturday Night Live style skit night, swimming, an inflatable carnival and a dance, a rockin’ band to lead worship, dynamic speakers and honest small group time.
How in the world to you get all of these different denominations to play nice together?
We stick to stuff that most of us can agree on: The teachings of Jesus.
In addition, there is abundant small group time lead by a leader from the church, that helps frame things in any denominational lens. The world is a wild place, and we know outside of camp students encounter people of all walks of life, tradition and creeds. By giving them a safe place to be in community with those who have similar beliefs, but perhaps a little bit different, gives them the opportunity to learn to engage with others in a healthy way without compromising their strongly held beliefs.
I’d really like to have input on how your programing gets planned and how you pick your spiritual content?
Awesome! We’ve got a group for that, The Summer Festival Camp Advisory Team or the SF-CAT for short (Meow!). The group meets 2-3 times before camp and once after camp to make sure that Summer Festival lives up to the promise of being one of the premier youth events in the Midwest.
How do you handle medical emergencies?
The safety and health of the teenagers on our watch is a top priority. Our staff is first-aid trained, and handles most minor medical situations on site. However, if things are more serious, there is an urgent care and emergency room located less than 5 miles from camp. Whenever we take a student offsite, we call the parent or guardian listed on the registration form. If they are unreachable, then we call the emergency contact or follow early stage medical emergency protocol.
Summer Festival sounds perfect except for our group really needs <Blank> ?
Guess what. We’re not some giant organization that is bound by rules and policies. We’ve kept our organization small, so that we can be flexible in meeting those needs. Our mission is for teens to follow Jesus, so if there is something we can do in order to help facilitate that, we are probably game.
I have a teen that wants to come but they have a complicated life situation or have special needs?
We want them there. Let’s work on figuring out how to make the week a good one for them, for you and for us. Let’s set up a special meeting with the camp director to see if we can make it work.
How do you handle cell phones?
We allow them, unless the group leader wants to take them away. We also don’t allow them to be a distraction, so we will help students discounnect from what is going on online to focus on the importance during the week.
What is your code of conduct?
We’re not big on overcomplicating camp with unnecessary rules. We try and keep it simple: 1. Be where you are supposed to be on time. 2. Only be in the dorm you were assigned. 3. Be respectful. 4. Don’t be dumb. For the full code of conduct, Check it out here.
What kind of training does your staff get?
First, everyone must pass a national background check. Second, everyone receives training on sexual abuse prevention. Third, everyone is taught the basic camp philosophy of ministry and lastly everyone is trained on how to specifically succeed at their job during the week. For our leadership position we strongly look for people who have outside professional experience working with teenagers and other elements related to camp to ensure our camp leadership team is very experienced in the areas that they serve.
What are draws to Summer Festival Camp over a mission trip?
Mission Trips are about pouring out, camp is about pouring in. Both are important. We’ve found that a lot of churches are leaving about half of their students home – what are we doing for those students to hear about Jesus?
What makes you unique compared to other camps?
Pillar 1: Gospel Focused
The messages of camp are focused on helping students start or take the next step in their relationship with Jesus. We do this in two ways:
The first is through Club (Worship, Humor, Testimony, Powerful Speakers)
Messages that are developmentally appropriate.
Hire speakers who want to talk to JH and SH students.
Work with experts in their field to design programming that lands where students are at.
The second way is through small groups you lead with the teens from your church.
Pillar 2: Exceptional Programming – Conference Level Programming in a camp setting
Professional concert tech with lights, sound and video.
We give teens space to play and have fun in a creative way.
Not just a dance, but a Foam Dance!
A Crazy Messy Fight
Interesting group games like clue, where is waldo, predator prey, pokemon snap that intersect with technology, storytelling, and pop culture to create unforgettable moments.
Leadership track for students who are ready to take leadership.
Pillar 3: Our Camp Programming is setting you up for success in small group time all day long.
We believe that some of the most life changing moments come out of small group time. Every piece of programming at camp is set-up for you to build relationships with your campers and have really good small group time discussing the fun memorable parts and most importantly the interesting lessons of the day in your denominational lens.
Examples of how we do this:
Small Group Game night: A fun game night, early in the week focused on creating community and trust with you and your small group, outside of the small group time.
Skit Night: A night full of laughs and putting you as a counselor on stage so your teens can see that you have a sense of humor and are a real person. This night creates a common experience for everyone in the group using the power of laughter.
Three messages during the day. Two big group speakers and one breakout seminar, Creating several pathways for conversation about following Jesus during the small group time.
How does the week work?
We get a bunch of churches to send teens and caring adults who want to show Christ’s love to those teens at camp for a week. We bring them to a college campus and invade. 2-3 Campers bunk up in a dorm room, while adults get their own rooms right next to their campers. We eat campus food and enjoy the luxury of top-notch facilities.
Then we plan an intense week of incredible fun, great humor and programming designed to break down walls of teens, and build trust in their small groups. We also have a great band for music and worship, and a lot of great youth ministry toys.
Finally we give groups something worth talking about in those small groups. Each day is packed with two messages from a professional speaker who shares each morning and night on a theme that runs all week. Our seminars each day give students a chance to choose their own adventures.
How did Summer Festival camp get started?
We have roots in the original Young Life movement. Our founder, Philip Darby McDonald, was one of Jim Rayburn’s original disciples. After serving in young life for 25 years he went on to start a camp in the same tradition of the Gospel, fun and relationships for church teens.
As a youth leader, how much small group time do I get?
At least a solid hour after club, with an additional 30 mins after programming has ended. Meals are generally eaten with the group you came with and there will also be many times during the day where small groups band together for games and fun. In short, you get a lot of time together. However, if you need more than that, we can make that happen too.
What training and resources are available for me and my volunteers before camp?
Got some folks who are new to this? We’d love to come out and do a training session before camp. We also have a small book on being a counselor at Summer Festival.
What training and resources are on site for me and my volunteers at camp ?
We do one counselor meeting at night where we worship, pray, and receive information and helpful equipping. For first-time counselors there is a training on the first day led by seasoned head counselors, who will check-in regularly with rookies to coach them and pray for them all week. Head counselors and the camp director are there to make sure that it’s a great week for those adults too.
How do you handle major discipline, including incidents with drugs and alcohol?
These situations are very rare and most of this needs to be a case by case basis. If a camper’s safety is at risk we immediately inform local law enforcement and local medical personnel. If there is a less immediate threat, we take that student out of camp programming and contact the parents.
How do you handle minor discipline?
Discreetly. We try to never embarrass or frustrate a camper and then gently guide them on the right path.
How do you handle runaway or missing campers.
Again, this is very rare. First we make sure that the camper isn’t on campus and hasn’t simply fallen asleep. Once we confirm they are indeed missing, we inform parents and police and work with local law enforcement to locate them.
How do handle charismatic traditions like speaking in tongues, prophecy, being slayed in the spirit, and a word from the Lord.
We leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in an individual’s life. However, we don’t allow for traditions to clash with the overall experience of other campers who are not from that tradition. It’s not a huge problem at Summer Festival, but when it pops up at camp, the director navigates letting an individual experience their faith tradition without interrupting or ruining someone else’s experience
What is your sexual abuse prevention plan?
Contact us for a copy of our plan
Is there air condoning in the dorms?
Summer Festival’s camp fee structure doesn’t allow for us to pay for air-conditioned dorms. However, on rare occasions the campus has put us in air-conditioned dorms.
How about medication?
Our preferred way is to have students self dispense and have their counselor check in with them to make sure they are doing it properly. If a parent wants or needs an adult to do it, very simple special arrangements can be made.
I’d like my student to call home once a day?
We can make arrangements for that to happen
Can I send my camper mail? Can I send my camper email?
We stoped doing this because most of the mail got there after campers had gone home.
Who do I call if there an emergency back home?
Either the Camp Director, Assistant Camp Director or the group leader from your church.
Billy needs to go play in the Super Bowl championship game.
Not going to lie, we don’t love it. So much good stuff happens at camp, we’d hate for campers to miss a second of it. However, if it’s the difference between the student coming to camp and not, we can work with you on it. Verbal communication needs to be communicated to the camp director prior to camp to make this work.
What do you teach about homosexuality, abortion and other hot button topics?
We think these topics are super important. So important we don’t touch them at camp. They need to be tackled at home in students’ regularly-meeting faith community. We also find hot button topics normally become a barrier to people hearing the Gospel. People hearing about Jesus is our primary goal at Summer Festival Camp, so we remove that barrier and leave it to the parents, pastors and youth workers.
How do you handle other tough topics? (sex before marriage, the media, technology’s influence on us)
Whenever presenting a topic that might have multiple views – we take a liberal arts approach. e.g. “Here are some really interesting things to think about. I might believe them, do you? Why or Why Not?” We never force students to think a certain way nor do we try to manipulate them to subscribing to a certain set of beliefs. We only give them opportunities to consider. If you have ever seen the movie Jesus Camp, we try not to do that.
Where do you get your speakers and artists from?
We spend a lot of the time during the year, going to church, colleges, youth events and watching folks on YouTube looking for the cream of the crop of communicators and artists who specialize in sharing with young people. We love Young Life, and draw a lot of speakers from there. We also find local youth ministry people and regular people who have amazing testimonies to share. It’s a fun challenge trying to fill a week with unique speakers.
Where do you get your staff from?
About 70% of our team is former campers who God impacted through camp and they want to give back, 20% is young adults who have skills we’ve recruited to share their abilities and 10% are more mature, caring adults who help keep the whole thing on track.
Who plans and runs Summer Festival?
Tony Ducklow, serves as our camp director and executive director. Tony has a background in youth ministry, technical services and event production. He is a consistent student of the creative process, the teenage brain, and the scriptures. He leads a team of some of the most creative hard working people on the planet who do the heavy lifting in making Summer Festival Camp happen–our summer camp staff.
Where can I learn more about Summer Festival Camp?
Have coffee with Tony.
Do you provide marketing materials?
A crap ton. Posters, Videos, Instagram pictures, Parent Emails. – We want you to come and bring teens so we try and make it as easy as possible. Here is the link: https://summerfestivalcamp.com/promotion/
How do I sign up?
Follow this link
My teen wants to come, but our church isn’t signed up
The easiest way to get them signed up is through a church. If that’s not in the cards, we can have them sign them up through our unaffiliated program.
We’re Catholic and it’s super important that students have mass and reconciliation?
No problem. We have made special arrangements to have a local Priest come in and provide those sacraments for Catholic groups as a bonus breakout session.
When is it? Where is it? How much is it?
Both Camps will take place at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter:
High School- Sunday, July 10th to Wednesday, July 13th. The cost is $270 for campers and for counselors.
Middle School- Sunday, July 17th to Wednesday, July 20th. The cost is $270 for campers and counselors.
At $270 per person, we are one of the best deals around. We think that if you experience it, you will love it, That’s why new groups can try it for $220 a person.
There is so much good stuff out on the internet. Just google youth ministry fundraising.