Are We Accomplishing Our Mission? Beyond Anecdotes.
Over the last few years Bethany Birches has been committed to partnering with academic organizations researching the benefits of Christian Summer Camps. Last year the Hope Study (University of Oklahoma) measured whether campers experienced increased hope as a result of their camp experience. The Hope Study 2018 found “The results of this report continue to provide support for the positive impact the participating Christian camps are having on the boys and girls attending those camps, not just in terms of Hope and Well-Being, but also in social connectedness and interest in their Faith.” Fifty-six percent of campers had increased hope scores after coming to camp. This was most closely correlated with making friends and having developed some faith.
This year The Power of Camp study (POC) has given us preliminary data about campers’ engagement with faith, relationships with peers, and connection to staff as a result of their camp experience. Based on early data from this summer all of the parents surveyed said their child made friends at camp and 67% of campers said they were strengthened in their faith. Only 24% of parents reported reading the Bible with their children and 87% of parents felt we were “effectively teaching Christian faith.” All of the parents surveyed said they would send their child back to camp and 90% of campers ranked “the entire camp experience” as their most enjoyed part of camp. The initial data we have received from this summer is very encouraging and points toward significant mission accomplishment. We are excited that 100% of parents surveyed were pleased with our “system of addressing bullying/ conflicts.” We see Jesus’ teachings of “Love your enemies” and “treat others as you wish to be treated” in this statistic.
2019 was the third summer in a row in which our seasonal staff participated in The Power of Camp. POC was conducted by Wheaton College looking at how staff of summer camps are affected by the experience. We have received data specific to our staff’s experiences and are able to compare this with the average of camps participating in the study. Participating in these studies allows us to quantitatively identify our areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. For example, between the 2017 and 2018 staff studies we saw a significant increase in how staff felt supported by their supervisors. We improved from being on par with other camps with a 4.1 out of 5 rating to a 5 out of 5 average rating from the staff. Also improving in the same period were the percent of staff who experienced growth in the teamwork and emotional intelligence areas assessed by the study. These and others had been identified as areas for improvement by camp leadership and the following year increased by 22.5% and 21.5% to be on par or higher than the average camp in the study. Between the summers 2017 and 2018 we improved parts of staff training, intentionally sought ways to provide more support for staff, and had better and more frequent meetings to improve communication. These improvements have been continued this last summer and we look forward to the forthcoming 2019 research study results.
It is encouraging to have data to inform our decisions and confirm what we are doing is consistent with our mission. We were able to see that staff was improving in areas of spiritual growth, leadership, and resiliency similar to other camps and pinpoint what we could improve the next year. We feel both affirmed by the research and able to identify potential areas for improvement next year. We will continue pursuing these research opportunities because they have been and will continue to be part of making Bethany Birches Camp better at achieving our mission to help young people develop their relationship with God.
~ Patrick “Rupert” Graber,
Office Coordinator and Facilities Manager