Summer Camp Benefits

Spending time at a summer camp is a powerful experience for instilling confidence in children. Multiple people in my family have experience as summer camp staff. I was a camp director for eight years. Those experiences have shaped how I approach many situations. It’s been the same with the others in the family who had that experience. I highly recommend spending at least one summer working at a camp to develop good parenting and leadership skills. Camps are looking for next summer’s staff NOW.

Today’s blog is a combination of insights from two summer camp enthusiasts.  Don Johnson, Executive Director of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, is a pivotal leader in outdoor ministry within the Lutheran tradition. I interviewed him for his thoughts about how working on a summer camp staff is part of laying a firm foundation for a young adult’s future. Arlene Westcott reached me through my website and writes about the benefits of camp to campers.

Ways Young Adults Benefit from a Summer Camp Job

The pay is better than you think

Sure, they might make more flipping burgers or working in an office somewhere, but a summer camp job includes room and board. Additionally, summer entertainment and recreation are included in the package. Summer camp staff get paid to play all summer. Their social life is built in, so they won’t be spending most of what they earn on expensive activities their burger flipping friends will be doing back home. And, they’ll be hanging around with the kind of folks any parent or grandparent would want them to have for friends.

Powerful experiences in the making

I was shocked when I went to pick up one of my teenage grandsons who’d been at camp for a staff in training sort of experience. This quiet, withdrawn young man proclaimed loudly after the closing event as we were heading out, “I love ya, Man” to one of the friends he’d met while there. Years later they remain friends. One of my grandsons traveled across the country to attend the wedding of another friend he’d made while working on a summer staff. Camp forms authentic, deep, and lasting connections among the summer staff. Many lead to weddings eventually. These are the kinds of friendships that nurture our spirits, address our need to be seen and heard, and give meaning and purpose to life.

The week I heard a young chaplain speak to a women’s group. She now spends her days wandering the halls of a children’s hospital ministering to sick children, their frightened parents, and the exhausted staff. This career path started at camp when a summer camp counselor sat with her and really listened to how much her life changed the day her father transformed from fully independent to hardly able to do anything for himself following a catastrophic illness. Camp changes people in good ways.

Camp teaches critical leadership skills

Summer staff learn how to be creative, innovative, creative communicators, capable of leading and adapting quickly to changing circumstances. When rain cancels the campfire program they have to come up with a plan B on the spot. Such ability to think quickly and adjust to the changing circumstances makes them great leaders in other venues. A letter of reference from a camp administrator is a valuable tool when it comes to applying for a job in the “real” world.

Listing a summer camp job on a resume is a good long term strategy for career planning.

Learn by leading

We learn best what we attempt to teach others. As summer staff address the thoughts and concerns of the campers entrusted to their care, they learn what it means to be a role model, to address concerns, to build relationships based on empathy and concern for the other. In a faith-based camp setting, staff also fine tune their own spiritual identity as they answer the questions from their campers. They spent a season focused on faith and spiritual formation. They build a framework for thinking about their own relationship with God as they engage in significant thinking about themselves and other people.

Camp is good for the environment

We’re in a global conversation about the environment and the human responsibility for it. Camp staff spend the majority of their time outdoors, worshipping in outdoor sites, leading nature walks, sleeping under the stars, sharing space with wildlife, and observing the natural world. All this instills a deep regard for the grandeur of the natural world.

Spending a summer at camp invites the young adult to be engaged in making a significant difference in someone else’s life. It reinforces the value of respect for peers, campers, and the environment. It lays a foundation for a life committed to justice and making a positive difference with their lives.

Thoughts from Arlene Westcott

The decision to send kids to a summer camp has multiple benefits, such as chess classes, baseball, or basketball courses that would allow campers to have fun and develop skills that serve well when becoming a parent in the future. Summer camp allows youngsters to grow and try out extracurricular activities. The experience enables them to become independent and self-confident as they socialize with new friends and learn. Some of the many advantages of summer camp are:

Exploring a unique interest

Most schools don’t offer game design classes or other types of entrepreneurship, but summer camps can and do. Camps offer an excellent distraction-free option to develop skills in sports and many other specialized activities. Camp allows children to explore their own interests. At camp explore a different environment and break out from being put in categories that often hold them back. Summer camp really can change lives by introducing campers to new experiences and witnessing changes in those around them.

Camps are great for skill-building

Summer camps offer skill-building opportunities to develop a new activity. It encourages youth to step outside their comfort zones,  to take risks, and build new skills without fear of failure. When campers return home, they have new abilities to choose ways to occupy themselves. Parents soon adore how they can manage themselves alone, without needing to be around mom and dad.

Mental stimulation and physical movement

Parents worried their children don’t have extra activities that lead to mental stimulation will find that at camp, their children get plenty of physical activity over the summer months. It helps their children be mentally and physically strong as they spend much of their time outdoors. Campers get to know each other during this outdoor activity time and experience new places.

Reinforcement of empowerment

Spending time away from home in a supervised environment lets children practice being independent. The parents’ willingness to let a child spend time away from them boosts their confidence that they can be self-sufficient. Without having mom and dad around, the children make their own life decisions. It takes courage for a child do something on his/her own. Summer camps that provides kids with a chance to explore new things and live life on their own. For more information contact


Camping can play a critical role in developing healthy, other-people focused, confident future adults. Do the young people in your life a life-long lasting favor: Give them a summer at camp this year.

Thank you for taking time to read about the powerful impact of summer camp on campers and staff alike. Why not share it with a friend? Got this from a friend? You can sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. Download a free chapter of the book about the first encounters between these two groups. (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
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  1. Having grown up at a Lutheran camp, I have a special place in my heart for camps. I’ve seen kids’ lives changed by a week at camp, and the friendships made at camp can last a lifetime.

  2. How great that you talk about the benefits of working at a summer camp. My daughter wants to go to a summer camp this year. I will find a great academic summer camp for kids.

  3. Check with ACA – American Camping Association. All reputable camps are listed with them and go through a vigorous review process to be listed. Good luck!

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