Summer programs at Evangelical Covenant Church camps are filling up within minutes after registration opens, according to some executive directors.
As late as a month ago some camps were still determining whether they would offer summer activities. Now they are racing to fill staff positions.
Robert Mohrweis, executive director of Cascades Camp and Conference Center in Yelm, Washington, said in a video report at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference that Cascade day camps filled up in seven minutes. Covenant Point Bible Camp in Iron River, Michigan, experienced its largest one-day registration in history.
“We have more than 250 kids on wait lists,” said Eric Anderson, executive director of Covenant Harbor Camp and Retreat Center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Ministries are offering programs at reduced capacity of 75 percent or less to allow for social distancing.
Some activities and programs won’t be offered this year. Covenant Point, for example, is not offering back-country trips because they couldn’t ensure that campers could be appropriately distanced.
Leaders said they are doing all they can to provide opportunities to as many people as possible.
“Kids desperately need to be outside and experience God’s nature and good healthy relationships with others and especially Jesus,” said Chuck Wysong, executive director of Mission Springs Camps and Conference Center in Scotts Valley, California.
In addition to reducing capacity and creating space for social distancing, camps also are planning to hold almost all activities and meals outside. Participants will spend the week doing activities in cohorts.
Despite closing down their large programs last year, most camps offered some form of retreats for individuals and small groups. That helped them gain a better understanding of how to do ministry safely, Anderson said. Covenant Harbor’s protocols were included in some of the state’s guidance to camps.
Because the ministries had to wait to decide what programming they would offer, many potential staff who had worked at the ministries in previous summers—primarily high school and college students—had already made other employment and internship plans. The “gap year” also broke the rhythm of workers, many of whom might have started as volunteers and then worked their way into paid staff positions, directors said.
While some camp staffs are full, Jim Condap, president of the Association of Covenant Camps and Conference Centers and executive director of Pilgrim Pines Camp and Retreat Center in Swanzey, New Hampshire, recommends that interested applicants apply to camps in other parts of the country.