In some ways, I felt more connected to our campers and their families during this At Home summer than I usually do, even though I never saw any of them in person.
During a traditional in-person summer program, I do a lot of delegating. I work with the deans, who work with the counselors and the campers. I work with the staff team coordinators, who then work with their staff members. When things are going well, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with campers outside of specialized activities or meals or worship.
This summer, because we could not be physically together, we all had to do a lot more communicating. I found myself emailing our families multiple times a week and engaging in conversations with them. Virtual volunteers would text me regularly – “We want to do a craft; can you send out a supply list?” “Our camper wasn’t on the call again; can you check with the family?” “I want to try out a new activity; what do you think?” And I made so many more videos! I even learned a little bit of editing.
The community certainly felt different this year. Much more intimate. Instead of 50 summer staffers, a rotating cast of more than 200 volunteers, and over 900 campers, we were a group of 30 volunteers and 60 conferees. Though we were spread out across multiple states, our Zoom calls and email chains and video messages made it feel as though we were in the same room.
When we sent out our end-of-summer evaluations, I heard the same thing over and over: I’m so glad that I got to have a little bit of Silver Lake this summer! And I can’t wait to come back to camp next summer.
The Virtual Volunteers agreed: “Thanks for encouraging us to take this on! It was a great week!” “Loved my time and the kids. THANK YOU!” “I would love to do this again.”
Virtual programming will never replace in-person summer camp. There is just no way to duplicate the magic that happens when you put 30 strangers together in cabins in the woods for a week. But what I have learned is that we are so blessed to live in a time when we have access to technology that allows us to maintain our community ties when we can’t be physically together.
I am excited to take the new things I learned from Silver Lake At Home 2020 and apply them to future programming. We can bring you Silver Lake throughout the school year, even to those of you who live too far away to make a weekend trip to camp. We can spread the Silver Lake loves – and God’s love – to new people who otherwise might never know the power of this amazing ministry.
No, it’s not the same. It’s different. And it’s powerful. And that is good.
If you missed it, the Silver Lake At Home activities are available at www.silverlakect.org/silver-lake-at-home. Or check out the summary video from Ryan and Jenn below.