Does camp make a difference? The research says it does.
The Christian summer camp experience has positive and lasting impact that extend well beyond the temporary high of a week at camp, affecting family devotional practices, church participation, personal well-being, and faith commitment. These impacts are clear and recognizable in camps that are intentionally Christ-centered, relational, participatory, safe, and different from home.
Does camp make a difference? “Yes” always feels like the answer, but do we know? How do we know? This was the question we sought after in these first two phases of the Effective Camp Research Project.
The impact of camp experiences is shockingly understudied. This project serves as a place to start. Scroll down for project details, or click the button below to begin reading the findings. Welcome to the Effective Camp Research Project.
Doing research to help you design your programs and make your case to your constituency is critical and cutting edge. In this competitive world full of distractions and alternatives, those that can show “camp actually makes a difference” will have an advantage.
For the first time ever in religious camping, a skilled research team is able to work directly with individual camps to help them evaluate and demonstrate the impact of their programs.
The current and future findings of the Effective Camp Research Project are powerful. The real impact, where it matters most, is in how it helps outdoor ministry leaders continue to share the good news about the impact of camp to their churches, families, and communities. The research matters when it is used.
We’ve created a communications kit for you to share the impact and help you continue to make the case for transformational experiences at camp. You can use the content in your emails, newsletter, signage, social media, or any other platform you use to reach your people.
Phase 1 of the project explored this question by examining a cohort of three camps in Wisconsin affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Sugar Creek Bible Camp, Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp (“Wapo”), and Lutherdale Bible Camp. The project used the methodology of grounded theory. Data were gathered from 11-14 year-old camp participants, their parents, summer staff members, camp directors, church professionals who were visiting camp, and direct observation during site visits.
Phase 2 of the project surveyed 1200 campers during summer 2016 at 6 camps, including the original 3 and Imago Dei Village, Luther Park Bible Camp, and Luther Point Bible Camp. Campers completed surveys on the first day of camp, the last day of camp, and 2-3 months after returning home. Results from these surveys show the growth that took place during the camp experience and how much of that growth persisted in the weeks and months following camp.
These findings are not proof of camp’s effectiveness. They provide, rather, a blueprint for future research. The data suggest a specific camp model present at these three camps that is highly adaptive and facilitates empirically recognizable and lasting impacts in participants. The next step is to expand the number of camps and conduct a quantitative assessment to test the theory of the five fundamental characteristics and to determine the degree and duration of impact. Future studies should assess whether the camp model and impacts are present at camps from other denominations and regions of the country.