Hiring a great staff was essential. Excellent staff training was also essential. The 30+ college students came from 19 secular and Christian colleges/universities – from MA to CA. The staff came from Christian and non-Christian homes, some had extensive Biblical knowledge while others had very little. Some of the staff had considerable camping skills and others had a lot to learn. Some would rather hike than eat – others would rather study nature, and not always while on the trail! Their abilities varied academically, physically, athletically, and musically. Hopefully all had common sense!
This very diverse group had other areas where, I believed, the staff members were of one mind. Every staff member had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and desired to have Him as Lord. Every staff member was a self starter with high energy levels, and looked forward to working with campers while living in the wonder of God’s creation.
It is a tremendous responsibility to plan and lead a 3 week training program for 30 bright, capable college students. Do the math: 21 days X 16 hours X 30 staff members = 8,190 man hours! Staff training had to be excellent! If the staff did not feel their three week training program was valuable to them, it would be very difficult to have an extensive staff training program in future years. Camp was down to an average of 48 campers per session. Poor staff training = poor experience for the campers = fewer campers the next year = the end of Deerfoot Lodge.
I desperately needed God’s help! God knew this and provided two qualified men: Jay and Rich. Jay Barnes, PhD was Vice President of Student Development at Messiah College. Thirteen years previously Jay had developed the successful Guide program, an eight week leadership training experience for selected campers 16-17 years old. Rich Butman, PhD was Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College. Both of these men were Deerfoot Lone Eagles – they knew Deerfoot Lodge from the perspective of camper and staff member.
For two days we worked through what the DL staff needed to know when serving as Cabin Counselors, Section Chiefs, or Guide Leaders. We also focused on the best ways to help the DL staff internalize the areas we had identified. As the training schedule was developed, we tried to keep in mind the critical importance of building a team – almost a church, with all the parts of the body working together to build godly young men in the Deerfoot context of wilderness camping.
At the end of two days, the staff training schedule was complete, and Rich agreed to come and help train the staff. Every day was scheduled from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM. When the staff arrived they moved into their cabins and then worked together to unload Founders Lodge – all of the boats and docks were carried to the water front. This task is impossible without team work as the docks and some boats are very heavy! During training the staff reviewed/learned the daily schedules including line ups, traditional DL games and songs, how to lead a camper to Christ, to lead cabin devotionals, to give an appropriate testimony, the counselor’s role in camper discipline, and the instructional areas with expertise to teach three. Leadership and people management were studied and, on the three day staff hike, all of the above were practiced. Most of the staff earned their American Red Cross Certifications in Life Saving, CPR, and First Aid. Three or four were certified as National Riflery Association Instructors. Planned into the training schedule were blocks of time when Rich would use standardized tests with the staff. After Rich had “scored” the tests, he would explain the results to the entire staff, and then meet individually with each staff member for a personalized review of his results.
As the three weeks of staff training came to conclusion, Rich helped the staff members develop their personal goals for the summer – at least one goal in each of the following areas: spiritual, physical, camper, and instructional area. Throughout the summer the Section Chiefs and I would talk with each staff member about the progress they were making on the goals they had identified during staff training.
At the end of three intense weeks, we praised God for His faithfulness. We were ready/eager for the campers to arrive!!
When we live In Partnership With God we encourage others to live In Partnership With God.