Passing the Torch #175

As Director of Deerfoot Lodge, I had the responsibility and privilege of leading the ministry of building godly young men, and to pass on my knowledge and experience.  Previous generations had formed the Deerfoot of history.  New ideas and insights came from the Deerfoot Lodge Board of Directors, DL parents, campers, and staff.  I tried to never share anything that I had not seen work – or to say anything I was not seeking to live.  Consistency year after year.

It was easy for the staff to learn what the program of Deerfoot Lodge was.  The specifics within the summer’s schedule were repeated summer after summer: staff meeting, reveille, cabin clean-up, line up, breakfast, singing – all very straight forward.

More difficult to grasp was why Deerfoot did what it did.  Understanding why helped drive the what.  And it was necessary to understand why things were done if there was to be clear transfer of learning to future Deerfoot leadership. The staff came to realize that everything on the schedule had been thought through, trying to anticipate staff and camper response to each experience.

It was also important for the Deerfoot staff to understand how Deerfoot did what it did. This “how” began with an understanding of role of the Board of Directors, how I, as camp Director, related to them, and how our joint decisions affected all that Deerfoot was and did.  Each summer, during the three week staff training, staff members took a few minutes to read the DL by-laws, the camp policies, the chart of relationships from the DL Board to the assistant counselor, the meeting schedule of the DL Board, and what happened at each meeting.  The staff saw the camp budget for the previous 10 years, and samples of each quarterly and annual report I, as camp Director, prepared before each Board meeting.   Not much time was spent on this as the information was in their staff manuals for future reference.

With this foundation, management principles were taught and reviewed each summer.  How the DL Board managed me was how I managed the Deerfoot staff:  my assistant, guide leaders, and section chiefs.  Being the director of DL is much like leading a small company.  Being a section chief or a counselor is also like leading a small company.  I learned this reality prior to becoming the Director of DL.  I participated in the American Management Association’s “Management Course for Presidents” with the CEOs of Hunt Trucking, Beatrice Foods, Ditch Witch, and 21 other large companies.   After becoming the Director, the DL Board enabled me to attend a four day leadership development seminar with secular business people from, literally, around the world.  In both of these cases, the language and principles were the same.  Most principles were Biblical, though the Bible was not used as a reference.

85-92% of the staff members had previous DL experience, and considerable skill knowledge and were ready to learn how best to teach these skills.  Coming to an understanding of how people learn and why they forget is helpful when teaching canoeing or leading a cabin devotional.  Quality cabin devotionals result from the staff member planning to move from the interest of the camper to a Bible passage and then back to the camper – to help the camper realize the relevance of the Bible passage to his current life experiences.  Staff training included learning games, but equally important was learning why games were placed in specific time slots.  Gradually the staff came to realize that everything on the DL schedule had been thought through, trying to anticipate camper response to each experience.

Every year, three days before staff training began, section chiefs, guide leaders and my assistant came to our home. They made a list of all that should be covered in staff training, and proceeded to develop the three week staff training schedule.  Assignments were made as to who should teach what.  They asked me to teach specific topics.  One year, as we finished our planning time, it was decided by a doctor that I should go to the hospital as my pace-make meds had not been working effectively for a month.  This meant that our leadership team would go to camp and lead staff training – including teaching what I was to cover.  I arrived one week later, too weak to talk by the end of the day.  As I was able, they let me teach – and the final Friday night, two weeks later, I was able to give the benediction that ends the candle light service.

Today at least 10 Deerfooters provide full time leadership within the field of Christian Camping.

We have the responsibility of being good stewards of the people, as well as the message, the Lord has entrusted to our care.  This means building men, godly men!  It means training those under our care to lead the next generation.   When we live In Partnership With God, we equip and encourage others to live In Partnership With God.  As God’s people, this is our responsibility.

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