Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Crisis into Opportunity

For the past week our camp has been threatened by a forest fire burning on our property. At various points in time the camp was filled with heavy smoke, campers could see flames on the mountains above the camp and fire fighters and their vehicles drove through the middle of camp in full view of campers. While the fire certainly created a number of problems, like many crisis, it also presented an opportunity for a number of positive outcomes.

Throughout the fire we made an intentional effort to communicate with parents. Regular e-mails, phone calls and Facebook posts kept them up to date. Our efforts helped shape parents perceptions in a positive way regarding regarding our professionalism, our ability to handle emergencies and our concern for the health and safety of our campers. Parents have shared positive comments via social media and in private conversations with others. By working cooperatively with the media, we were also able to create positive public impressions of the camp in stories about the fire. The net result is that our communication during the crisis improved people's perception of who we are and what we do. 

The fire also forced us to take a look at our preparedness for emergencies. As a result of the approaching fire, we had to develop a plan for evacuating camp if needed. That process helped us identify weaknesses, develop strategies to address them and become a much better prepared camp.

Our interaction with the outside agencies throughout the event also created opportunities. As we got to know the fire crews we discovered a number of great resources that we will use to strengthen our program. New connections with folks from the media offer new opportunities for us to share our story with the community. 

As we managed the camp during the fire, we also gained some valuable insight into the leadership of some of our key staff. There is nothing like the potential for impending disaster to bring out what leaders are really like in difficult times.

Next time your camp faces a crisis, realize that hidden among the challenges, chaos and stress are opportunities for you as a leader and your camp to grow.