Initiative to connect corps with campers

By Karen Gleason –

The Western Territorial Youth Department initiated a territorial camper follow up program in 2013 to ensure that once a child leaves one of the territory’s 11 camps, the Army stays in touch. Last year alone, 16,426 children attended camp in the West, and the youth department expects the follow up program to gain traction this year.

“A week of camp will no doubt have an impact on all that attend, and so we want to take that week and make it a year round experience,” said Jim Sparks, territorial director for youth leadership development. “Our desire is to connect campers and their families and welcome them to the corps family. A simple follow up phone call, program invitation, or a visit to a camper can be the moment that introduces Jesus to the whole family.”

The program assigns specific responsibilities to the camps; corps, outposts or service extension units; divisions and Territorial Headquarters (THQ).

Camp staff input all seeker information into the territorial camp software, developed by the West’s Information Technology (IT) department for this purpose. The software automatically sends reports to the appropriate corps and division. A point person from each corps, outpost or service extension unit then sends a corps program flyer to campers at home, and within a week of the camp calls each camper with a personal invitation to the corps.

The Reno (Nev.) Corps sent almost 40 children to camp in summer 2013 including Lesley, 17, who first met The Salvation Army with her family through the Army’s social services. She attended vacation Bible school and then went to camp.

“At first I was standoffish,” Lesley said. “I thought people would be judgmental and would try to force God on me.”

After seeing a movie that showed the power of God’s love and experiencing the kindness of other campers and staff, Lesley said she accepted Christ. Since then, she is active at the corps, even sharing her testimony.

“Before coming to The Salvation Army, I was depressed and angry, not sure what my purpose was,” she said. “Now I understand that God loves me and has a plan for me.”

The divisional and territorial youth departments support the field and monitor the success of the program. At the end of the summer, the divisional youth departments send a congratulatory card to each camper who made a decision to follow Christ. THQ examines divisional reports on the program and sends an annual camper follow up kit based on reviews from corps and divisions.

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