1. Be intentional with atmosphere
First impressions are a big deal. Putting some effort and creativity into the atmosphere at your event can have a huge impact. Even a couple of well-designed banners or some string lights draped from the ceiling can tell your audience, “We care about the experiences you will have here”.
2. Think about the experience you want people to have
Start with a goal for what kind of experience you want to design for your audience (i.e. fun, contemplative, challenging, rejuvenating). We wanted our camp to be high-energy and impactful. We made several decisions that were specifically intended to set them up for that kind of experience. We hired a super energetic, young, worship band from a local Christian university. We made a no-cell-phones rule, but, in an effort to make that a positive thing, we made sure we jam packed the camp with fun things to do and captured great photos for them all week long. We made sure even the sometimes ‘boring’ aspects of camp, like the speaking and the devotional book, were supported with creative elements, engaging stories and fun design. We took the expected, free t-shirt to the next level by offering a full store with 5 different items in a variety of colors and styles. We made sure to give students lots of time in small groups to process what God was doing in their hearts that week. All of these decisions contributed to a fun and impactful summer camp.
3. Don’t let your creative and production elements be an afterthought
Everything I just mentioned that we did to plan an incredible week for our students didn’t happen overnight. I personally tackled one camp task every two weeks for 6 months prior to camp and our team met regularly. Planning a big event like this takes foresight, budgeting, creativity, collaboration and lots of time!
Planning things like merch, videos, and atmosphere from the very beginning can help you design a more cohesive and impactful event.
4. Help students make memories and bring the camp experience home
Making lasting memories was a high priority for our team.
We used photography, video, and a devotional article to help them take the camp experience home with them. We set up a trendy photo spot, brought in quality photographers, made daily recap videos (using animoto.com), and distributed all of our camp photos to students and parents (using pass.us). These intentional decisions helped our students focus more on engaging with others and God. They also helped our students take the camp experience beyond just that week.
5. Don’t be afraid of hiring and renting
Hiring a worship band or renting lighting equipment can seem really intimidating! But, being willing to expand your resource pool beyond your own church can give you so many options.
We hired SEU Worship band from South Eastern University, Slap Happy Comedy (an
improv duo we once saw at a conference), a guest speaker, Scott Frazier, (from a church we have a great relationship with) and an up and coming local band (Evers) for a concert.
We also rented audio equipment, lighting, a Penske Truck, and a TV. It might seem like a lot of money and logistics (which it is), but with good planning, making some strategic hires and rentals can really help you elevate the camp experience for your students. Doing these things made our camp feel very special and set apart, compared to a typical Wednesday night.
6. Think about reusing resources
You can be a lot more efficient with a tight budget if you consider reusing things for multiple events. For this event, we reused banners, blinder lights, string lights, Ikea lamps, a photo booth frame, some tubs for merch display, and lots of cables. We would have spend hundreds of dollars more if we were always buying things for one-time use only. What bad stewardship that would have been!
I love giving our students the best experience for their money. Even if you have a giant budget, stretching that budget to include as much as possible can really glorify God.