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Frontier Camp 101 – Staff Training

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

In our last “Frontier Camp 101” installment, we provided you with a brief overview of how we go about recruiting, vetting, and hiring summer staff.  Now let’s look at what goes into preparing that staff to serve campers and provide them with the best week of their summer at Frontier Camp!

The full-time staff put a lot of effort into making sure that staff training is comprehensive, effective, and efficient.  Months of planning quickly devolve into work as summer looms.  And the final weeks of spring find us busy finalizing schedules, content, curriculum, and documentation.  In the midst of all of this, the full-time summer camp department makes time to refresh our own certifications in American Red Cross (ARC) First Aid, CPR/AED, and Lifeguarding.  We also maintain instructor certifications for specialized activities like Archery and Adventure Challenge (Ropes).  During this time, the seasonal staff are required to complete online training modules prior to their arrival on campus.  These modules include OSHA workplace requirements (Bloodborne Pathogens and Haz Comm), Sexual Harassment, Active Shooter, and a state-mandated course on Child Abuse Prevention.

The first summer staffers to arrive on campus are our Leadership staff and Healthcare Assistants (HCAs).  Training topics for key leadership staff include Servant Leadership workshops, Child Protection Plan, Supervision and Evaluating Performance, Communication, Camping Regulations and Standards, Preparing Campfire Messages, Leading Games and Groups, and job-specific training and preparation. The HCAs go through an intensive 56 hour ARC Emergency Medical Response Course led by our camp RN, Barbara Burkhalter, and Assistant Retreat Director, Taylor Beavers, who is an EMT.

Lifeguards are the next category of staff to arrive on campus. Frontier Camp has seven ARC Lifeguard Instructors (FT staff and volunteers).  Additionally, Matt Henderson, our Aquatics Director, has his Lifeguard Instructor Trainer certification.  Any aquatic activity at camp, from blobbing to wake boarding, is supervised by lifeguards that are trained in-house.  This training has an emphasis on keeping our specific waterfront activities safe.  Anyone on staff with camper-supervision responsibilities is also trained in ARC First Aid and ARC Professional Rescuer CPR/AED during this part of our pre-summer training.

Senior Staff Training follows our Lifeguard Training.  This 5-day training period emphasizes our Adventure Challenge (ropes) and Boat Driver/Cable Operator training.  It concludes with both written testing and skill demonstrations to graduate certified activity leaders.  Belaying, Knots and Equipment, and facilitating our High Ropes elements are some of the topics covered in our ropes training.  And our boat/cable operators get instruction in topics such as safe driving, docking, towing, and emergency action plans.  Certifications in specialized land activities like Horses, Archery and Riflery are completed by Senior summer staff not being certified in Ropes or Boats/Cables.  Senior Staff also participate in workshops on child supervision and discipline, leading and mentoring Junior Staff, and preparing and conducting Bible studies (devotions).  Kitchen leadership staff get food service training and learn the ins and outs of serving over 300 plates of amazing camp food every meal!

The final week of pre-summer staff training is called “All Staff Week”. Our Junior Staff joins us and we launch the week introducing our mission, goals, core values, and expectations for ministry.  We then spend time on policies and procedures, camp schedules and events, camp games, health and safety, emergency procedures, learning how to share the Gospel and give our testimonies, sing camp songs, and conduct our memory verse program.  We spend some time getting our Bible Drama production and Teen teaching times ready.  Counselors also learn how meal times work, how to lead a cabin as a family group, how to prevent bullying, manage transitions, and supervise their campers well.  Activity leaders learn their curriculums and practice teaching skill classes (Junior Camp) or facilitating recreation (Teen Camp).

The staff rodeo is a highlight of the week!  Along the way, we get to know each other as we develop into a close-knit team focused on serving the Lord by serving others.  We also get the camp ready with staff work crews finishing all of the details necessary to launch us into summer camp.  All of this is done with a focus on safety.

In summary, not only is Frontier Camp careful about who we hire as summer staff, we then train them diligently and intentionally.  Once summer staff training is over and camp has started, we supervise our staff to ensure that they are meeting the expectations that we have set.  We also commit our way to the Lord, praying for His blessing and protection!  The power of Christian camping resides in our staff serving as godly role-models for our campers.  We want our campers and their parents to experience “it’s not the stuff – it’s the staff!

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