Our study centers in the upper Midwest, anchored by the two SpringHill overnight camps in Michigan and Indiana. Four additional camps, all affiliated with Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, are also participating: Crossways Camping Ministries in WI, Living Water Ministries in MI, Ewalu Camp and Retreat Ministries in IA, and Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Indiana and Kentucky. In Spring 2019, we interviewed congregational leaders at 20 day camp sites. The locations are shown in the map at right.
This project will use an embedded mixed-methods research design aimed at assessing the variability, impacts, and best practices of traveling day camp programs in Christian camping ministries. The study will center on the programs of SpringHill and also include programs from four other camps. The methodology will use overlapping qualitative and quantitative research strategies, which will in some cases be convergent and in other cases be sequential. Each element is separated into six dimensions.
Dimension 1: Traveling Day Camp Program Assessment
This dimension aims to uncover the scope and variability of traveling day camp programs across the country. It is important to understand how traveling day camp programs have evolved over time and what might be considered best practices.
Dimension 2: Congregational Leaders Interviews
Winter and Spring 2019
This is an exploratory dimension seeking to understand the impacts of traveling day camp from the perspective of congregational leaders. We will interview leaders from 20 different day camp sites in order to get their perspectives on the benefits and impacts of the ministries.
Dimension 3: Day Camp Site Visits
Researchers will visit
Dimension 4: Parent Survey with Control Group
Spring 2019 and Fall 2019
This dimension aims to assess the impacts of the day camp experience on individuals and families. We will use a test-retest methodology to assess growth and program effectiveness. Parents will complete surveys before and after the traveling day camp experience.
Dimension 5: Summer Camp Staff Survey
This dimension will assess the impacts of working on a camp summer staff in a role focused on traveling day camp, specifically related to congregational engagement and attitude toward the congregation. This dimension will also assess the extent to which working on camp staff contributes to the development of Christian leaders.
Dimension 6: Congregational Leader Survey
This final survey of congregational leaders will be designed to assess the effectiveness and ongoing outcomes of the day camp experience in the congregation and community. The intention is to allow two or more months to pass in order for congregational leaders to reflect back on the experience and observe any ongoing impacts.
Meet the Team
Dr. Jacob Sorenson
Jacob Sorenson is the founder and director of Sacred Playgrounds, a ministry offering research and training to camps and congregations. He has a PhD in practical theology from Luther Seminary, an Mdiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and more than fifteen years of experience in camping ministry and congregational youth ministry. He has directed multiple research projects related to camping ministry, including the Camp2Congregation Project.
Amber has been a member of the Sacred Playgrounds team since 2015. She serves as the research coordinator in the Camp2Congregation Project. She will also be one of the primary site visitors.
Abby Sytsma will act as Program Coordinator on behalf of the SpringHill Team for the grant period. This role will maximize the impact of the research study by allowing SpringHill to devote a staff member to facilitate change.
Sara VanWinkle is the Day Camp Divisional Director for SpringHill. She will inform and support the work of the grant in her role as director of day camp operations. 2018 marked her eighth summer with SpringHill.