Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Camp

October 10th, 2013

For many people the word “curriculum” calls forth images of a print resource, but the original meaning of the term is “the course to be run.”

Everything that happens at camp—Bible study, community building, worship, games, hikes, singing—is part of the course to be run while there. A printed or digital curriculum resource is meant to be a partner, a guide, helping you choose what course to set for your campers.

Having such a partner and guide is a boon, making your job so much simpler. But how do you choose the right one for your camp? As you examine the offerings available, here are some criteria to keep in mind:

  • Is it faithful?
  • Is it fun?
  • Does it fit our needs?
  • Are the benefits worth the financial investment?


A good camping curriculum starts with scripture. The choices need to be appropriate for your campers and interpreted both in Bible study and in other experiential activities in a manner that is both understandable and theologically sound.

A good camping curriculum creates Christian community. Campers of all ages need to experience being welcomed, included, respected, and honored. They need not to just talk about being loved and forgiven, but to feel it touching them in the warmth of the community at camp that looks to Jesus as Lord.

A good camping curriculum honors God’s creation, inviting campers to be outdoors, to see its wonder as a gift of God, and to recognize their role of caretakers and stewards. The activities introduce, deepen, and teach appreciation of the world God has created and entrusted to humans.

A good camping curriculum helps campers explore the scriptures, connect as a community, see the divine all around them, and discover meaning for their lives.


“Faithful” will be the gold standard for adults in choosing the right curriculum, but “fun” will be how campers will evaluate it!

Campers come with high energy. They need to move, to play, to throw themselves into learning. Do the daily plans engage that wholesome energy and build on it?

Campers come with a variety of learning styles. Some have “aha’s” through discussion, others have to see or move and touch. Still others need time alone or opportunities to sing or create a new song. Do the daily plans provide a variety of activities and approaches to Bible study and worship that build on these multiple intelligences?

Campers come with needs to feel safe. Not only must the proposed activities be attentive to the campers’ physical safety, as well as care for the environment, but they also need to create a sense of security for campers. Competition that stays friendly, teams that include each member and work together, responses that call for respect and elicit affirmation are essential for helping everyone—and especially the tentative campers—feel safe and free to have fun.

Campers discover through their experiences the fullness of God, who they are created to be, and what they are called to do. They are changed from the inside out. Worship opportunities give them ways to express their growing love of Jesus Christ. They call all that, “fun”!


Camp settings are as diverse as the Creator could possibly make them! Large, small, and in-between, with lakes, rivers, wetlands, amid forests, mountains, flatlands, hills, populated with tents, rustic cabins, covered wagons, lodges, graced with an historic tabernacle open to the music of the breezes, a soaring sanctuary with brilliant colors streaming through the stained glass, an outdoor chapel with a simple wooden cross and a grand, sunrise or sunset vista, courtesy of the Creator.

Camp programs are as diverse as creative people like you can make them! Goals, groupings, themes, traditions, additions of challenge courses, horses, archery, canoeing, and so forth give each camp its unique style.

How does a curriculum resource fit such diversity?

A good curriculum has input from people who represent the diversity of settings and programs. Planners, writers, and editors from different backgrounds and church traditions and varied camping experiences create the vision and bring it to life. Reviewers read the manuscripts from their particular perspectives and contribute more ideas. A good curriculum is not the product of only one person’s thinking. Investment by multiple people assures multiple connection points for local planners and leaders.

A good curriculum offers age-level plans, plus all-camp opportunities. The daily guides take into account the range of abilities within an age-level and the possibilities of groupings across age-levels.

A good curriculum provides choices. Local leaders are the experts as to what their camp program needs. So a good curriculum provides options—plenty of them! The hallmark of quality comes from leaders who are unhappy they can’t use more of the suggested activities—because they are all so good! There’s just not enough time in the day to do them all.

A good curriculum makes staff training easier. Camp leaders depend upon counselors and other staff to connect with campers and bring the learning to life. So a good curriculum gives leaders tools for preparing staff to be more effective in their crucial roles.


Especially in times of economic stress, the temptation is to save money. Trying to be faithful stewards, camp planners think “we can just write our own” or they opt to simply do “some fun things we’ve always done.” But they are asking the wrong question.

The starting point for consideration is what is lost by not having a good curriculum.

Writing good curriculum with all the criteria enumerated above is demanding. One or two people, usually volunteering their time on top of everything else they do, simply cannot create the quality of resource that fulfills these essentials.

When campers don’t have a fun time one year, they don’t come back. And the word spreads.

When leaders and staff struggle and lose the sense of being effective, they don’t come back. And the word spreads.

Camp numbers decline. Then camp programs get cut. Vital ministry opportunities are gone. Is that faithful stewardship?

The more appropriate questions are

  • How can the resource help us do more and better?
  • Are those benefits worth the financial investment?

Choosing the right curriculum for camp and day camp is ultimately a sacred act. Now you have criteria for choosing with confidence.

Crys Zinkiewicz is the Editorial Manager for Get Real: Finding Your True Self in Jesus a camping curriculum. Download the free sample below, order information can be found in Related Products, visit the Get Real website.


Get Real sample
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