If you’ve ever brought your youth ministry to a Group Workcamp, you know that this incredible week of home repair, service, worship, and fun is all planned out in advance for you so that you get to show-up with your students and actually be present with them.
But how exactly do these jam-packed Workcamps run so smoothly?
It’s due to the extensive amount of planning and coordinating that happens over the course of 1-2 years through the partnership of community co-sponsors and Group Mission Trips staff. We sat down to chat with Operations Director of Group Mission Trips, Jeff Thompson, so he could connect the behind-the-scenes dots of what it takes to create a Workcamp from idea through development. Read it below:
Q: How long is the development process of a Workcamp?
A: “It can be a 1 to 2 year process for regular Workcamps and 6 months for ones centered around disaster relief. Right now we are finalizing 2015 locations. Most the time we are already working two years before youth groups show up to a Workcamp. For example, one church that went last summer decided this was something that they really wanted to bring to their community as well. We are starting a process with them now that will actualize in 2015. We take time to do things well and with strong relationships.”
Q: How much does Group Mission Trips staff work with the co-sponsors once a Workcamp starts being planned?
A: “Our staff works very closely with co-sponsors from start to finish. We don’t just send them a packet and say, ‘See you next July!’ Assigned staff maintain monthly communication with co-sponsors at the very least. Just last week, we had 15-20 representatives out here for training.”
Q: What are some other aspects of the development process that people may be interested to know about?
A: “Co-sponsors help us get easier introductions into schools that end up being where our groups stay for the week.”
“We hire cooks and custodians for the school at a time of year when they normally don’t get paid so we become a boost to them. We don’t want to cost that school anything so we also cover any extra costs for utilities and resources like paper goods.”
Q: What are some things you look for when selecting co-sponsors in Workcamps Locations?
A: “Most importantly, churches, non-profits, city governments, etc. that we partner with exist for the sake of their community and to see housing improved for their elderly, low-income families, and disabled. We look to see if the partnership will be mutually beneficial. We want a real partnership that will help us meet the needs of real people. We also look to see if they have an outreach or service emphasis. Do they believe they can find enough residents to meet the requirements?”
Q: What makes co-sponsors so important in the Workcamp development process?
A: “Our co-sponsors play a crucial role in any Workcamp. We are based here in Colorado. So from the beginning we made the decision to partner with local organizations in Workcamp locations who know the needs of their community best and in a way we can’t from here.”
Q: What traits make partnerships with co-sponsors especially great?
A: “The best co-sponsors are the ones that strive to engage their community fully and not just certain aspects or pockets of it. It makes for a fantastic experience when they engage others and spread the word building bridges within that community for the purpose of bringing help to those who need it.”