What if you could increase the level of trust, openness and transparency both in your workplace and with your constituents, simultaneously—in the fun and sun of the great outdoors?
Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries was facing three unique challenges at once: 1) meet the state requirements of training and equipping foster and adoptive parents in their demanding responsibilities, 2) create a stronger connection with administrative staff and the children they rarely meet, and 3) provide a fun getaway for kids who’ve been abandoned and abused and have few, if any, fun memories of summer.
Eighteen years ago, the organization founded its annual summer Camp of Champions in Shocco Springs, Alabama. “We wanted to provide the kids and our staff great recreation and spiritual growth. This allowed foster and adoptive parents to meet and learn how to deal with child attachment disorder, peer pressure, anger and other realities,” says Bob Dewhurst, VP for ministry development. The first camp attracted 70 people. Last summer more than 450 parents and children, along with 75 ministry staff posed for a group photo. “We’ve found that face-to-face conversation in a beautiful, off-site location fosters deeper, trusting relationships, plus greater networking and mutual prayer support that can further our ministry purpose of protecting, nurturing and restoring children and families through Christ-centered services.” And there’s more. . . .
A closer look at this well-crafted camp experience reveals:
• Office staff whose daily work rarely intersects with kids, delighted in children through crafts, Bible study and outdoor play. “Now, when they answer the phone, send an email, they don’t see merely a set of tasks to perform but the faces of kids whose lives their work is helping to impact,” says Riley Green, VP for Administration.
• Foster and adoptive parents who find fresh, needed encouragement in their shared stories, freely admit, “We don’t feel so alone, now.” It’s one way candid stories in safe settings can foster a needed sense of community.
• Perhaps the best reward of a well-managed ministry that’s built a workplace of high trust, openness and transparency among leadership and staff is seeing the fruit of their labors in the eyes of children who know they’re loved. “A child reaches into a bowl of snacks, unsure of how much is too much, and we’ll say, ‘Take a much as you want. It’s all free.’ In that moment—as with many other moments at camp—a child feels accepted, welcomed and loved,” says Green. “I think back to one foster boy who looked forward to returning home to his biological parents and said, “But promise me I can go to camp, first.”
By deepening the transparency and trust between leadership staff and the families they serve, Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries can expect the number of camp reservations to rise—and staff to continue to say, “This is an exceptional place to work.”’
P.S. The organization experienced a whopping 75% increase in the number of foster care children served in 2012 over 2011—from 156-209. Says Green, “Nationwide, the church is being awakened to care for orphans and foster children (James 1:27). People in the pews are responding to God, and we’re blessed to help them fulfill their calling.”