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Sacred Playgrounds Podcast

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We're turning insights to impact as we talk camp and why it matters based on the latest research. Each episode we'll focus on one thing that's making a difference right now in outdoor ministry.


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We're turning insights to impact as we talk camp and why it matters based on the latest research. Each episode we'll focus on one thing that's making a difference right now in outdoor ministry.




DON'T FORGET: A Season 2 Finale

Eat. Let go. Grateful. Jesus. Giggle. No, it's not a silly camp word game. Ok, maybe a little. The season 2 finale is here! We'll look back at some of the numbers and share our favorite episodes of this season. Hear our longest, shortest, and most listened-to episodes. Any guesses? Then, we beseech leaders to remember some things for the summer ahead as we launch, encourage, and bless you into this season of ministry. Support the show


From Campus to Camp

Special guest day! We've got two special guests with direct, experiential perspective on the seasonal migration that is about to or recently has happened for thousands of college students (and many high school too) on their way in to serving as summer camp staff. We'll hear from Jenna, one of those students in the midst of such a transition, and from Pastor Dominique Bucholz who serves as a Campus Pastor at the Minnesota State University Moorhead in Minnesota. Then, Jake talks us through the study we did a few years ago with a campus ministry organization, what we learned, and why is matters. You can check out that study here. Support the show


Staff Training Deep Dive

Staff training is identified by many leaders and summer staff members alike as their favorite part of the summer. There must be something going on here. There is. Something that matters. Your camp culture starts here. The creativity, clarity, and community that is gained in these training and orientation experiences set the tone for the summer, impacting campers and families every week. So how do we do this really well? We use what we've learned to frame staff training in a way that begins to give staff the three things they need to thrive in a summer of ministry: support, agency, and a faithful community. We'll also share stories, ideas, and tips on how to get there. PS, here are some of the resources and projects we refer to in this episode: The Camp & Church Leadership Project Holy Ground: A Guidebook for Summer Camp Staff Training Throughout the Summer by Kelsey Blinn BRAND NEW! Sacred Playgrounds Staff Training Opportunities


Fresh Findings from OMC

These are some of the most impactful findings on the pulse of outdoor ministry today, draped in a really hopeful outlook. We unpack things like the biggest threat to outdoor ministry this year, what we're learning about director demographics, the four types of faith-focused camps, and more. We just finalized the report on the 5th OMC Director's Survey, a biennial study of camp leaders and the ministries they serve, effectively telling a story of where we've been and indicating trajectory for where we're going. These are the kinds of findings any camp can use right now. In this episode, we're sharing some of the most interesting headlines and why they matter. Learn more and access the report at


The Best Gift We Can Give Them

To know and listen - these is the best gifts we can give our camp community. This applies throughout our ministries, from the connection between a counselor and camper, to how we engage our trusted supporters, and everything in between. Life is loud, input is constant, and expectations of production are high. It's part of why set-apart experiences like camp are so vital right now. Sometimes it feels like no one listens anymore. When we listen, and listen well, then act based on what we hear, we offer something far too uncommon these days. In this episode, Jake and Jared talk about intentionally identifying the unique, contextualized audiences that make up our camp community. Then, we'll talk about why and how listening well to them makes all the difference. We'll hear a story of how one camp listened well, and what they heard brought them insight that turned to action that turned to incredible ministry. Anna sat down with Brent Seaks, Executive Director of Badlands Ministries in western North Dakota, during last year's Lutheran Outdoor Ministry conference. Support the show


Insights to Impact Story: Camp Judson

In 2018, after hearing about some of the data from the first Power of Camp Study with Christian Camp and Conference Association ministries, Camp Judson and Executive Director Kevin Saxton decided to join the project. After their first year of data, they were struck with what they learned about where their campers were coming from, and made intentional program choices to meet them where they were at. What they did and what they saw change in subsequent years writes a clear story about the value of using insights to generate missional impact. Kevin joins the podcast to share his unique, circular journey into outdoor ministry and how their project turned into measurable faith practice.


Stories & Steps from the Holy Land

Walking in the steps of Jesus is no small thing. True pilgrimage spans the preparation and prayer before, wide-eyed wondering during, and intentional processing and application after these holy experiences in these holy places. We'll hear from Jake and Anna from our Sacred Playgrounds team who recently got to do just that, embark on a long-awaited pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They'll walk us through some of the most impactful places they visited, what struck them, what changed in them, and how we can walk in similar steps. Episode References: Elias Tours Augusta Victoria Hospital


Recruiting Emerging Adults

We're in it. Recruiting season. When we know the systems, life stages, situations, and motivations of the emerging adults that will soon become this summer's incredible staff, we can recruit in a way that sets both the staff member and the ministry up for the best summer ever. In this episode, we'll break down some research and resources that give us all insight into these emerging adults. Plus, we'll talk about some recruiting tactics that come right out of these insights. You'll also hear some info about a chance to dive deeper into recruiting, as well as staff training and support in our All Things Staffing Webinar. Sign up here to join us!


Holy Ground 2023 with 2 Special Guests

It's here! Holy Ground 2023 is available for pre-order, and we couldn't be more excited. We know these staff are the heart of your summer ministry, and we've learned and learned again that supporting them is absolutely vital. That's why we created Holy Ground. This year's edition comes complete with 12 weeks of brand new for 2023 devotions, updated training and resource content, and a pretty new cover. Holy Ground is a practical, inspirational, and deeply useful companion for every single one of your summer staff. In this episode, we'll hear from two special guests. Our friend Gretchen Bachman, whose initial idea to support summer staff with a devotional became the heart of Holy Ground, co-hosts with Jared sharing the origin & framework of this resource. Plus, we'll hear a conversation Anna Sorenson from our team had with Tom Powell, Executive Director at Caroline Furnace Camp & Retreat with some stories and specifics for how their team and summer staff found value in Holy Ground and how they used it in a variety of ways. Want to hear more? Listen to last year's Holy Ground preview episode. Two steps to take out of today's episode. First, check out to download a sample and learn more. Then, estimate how many copies you'll need for your staff team and submit a pre-order today! You'll confirm numbers and complete your order this spring prior to staff training.


5 New Year's Resolutions for Camp in 2023

Happy New Year camp friends! It's here - one of our favorite and most downloaded episodes of season 1 gets a 2023 reboot. These 5 New Year's resolutions were built directly from what we heard over the last year and see unfolding in the year to come. Here are your resolution key words to listen for in this episode: identity, hire, mom, agency, & insights. Happy listening, and happy new year. It's going to be a good one for outdoor ministry.


Bonus Episode: A Christmas Reflection from Sacred Playgrounds

Join Rev. Anna Sorenson, our Director of Operations and Associate Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent, WI for a Christmas week reflection on John 1. Merry Christmas!


3 L's, 2 E's, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Parents spend so much energy giving to and for their kids, let's give them a few gifts from the camp community. We've packaged up our ideas in 3 "L's" that are the impactful, keep-on-giving kind. Plus, we'll hear a chat Pastor Anna Sorenson, Sacred Playgrounds Director of Operations had with Margie Fiedler, Executive Director at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp about how setting up a multi-year, intentional system of listening to camper parents made a big, yet easy-to-implement difference in their programs.


3 Circles of Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Episode

Happy Thanksgiving! There are many studies that connect happiness and even productivity with an attitude of gratitude. We have a lot to be thankful for in our own lives and in our ministries. Can I get an, "Amen?" Starting within ourselves and moving concentrically outward there are circles of impact and influence that should hear words and feel actions of gratitude. We'll call out the ones in these circles and stumble on a few ways and even a bit of a framework for living and acting with gratitude. Support the show


What Does the Mom Say?

Say it louder for the people in the back - parents are your primary constituents. Camp is one of the spaces where the final decision makers are not necessarily the ones having the experience, yet their perspective on how things go at camp is so, so vital. We're deep in summer 2022 parent data right now and have compiled and analyzed data from 37+ camps and over 2500 parent responses to important questions about your ministry. Here's some of what those parents had to say. Curious about what these reports look like? Download a sample by clicking the button below. Interested in doing a survey like this next summer? Click the button to learn more and get in touch with us. DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE LEARN MORE ABOUT PARENT RESEARCH Support the show


Plugged Out: Is it Still the Great Outdoors?

We hear it and see it from parents, youth, and society - plugged in to some kind of technology is our near-constant state of being. There are precious few places and it takes more intentionality than ever to get ourselves outside - yet it matters as much as ever for our mental, physical, and societal health. Enter outdoor ministry, people and places with opportunity to move the world from a little less plugged in to a little more plugged out. We're meant to be connected - to God and each other - and from Biblical times through this very day, we meet God in these sacred places, these sacred playgrounds, set outdoors on purpose for good purpose. Support the show


Take Me To Your Leaders: An Executive & Board Episode

The relationship between your Executive Director and your Board of Directors is a vitally important - maybe the most important - relationship in the infrastructure of your ministry. There are ways to keep it healthy and thriving, giving foundation from underneath, support from all sides, vision from above, and spirit from within. On this episode, we'll talk about a few keys to executive and board connections, borrowing from and processing through ideas from Joan Garry, a nationally renowned nonprofit leadership consultant and speaker, and Keith Johnson, The Board Coach, who shares 4 keys to healthy executive and board relationships. Find out more at their sites below. Joan Garry, Keith Johnson, We'll also offer up a set of tools we built to help with one of these keys: an annual mutual review and evaluation process. Find out more about our Director Evaluation support. We'd love to help.


A Holy Handoff

Pick your analogy, a seamless pass of the baton in the zone while speeding around the track, a quarterback placing the ball squarely in the gut of a tailback headed for the endzone, an instrumental duet with a melody passed perfectly from one first chair to another - when handoffs are done well, it's beautiful and successful and everyone is the better for it. That's the season we're in, right now. Summer camp has ended and both our campers and our staff members are beginning something fresh, yet the experiences and memories of camp, the data tells us, continues to impact who they are. So this means there is opportunity for intentional handoff to ministry partners in places like homes, congregations, and campuses. The spirit of camp keeps moving when bridges are built. You'll hear Jared and Jake share a few ways to handoff intentionally, but we're most interested in your creative ideas and positive experiences, so join us in one of the spaces below and offer up what you've seen work well in this season of holy handoff. The Effective Camp Community on Facebook The Sacred Playgrounds Instagram Page The Sacred Playgrounds Facebook Page Support the show


A 3x3 Camp Summer in Review

Season 2 begins now! How was your summer? Did you encounter challenges? Did you experience things worth celebrating? Either way, you're not alone. As we kick off this new season of the podcast, Jake and Jared take an episode to review the summer and name 3 things worth celebrating in the outdoor ministry community and 3 challenges many of us faced during the summer of 2022. We'll also share a bit of what to expect this season, including opportunities for your voice to be heard on the SP Pod!


EPIC Season Finale

It's the season one finale of the Sacred Playgrounds podcast! It's going to be E.P.I.C. This episode is framed with an epic alliteration of four key things to remember and apply as camp begins for the summer. Think of them as broad-brush questions to ask, focal lenses to look through, key ideas to overlay. Are we being fully participatory? Do we create space to value input? As staff enter into training and campers wind down on school-year things and gear up for summer things, be encouraged, this isn't just another summer - it's the summer that God has prepared for such a time as this. It's going to be epic.



Meet Amber Hill Anderson, a professional mediator and conflict resolution specialist, not to mention former camp staffer and current ongoing enthusiast. Here's the reality, camp won't be all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes people see and experience things differently. Sometimes there are disconnects. At camp, we have a unique space to approach conflict in a healthy way, given a little direction. We're not just hoping to give campers a good week, but experiences and skills for a good life. Amber and Jake will talk strategies and methods for intentionally managing conflict this summer, whether that's two staff members disconnecting, or a squabble between campers. You'll leave this episode with a few actionable tools that you or your summer staff can put to use when conflict arises.