Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Miracle Camp 2020
– An Overview –
Revised on December 11th. As regulations are constantly changing, please check back regularly for updates.
How are you able to plan for Ice Camps this year?
As you know in your churches, planning and making decisions for anything months out (sometimes even a week out) is very tough given the current state of the pandemic. In our initial brainstorming in September and October, we had planned as if Ice Camps would operate under the guidelines given at the time (with some thoughts given to the “worst case scenario”).
As of Sunday, November 15, the state of Michigan ordered some tighter restrictions that are scheduled be in effect until December 20. It’s very possible (maybe even likely) that these restrictions will be extended into the Ice Camp season, so we are going to plan accordingly, knowing that it is easier to loosen up at the last minute, rather than try and tighten up.
The state orders do give certain exemptions for both residential camps and religious gatherings, so we know that it is still possible to host Ice Camps under the current guidelines. However, just because we can claim certain religious liberties doesn’t necessarily mean that we always will. We want to be above reproach, good witnesses to our community, and avoid being foolish or flippant with safety protocols. (i.e just because we can put on a religious service with 300 kids from different midwest communities all crammed into one room together doesn’t mean we will).
Our goal is to remain as transparent as possible to let you know how we are making adjustments to compensate. And of course, if your group needs to cancel for pandemic-related purposes (people in your group get sick, restrictions make it not possible to come, many kids in your schools are exposed, etc), we will be gracious in granting a refund.
But our hope is to paint a realistic picture of what it will look like for your group while you’re actually on campus. And if any of our policies are too loose or too restrictive for your liking, we want to give you (and your students’ parents) plenty of time to consider whether they’d like to opt in or out of the weekend. But even with certain restrictions in place, we are confident that the weekend will still be a lot of fun. Having run 5 weeks of summer camp and over 14 weekends of fall programming, we know that camp is still a blast!
How will the schedule and programming look different?
As a rule of thumb, we are going to keep church groups together as a “family” or “cohort” throughout the weekend, and limit intermixing between groups. Because church groups will be travelling in vehicles together, sleeping in the same room, and sharing bathrooms, each will group will essentially be functioning as a family. Our camp licensing guidelines permit us to sleep up to 10 campers per room as long as some safety measures are taken, such as putting up plexiglass barriers between beds. Social distancing regulations can be a bit relaxed within these groups, but should not be outright ignored.
We know this is different than how we’ve programmed things in year’s past, but this model is what helped us pull off 5 COVID-free weeks of summer camp. And as an added benefit, we know that your group will grow much closer together this year due to more time spent together.
As of now, most weekends are limited to 200 attendees, which is about half of a normal year. Using our religious exemptions, we know that chapel sessions will still be held indoors, but we’ve made the choice to limit such gatherings to about 100 people at a time. This allows us to space all rows out 6-feet apart and limit contact between groups. In these indoor gatherings, we would ask that masks be worn while walking to/from seats and while singing. Masks could potentially be removed while kids are just sitting and listening to the speaker, but we’re leaning towards erring on the side of caution and having them be worn the entire time.
Like many churches, when it is needed we will be adopting a “two service model” to keep large group sizes down and to enable others to spread out to more of campus at one time. This is what allows us to meet in groups of 100 as opposed to 200. So, there will be still be four sessions throughout the weekend, but your group will either come to the “A” sessions or “B” sessions. The content of both sessions will be identical.
If any groups would prefer to avoid the large group gatherings altogether, there is always the ability to opt out of those and just go with the small group model instead.
***It is possible that if restrictions remain the same or tighten, we may do away with large group gatherings all together. In this case, we would have churches meet together in smaller groups, but not do corporate worship or preaching in the chapel. So it would be up to youth pastors and small group leaders to facilitate more of a traditional small group Bible study. Miracle Camp would still resource leaders with packets, guides, and questions.***
Similarly, the dining hall capacity will be limited as well and we will rotate groups through two separate meal times. This will make wait times even shorter and help free up more space around campus for activities since other groups will be eating while you are doing activities.
***If dine-in and restaurant restrictions prohibit us from serving meals in the dining hall, we may shift to a model where all meals are served “take-out” style. In this case, your group would be given boxed meals to eat in your respective cabins. We’ve done this for a couple of groups already. The food portions are still generous and everything tastes awesome!***
All-campus free time and all-group games/tournaments in the gym are two aspects of programming that we are planning to forgo this year. All of the same activities like tubing, dodgeball, broomball, and volleyball will still be offered, but just for one church group at a time. We have a list of over 20 different activities that we can run during Ice Camp, and each group will get to select 8 or so from that list that they would like to be scheduled for. When it gets closer, we will email your group a list of available options and you can mark down your preferred activities. We’ll then put together a master schedule so that each group gets to rotate through their activities, meals, and chapel sessions in a safe, spread out way.
Will people need to wear masks the entire time?
Because each youth group will be functioning as a family, we will not require groups to wear masks when they are with each other. While masks might be encouraged, this decision is ultimately left up to each group. Since kids will already be doing things such as sleeping and brushing teeth beside each other, it makes sense that the need to wear masks during other times could be reduced as well. Therefore, some of the only times that people will absolutely have to wear masks is while they are entering the chapel or dining hall where other groups are present, walking through a public lobby, or buying something from the coffee shop or camp store. But when your group has private scheduled gym time and there’s no other groups using the space, you can decide what you’d like to do regarding masks. We’d recommend just doing whatever your normal practices are when you meet for youth group.
Will we need to do a health screening?
Each church will responsible for conducting a health screening for each student BEFORE they board the van/bus. Miracle Camp will supply a health screening checklist, but each church is responsible to line up a volunteer health professional from their congregation or community to conduct the screening. Students should show up to the church and remain socially distant until they pass through the screening. If a student is showing symptoms or exhibiting a fever, they would need to be screened out before they would spend a couple hours in an enclosed space with other students. Upon arrival to Miracle Camp, each group will be asked to turn in their health screening forms before any students get out of the vehicle.
Are there any alternative options for Ice Camp?
For this year, we have decided to make a “day only” registration option available for Saturday. If your group — or individuals in your group — feel uneasy about staying overnight and would prefer to just come out for the day, the cost is $49. The “day event” program runs from 9am-10pm, includes lunch and dinner, two chapel sessions and small group times, and about four or five activity options. This modified option is probably best for groups within a two or three hour drive. If anyone in your group would benefit from this, please coordinate with our office.
What if things get worse between now and Ice Camp?
Since restrictions may tighten up (i.e. Michigan reverts to phase 3, or our Camp Licensing guidelines change), some of our plans may have to change. So, if restrictions worsen, we will most likely use the model that helped us successfully get through five weeks of summer camp with no cases of COVID. Camp will still be a blast, and kids will still get an awesome retreat with lots of quantity time together, but the traditional programming that we’ve offered in years past will have to be modified.
So broadly speaking, we would have groups travel up in “cohorts” of about ten people (or less). These “family” groups would eat together, stay in cabins together, have small group time, and do activities together. For example then, large churches of 50 could be broken down into 5 groups of 10. So to be clear: intermixing between cohorts would be eliminated – or at the very least minimized – with the exception of some safe outdoor activities. We had our own reservations about this model this summer, but the feedback was astounding. Kids and staff alike absolutely loved the increased time they had together as just their group and the unity that it created was unlike any other year. So it definitely made the sacrifice worth it.
And even though large group gatherings in the dining hall, chapel, and gym could not happen as normal, we are dedicated to coming up with fun and creative workarounds. Some meals might take on the form of a pizza party in the cabin or breakfast in bed. Instead of doing chapel sessions, we might just have everyone do small group Bible studies in cabins. And activity rotations would still ensure that every kid got an equal chance to do the tubing hill, have gym time, and shop in the Trading Post. So while it will definitely be different, we are confident that kids will still have an awesome time.
We understand that Ice Camp will very likely look much different than in past years (as described above). However, we believe it will be and can still be AWESOME. Change can provide opportunities. We have already seen how small group bonding, for example, has been a very positive outcome of our retreats at camp. We just want to communicate the upcoming changes as proactively and transparently as possible. Please reach out if you’d like any more clarity on what we are thinking. Or if we can help answer any safety-related questions that your parents are asking, we’d be glad to chat.