Leadership Camps

When I was in grade 12, my entire class went to a leadership camp day. We did team building and group exercises. I'm not sure what kind of leadership I did. The student council stayed behind for 2 or 3 more days to do more leadership training.

Now that I'm a camp director, I'm responsible for staffing a leadership camp of my own. For two weeks a summer, 16 teenagers learn to be leaders. They do team building, a canoe trip, and learn a lot about the style of leadership Jesus used.

I've been exposed to other leadership camps (or other camps based on team building) in my life too. They seem very similar; they use games and stuff to draw people out and build up the people there.

If you don't know what team building is - these are the games where you're doing a fairly difficult task, and each team member either needs to complete the task or needs to participate for the group to complete the task. Maybe you're supporting each other on a tightrope strung between two trees, or passing each other through a rope spiderweb without touching the "web", or having your whole group scale a ten foot wall.

What's always baffled me is that there isn't really any "leadership training" in these camps. Admittedly, the camp I'm associated with has some specific curriculum about leadership styles, but for the most part leadership camps seem better designed to build confidence than leadership. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since confidence is a nice prerequisite to thinking about issues and bringing others along, but I wouldn't say it's the same.

What really drives me to post this online is this small footnote of my experience with leadership camps: they have all been populated by upper middle class campers. Most, but not all, are white. And many of them have gone to other leadership programs, which are driving similar messages home again and again.

We are training a specific demographic (I hesitate to define this demographic too much, but it's an upper-middle class one) of people in leadership, or at least telling them that we're training them in leadership. And then we're setting them loose on the world.

That's strange - we should be able to do better. I wonder why that is.

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