Planning a Sports Camp for Any Church

by Deane Hartzell

Done properly, a Sports Camp can:

  1. be done with a church of any size.
  2. enhance the spiritual growth of the church.
  3. bring churches together through a sports camp partnership.
  4. allow new families the opportunity to become acquainted with your church.
  5. bring great excitement to those that lead which in turn excites the church.
  6. be the entry point for God to work in a whole new way in your church.
  7. develop skills and attitudes in your participants that will propel them to a stronger faith.
  8. develop sports skills that will help them feel good about where they are in their abilities.
  9. increase the number of willing servants in the church.
  10. help fulfill the the Great Commission.

There is no single way to do a Sports Camp, no single way to recruit people, no single way to make it happen. Develop the program and find the right people, invest in those people, show them what to do and step back to watch God work.

You want to put on a Sports Camp and you do not know how to make it happen. While knowledge is important, imagination will take you further in making this happen. When it comes to planning a Sports Camp, you have an endless supply of ways it can be conducted. There are specific items that will be a part of each Sports Camp, but imagination will allow you to be creative by adding some unique touches to accomplish the task. Is there a best way to do it? The best way is what fits your church with the resources you have available.

So, what are those specific items that need to be a part of each Sports Camp?


Is the Lord leading you to have a sports camp this summer? Great! Begin praying early and ask others to cover your kids, volunteers and whole event in prayer.

As you prepare a Sports Camp and prepare your helpers, remember teaching and coaching can be difficult if we forget we are working with children. We need to recognize that all children do not have the same capacity to learn what you are teaching at any given moment.

Make the overall focus to “make Christ known.” A clear vision gives you and your team a specific goal for each time you meet with your leaders and your participants. So, spell out why you are doing this. What will be met through the camp? Who is this for? How do we reach out into the community? Can we reach out beyond our community?


“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’ (Acts 13:2)”. As Barnabas and Saul were set apart for ministry, you also have access to people who are “set apart” to help you with this Sports Camp. You can find them in the strangest places if you ask. There might even be a fisherman or two available.

You only have two or three people available? Great, you can handle a quite a few kids with that many leaders.

When I recruit volunteers for a Sports Camp, I first look at their relationship with Christ, their love for working with kids second and finally I consider their sports background. Having the first two qualities is essential; you can train your volunteers in sports knowledge.

After recruiting personnel, how are you going to train them for their specific responsibilities? You may not be capable of training someone in sports. Find someone that can do this. This is another way to encourage people who may not usually volunteer to get involved in ministry. What will the training consist of? Take a look at the schedule for camp and break that down into each session. What do you want to accomplish each session and what do your leaders need to know to make it happen? By focusing on each session individually it will help volunteers and you to know they have a firm grasp on what needs to be happening each day.

Also think ahead to how you are going to thank those that helped make it happen.

Thinking Through the Details

Facilities and Location
While it would be nice, you do not need a gym or lots of outdoor space. Do you have a relationship with a school nearby that you can work with? How about a park with a pavilion area? And where will the small groups meet? What about down the hallway or under the shade of a tree. Also make sure to think through transportation if that is something you will need during the camp.

Do not worry if you are lacking space; be creative. Sports camps can be done on a strip of grass and an empty parking lot. Bring portable goals and develop your plan based on the space you have. Plan the sports you are going to offer based on what can be done with the space you have. Make the groups smaller to accommodate the space. Do what you can with what you have to make it happen.


Think about how to spread the word about your camp and what registration is going to look like. Also make sure to think through which age groups will be involved.


Do some web searches on the sports you wish to have. Check out the variety of skills, drills and games for those sports. Talk to a local coach or physical education instructor. If sports is not your thing, or even if it is, get someone else involved to help you.


What will your daily schedule include? Make sure you include teaching skills, doing drills to practice the skills and put the skills to use in a game type activity that encourages the use of those skills just practiced. This is called a lead-up game. After that, you can add any other element you wish to the schedule such as devotions, Bible study, worship, recreation, fitness or whatever you can think of.

Length of Camp

Will this be a sports day camp or an overnight experience? What about a two or three day overnight camp where you have the kids sleep in the gym? Half day camps work well in some circumstances. And a full day camp allows for a more training, teaching and participation to occur within the camp experience. Plan for the camp to occur when you can achieve the maximum outreach. Be careful to schedule around other major events and main leader’s schedules.


If you are working with elementary age students, take into consideration that they need variety, they need change of pace and a little surprise here and there will go a long way to make it an exciting camp. Flow is an important word we use in our training. Work out your transitions in everything you do so there will be smooth movement from one activity to another and even within an activity. In sport time, set up your space so that when you move from one drill or activity to another, there is little to no down time in getting into your next activity. If kids have downtime, they will find something to do to fill that time.


It might be a warm week, so bring out extra water. What else can you do to manage the heat? Mix your activities so there are less active periods between the running activities. Let us say you are doing a flag football sport. Buy a few foam footballs and use them in your drills. Then surprise the kids by dunking the footballs in water and having them throw and catch. Another fun idea is to have a water carnival on the last day with a slip-n-slide, sprinklers and other fun water games. Make plans for rainy weather before it happens. Take your outdoor sport and recreation plans and adapt them to a smaller space, shorter ceilings or a large shared space inside with multiple groups.

Sharing Your Faith

Think through how you plan to share the Gospel with the campers. Make sure to allow time in the schedule for faith conversations. Prepare the volunteers with the process and who will be sharing the Gospel.


Make sure you prepare for emergencies and other unexpected circumstances such as illness and inclement weather. Make sure to have each participant provide emergency contact information.


Check to make sure the church’s insurance will cover all that will happen during the week of camp.


Make a list of supplies you will need to facilitate the camp. Make sure to include all the sports equipment, food, bible study materials, devotional ideas, tee shirts, any awards you might want to hand out and cameras for video and still pictures. Make sure you do not forget first aid supplies and water coolers with cups and ice.

Pictures can be posted on a password protected web site for all the campers to see. End of the week certificates are another fun way to honor kids for their hard work during camp. Some examples are the Helper Award, the 110% Award, Team Spirit Award, etc. Encourage staff to take note of these positive characteristics during the week.

Make sure to keep track of where you are at with planning. Keep on top of communication to your volunteers and to the participants. Through team meetings make sure that your teachers are feeling comfortable and on top of their training.

Level the Playing Field
Higher skilled players tend to dominate play and as a result, students who have lower skills get little opportunity to participate (and they need it the most). How can you keep this from happening? Play more Lead-Up Games (A game that is played with the intent of reinforcing a skill or skills without playing the actual game to its full extent). Plan activities that make sure all can be involved and have opportunity for some success. This eliminates or reduces boredom, off-task behavior and increases skill and fitness improvement. Not easy to do for rookies, but trial and error is a good teacher.

The biggest thing to remember is that all will not go as planned. As best as possible, prepare for the unexpected. If something happens, learn from it and move on.

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalms 20:4 NIV).”

Deane Hartzell
Executive Director
Infinity Sports – Sports Camps – Sports Training – Sports Materials

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