As camp leaders, we talk a lot about the “soft skills” we teach campers. Camp teaches kids about independence, courage, community, empathy, creativity, and so much more. However, it’s often difficult to be sure that our staff is growing in those skills as well. Oftentimes, camp staff end the summer knowing that they’ve grown and changed, but haven’t reflected on that growth enough to be able to explain how they’ve grown and changed. Giving them the tools to reflect in small, manageable ways is important. Suggesting that they journal is good, but unless we give them some structure, it may be difficult to know what to journal about. It can also feel overwhelming to journal about something that is ambiguous. We may suggest creating goals at the beginning of the summer, but they’re difficult to track throughout the summer. Something that combines both of these tools (journaling and goals) is the Ignatian Examen.
The Examen is a tool used in Ignatian Spirituality to reflect upon the day, or any time in life. St. Ignatiaus (who founded the Jesuit order of Catholic Priests in 1534) developed it as a way to cultivate gratefulness, review the day, create goals for the next day, as well as evaluate your relationship with God. While many people frame it around God, spirituality, and faith, it can also be a valuable reflection tool in any context. I have written a version of the Examen for camp staff, and have created a “prayer card” for you to give your staff to use to reflect every evening, or at the end of the week. I’ve also written out a script if you’d like to lead your staff through the Examen. The best way the Examen fits for camp staff? It’s quick! They can do it on their own in 5 minutes.