From Cop to Camp: School Groups with Andy Douglass

by Katie Brown

“We partner and come alongside the teachers to help get them and their students on the same page as they go through the year. The teachers that are with them day in and day out are the real disciplers of the students. It’s not us, we only see them for a few days, and then they’re back at the school. We have a relationship with the school, but ultimately, we want the teachers and the kids to have a relationship towards the goals of the school, to accomplish what they want.” – Andy Douglass.   

For four years, Andy Douglass has served as the School Groups Manager at Living Waters Bible Camp.  

During an interview, Andy described his role at camp and what God is doing through the School Groups ministry. He also shared some of the challenges he has faced.   

  • How would you say the Lord prepared you for your position as School Groups Manager at Living Waters Bible Camp?   

My previous job helped me learn how to communicate with people. I learned how to talk to everybody and going to all the emergency calls prepared me for doing the compliance work. As a cop, you’re serving people, usually on the worst days of their life. That helped me learn how to serve and helped me learn how to care for people.   

Not a lot of people would think, “Oh, he’s a cop- he could work at a camp.” They wouldn’t make that distinction of being able to serve or being able to care about people. Dennis and Paul could see the connection. There were other camps that I applied to that couldn’t see the connection from cop to camp. But they could see my capabilities and how they would fit with camp. But not every camp looked at that as a benefit. If you looked at my resume, you’d think he’s definitely a cop, and he’s probably good at it.   

If you just look at the paper, we don’t have the time to talk, or you don’t have the time for me to share my heart, you’re not going to be able to make the connection from cop to camp. I mean, they took a chance.  

As you reflect on Andy’s words, pay close attention, and you will glimpse how Andy uses his cop skills in his roles at camp, and you will see how he was just the person camp needed.   

  • Can you describe the unique relationship you carry on between camp and schools?    

When I visit a school, I’m the liaison and a bit of a salesman. I explain camp to them, bring excitement for camp in conversation, and share the benefits of camp. I’ve met with principals, teachers, and superintendents, and they ask hard questions.    

What’s important when I meet them is that I’m getting to know them. I like to walk around and look in their halls, figuring out why they would come to camp. What do they expect out of us, and what are their goals? Why would they pull their kids out of the classroom to spend time at camp? I talk about their goals and their purpose, then I customize. What’s the deeper lesson that you want them to learn? What spiritual application do you want them to take away from camp?  

When they get to camp, I’m the communicator between the staff and the school to ensure goals are attained. Staff comes to me as a contact point, and the school can come to me. I know what both sides are thinking or doing, and then with them only coming to one person, you don’t get mixed messages. With smooth communication, you get better care for the kids. I’m the connection from camp to the school group all the way through.   

In December, when Dennis and I went to visit schools- we just went to connect and talk. I didn’t have a list of questions. I went there to be like, how is school going? Is there any way we can help you? Do you want to talk about the retreat for next year, or how can we help prepare for the next retreat? That’s really caring when you go visit. Not many camps will visit the school and see how they’re doing after the retreat. That’s relationship building. When they’re at camp, they will trust us more, and we will know how to serve them much better. If you have this relationship, you’ll have the groups coming hopefully for years and years, and the teachers- the school’s leadership- will see the benefit of the relationship and how we’re helping each other.   

  • What’s an unexpected way you have seen God work through your roles at camp or as you serve people through your roles at camp?    

First off, I wasn’t looking for a camp where I had to raise support. I have learned a lot about trusting Him for my needs rather than working for the paycheck like I used to. People are giving up money so that I can get paid to be able to serve others. Working with the Christian school groups, I thought they’re all Christians that come, and they’re actually not. Some of the kids that go to some Christian schools are not Christians. I’ve run into kids, foreign exchange students, who come, live with a Christian family, and go to the Christian school. The school works hard to see those kids come and be part of the Christian school, to see them become believers.   

Camp is a big part of getting them out of the building, enjoying time with their schoolmates but in God’s creation. That is where you can get them into a chapel or get them to do the tower- something maybe they’ve never done before or had an experience with, and then they learn to trust. Camp is important for their spiritual development along with the school. At camp, we can provide where they can get away from all the technology and be in creation. I enjoy being able to facilitate that. I enjoy working with the schools. I like doing TAC, and I like getting out and doing the tower. There’s one school every year that I play paintball with, and that’s fun- to just play with them. I enjoy it, and I wish we had more schools.

  • What has been a surprising challenge you have faced when working with the school groups?   

I don’t really like the sales part of it and a couple of times I’ve done chapel. That’s been a challenge because I don’t feel like I’m a speaker or qualified to do a chapel. Behind the scenes is what I feel is my strong point. I don’t like being upfront, and I need to get better at that.  

Andy talked about the Westby School District groups. He shared his hope for these groups is, “To be able to minister to them. I want to be able to help them more than they’re helping us. I want them to spend their time at camp and feel blessed by camp, feel they’ve been served.    

Westby School District in and of itself is different. It’s hard to minister to a public school- not preach at them and drive them away but be able to share Christ with them. As far as school groups go, the public school is the most challenging to serve within the aspect of trying to share the gospel, to be a witness. That’s something I’ve had to learn how to figure out because you don’t want to push away those school groups. You don’t want to offend them. They know they’re coming to a Bible Camp when they come to camp. To feel free to share the gospel with them, there’s been some learning there.   

  • Many other camps host school groups, what is it about Living Waters Bible Camp that makes that experience and that time different?   

I’ve worked at other camps or volunteered at other camps. Activity-wise, you can do it at other camps. What’s unique to Living Waters is the creation programs or the nature programs. We give all the kids information, or we present them and allow them to discover, wonder, and figure things out for themselves. 

When you’re in a classroom… you just say we are not from apes. We have a human skull and an ape skull in the nature center. When you can look at them side by side and look at the differences, you can explore them, feel them, and touch them. Then you can discover things and can begin to wonder or think about them from a Biblical creation perspective. Then you can draw closer to the Lord, worshipping how good He is because you see the differences first-hand. You can see how God created us differently, and we’re not descendent of an ape.   

We’re going to be very intentional at Living Waters. Instead of just giving an activity, we’re very intentional on the relationship side to invest in people. As a result, they will experience and have adventures in God’s creation. They’re going to have fun and learn without knowing they’re learning. But later, it’s going to click, and they’re going to be like, “oh, I learned that at camp.” I really like the way we do that.  

  • Is there anything else you would like to share?   

I like that my family can serve at camp with me. It’s not just me going to work- it’s my wife helping in the store, my kids doing dishes, and my family serving together in the kitchen. My kids are learning how to serve, and I like being able to serve together. Not every camp is like that either. 

Thank you, Andy (and the entire Douglass family), for faithfully serving at Living Waters Bible Camp! We, too, are thankful that you serve at camp!