Scenic view of trees at camp

Relational Recruiting

by Anna Birch

summer staff circle

Have you ever wondered what our full-time camp teams do during the other nine months of the year? Much of it is spent preparing for the next summer, pouring into current college staff, and recruiting new staff. Since recruiting makes up a substantial part of the year, it begs the question: HOW do we find such incredible staff?!

As we enter into another big year of hiring staff for next summer, we are amazed at God’s provision for a new way of recruiting that was initiated even before the start of the pandemic. 

Before 2018, we recruited mainly by putting up informational booths in student centers and other parts of campuses. Full-time staff would wait for college students to walk by or have summer staffers bring their friends to the booth, and then often interview them on the spot. As Pine Cove grew and added regions, we saw the need for many more amazing Jesus-loving staff, and the old model of recruiting began to make less sense since it didn’t scale.

Enter the new model dubbed “relational recruiting.” Director of Recruiting Jeff “Backfire” Lay explains that our full-time staff realized that the incredible and godly college students we already hire were hanging out with others just like them on their campuses—so we decided to start there! Whether or not a college student applying to Pine Cove knows someone else on staff, Jeff says this model is “transformational not transactional.” In other words, the current recruiting process is all about the relationships that are built between summer staff, their friends, and camp directors.


Jeff says, “As the full-time staff person at the recruiting booth, we used to have to explain to those interviewing who Pine Cove was. Our summer staff might walk them to the table, introduce them to the full-time staff, and then we’d do the rest. As we grew as an organization, we knew there had to be a better way. We realized our staff know better than anybody who else needs to be at camp. We hire phenomenal people, and they’re hanging out with more phenomenal people back at school.”  

Our Recruiting Project Manager, Ellie “Bluefish” Graziadei, says, “Often, friends will tell their friends about their experience at a specific camp and get them to apply and if they get hired at that camp, they will walk into the summer already knowing people.” 

Jeff adds, “We used to have Recruiting Coordinators (aka ‘RCs,’ a summer staffer selected to help us recruit other summer staff at their particular school) which would put a lot of burden on that one person for their whole campus. We’d send them posters and resources, but now, ALL of our returning staff are ‘RCs.’ We tell people our recruiting department is about 2,000 people because it’s all of our summer staff!”

So how do camp teams feel about the change in recruiting? Silverado is a great example of reaping the benefits of this new model. Austin “Homestar” Langemeier, Silverado’s Camp Director, says it has been a huge win for them.


It has allowed us to have a full team by Christmas and find folks that know Silverado and want to come join us!” 

Overall, staff seem to make quicker connections because of relational recruiting. The beauty of this new approach to recruiting is that the staff who are completely new to Pine Cove and haven’t yet met any other staff are able to get connected with them at staff events throughout the year before summer camp begins.

Annelise “Smilin” Morrison, Silverado’s Women’s Director, adds, “Feeling like a tight knit family happens so much more quickly now because everyone comes in connected to others on staff. It is awesome to hear at the end of summer evaluations how everyone felt unified throughout the summer.” 

Of course, potential summer staff don’t need to know current staff to interview! Many potential staff still find out about summer job opportunities online or through other announcements. When these people are hired, full-time teams are immediately able to start building relationship with them and connect them to other Pine Cove staff on their campus, even before staff orientation and training. 

Ellie says, “Relational recruiting allows ministry with staff to happen year-round, not just during the summer. Being able to invest in our college staff throughout the year has been a win for both our full-time camp teams and our summer staff. It enables full-time staff to have more time to invest in staffers and allows staffers to welcome their friends into that.”


Annelise shares her favorite story from this past year, “One of our CITs (Counselors in Training) brought a friend with her to one of our Silverado hangouts. That weekend, we were able to connect with her, interview her, and later on hire her. It was awesome to connect with her that weekend and really see her get excited about serving at camp so quickly as she met so many people. A few months later, she was going through some really hard family circumstances and I had the chance to talk to her several times before the summer even started. It was awesome to see how she felt comfortable and a part of the Silverado family before even stepping onto the property. This summer was a very growing experience as she was able to lean into the community around her and take the hard things to the Lord.” 

One of the things that excites camp teams and the recruiting department is recognizing how God had led Pine Cove to change the way we recruit years before COVID-19 entered the picture. 

Ellie and Jeff explain that it is such a cool picture of God’s sovereignty! They said that if we were still using the old model in a COVID-19 world, they might be panicking right now. Since many schools are doing distance learning or not allowing outside booths to be set up on campus, it would’ve made recruiting a serious challenge. Thankfully, relational recruiting has put them in a great position to still hire staff! 

Annelise says, “I love that the Lord cared for the details before we knew a global pandemic was on the way. Having the structure in place and getting to connect with new people through our staff is going to be key in hiring season this year.”

Relational recruiting has already been a blessing to Pine Cove, and we can’t wait to see the many ways staffers and campers continue to be impacted by God’s provision in our hiring process!

Know a college student that would be a great fit for Pine Cove summer staff? Encourage them to apply!

Posted Nov 11, 2020

Anna Birch

Former Staff

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