I’ll start off by saying that I think that both are top notch organizations and you can’t really go wrong with either. I’ve carried groups a bunch of times to the Student Life Tour and never was disappointed. And one year we went to the Student Life camp at Covenant College. With BigStuf I went as a college leader back in 1994, and then I’ve carried a group of my own every year since 1997.
Again, you can’t go wrong if you’re trying to decide between the two. BUT…if I was having to choose between the two, I’d probably choose BigStuf (I guess I have since I’ve gone 10 years in a row!) But here are a few thoughts:
- I think BigStuf is the best combination of teaching, worship, and fun. It’s located right on the beach @ Panama City Beach with lots to do literally right out side the door of your room. With Student Life, their camps are spread out all over the country in some really good locations. It was beautiful on top of Lookout Mountain when we went.
- The schedule at BigStuf is a lot more relaxed than the schedule at StudentLife. At Student Life breakfast starts at 6:45 vs. 7:30 at BigStuf. And BigStuf breakfast is not mandatory. Most of my students go, but not all. Also the first “meeting” of the day is 9:15 at BigStuf vs. 8:15 at Student Life.
- There is more free time at BigStuf as far as the afternoons. But this year our “free time” was full of the tournaments our church was involved in. We did quite well in Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, and Basketball. But that was our “rec” time. At Student Life, there are scheduled recreation times where everyone participates. And afternoon free time seemed much shorter.
- At Student Life there were quiet times in the morning w/ your youth group where they were more individual times in the afternoon at BigStuf. I see the value in both of these…
- Each camp has a time for your church group scheduled in there.
- Student Life has the kids split up in to “Family Groups”. BigStuf does not. I think it’s kinda cool that Student Life does that. And they have adults from church groups to lead these. Cool stuff.
- Both camps have good teachers and worship leaders. I’ve actually seen some of the same teachers and worship leaders be at both camps during the same summer even.
- Randy Hall and Lanny Donoho are both visionary leaders w/ a great camp. Both guys have done exceptionally well with what God’s built through their efforts.
- Student Life does seem to be a little cheaper, but not tons.
- I’m not sure about all of them, but I notice that at some of the Student Life Beach Camps you have to drive to and from the meeting place and the hotel. At BigStuf…it’s all w/in a couple of hundred yards.
Anyway, I think they both have the edge in different departments. One thing Matt asked about was the Mission Experience that Student Life has in some of its camps. BigStuf does not have that as a part of their program, so they’re absent of that.
And I don’t want it to sound like I like BigStuf better just because there is more free time and you can sleep a little later (though it is nice). But the one year I was a Student Life, the overall schedule seemed a little too tight. Like you were always moving from one thing to the next w/ hardly a break. But some people really like this because it wears the kids out and they get to sleep quicker at night!
But…either way you go, you can’t go wrong. Both are being used by God to touch the lives of both students AND adults!