Experiential Leadership Institute (ELI)


Youth are more overwhelmed and distracted than ever. With so much noise, how are you supposed to hear God's calling? The Experiential Leadership Institute is a multi-week, immersive leadership development experience. Highly trained coaches guide rising 11-12th graders to discover their God-given strengths, reflect on what it means to function as a Christian community, and practice servant leadership while making a difference as day camp counselors.

Apply Online  |  ELI Stories |  Flyer  |  Example Fieldbook




ELI Stories

"Last summer I had the most incredible experience of my life....The training week had a huge impact on the way I see myself as a leader....I loved learning the way people work together and my different strengths....I discovered that leadership doesn't have to be loud and crazy...and that my leadership style is very relational." - 2014 ELI Participant

What are your God-given strengths? What are you passionate about? Is there only one way to lead, or does a leader lead in different ways based on the needs of a group? What does it mean to be a servant Christian leader? How do you care for followers? How do you cast a vision and motivate yourself and others to get after it?

ELI participants spend a week diving deep into these questions, then spend 1-8 weeks experiencing servant leadership together while volunteering as counselors making day camp ministry happen for nearly 1,000 children at local churches all over the northern half of Georgia. It's a hugely impactful experience. Check out these ELI stories from previous summers:

Taylor's Story  |  Jorge's Story  |  Reid's Story  |  Hannah's Story 



Program Overview


Pre-Summer 2017 | Steps To Apply

  1.   Apply for Summer Staff

    Apply For ELI

    Apply Online:  ELI applications for the 2016-2017 season began being accepted in September 2016 and will continue being accepted as long as spots remain. Apply For ELI
  2. Schedule An InterviewSubmit References Your completed ELI application is required prior to scheduling an interview. Interview date options will be emailed to applicants, and chosen on a first-come-first-served basis. The ELI application process includes a Pastor Reference FormThe online application will ask applicants for contact information for three references – one of which can be a parent while another can be the pastor from the pastor reference form above. At least one reference should be a youth worker, teacher, coach, employer or similar authority figure and/or mentor.
  3. Accept + Register:  After completing these steps, ELI candidates will be notified of their status. Accepted candidates will be prompted to register for the ELI Leadership Week and submit standard registration info such as health forms. After being accepted and registering for a Leadership Week, participants will be sent a response form to select Servant Leadership Weeks for Summer 2017.


Summer 2017 | Learn+Lead 

    Part 1 = ELI Leadership Week:  In the ELI Leadership Week, participants will undergo a strengths analysis and personality profile, learning about themselves and gaining an understanding of others as well. They will spend time learning about servant leadership and how strong leadership is not only compatible with, but integral to Christian faith. They will also learn theory of small group dynamics, practical small group leadership skills, and training specific to serving as a Day Camp Counselor later in the summer. Learn more about the ELI Leadership Week content in this example ELI FieldbookDetails about dates and rates for ELI Leadership Week are listed below.
  2. Part 2 = Servant Leader Week(s):  For the second part of the program, ELI participants transition from camper and leader-in-training to Day Camp Counselor with Grow Day Camps using the skills gained during their Leadership Week. Each participant will choose at least one week (and as many as eight weeks) to serve as a volunteer counselor for ELI's sibling ministry, Grow Day Camps. Grow sets up camp at local churches for elementary-aged campers from Monday through Friday, typically from 8:30-5:30. Day Camp Counselors will stay in the host church with Grow site directors (their counselors during Leadership Week) cooking meals together and sleeping on the floors of local churches. Each night the team will debrief, drawing lessons from the day's experiences. This time of debriefing, along with the daily supervision of the Grow staff, helps participants integrate the information shared during the Leadership Week with their practices in daily living and leadership. In Summer 2017, there will be 28 to 32 Grow locations at local churches across the North Georgia Conference. In addition to the required one week of serving as a Day Camp Counselor for practical experience, each participant may choose from the limited weekly positions in the remainder of the summer to continue in service, ministry, and growth at no additional charge. We'll feed, house, and mentor participants for additional summer weeks that fit into your family's schedule. This is an opportunity to build on the lessons learned in their first week as a Day Camp Counselor that we believe will provide invaluable insight for their leadership development. What's more, the chance to make a difference in the life of a child is a life-changing experience in itself.


Fall 2017 | Church Leadership Role

When the pastor has completed the Pastor Reference Form, he/she has committed to support you through prayer and help guide you into a leadership role at your home church. They may also choose to support you with church funding. During Fall 2017, participants are expected to fulfill a leadership role at their church to use some of the skills learned from ELI. Potential opportunities might include:

  1. Serving as a leader within the youth group
  2. Working with the children's ministry
  3. Helping lead an outreach program
  4. Serving as a youth representative on church committees

Whatever role you choose, we ask that you work alongside your pastor. At the end of this role, we will ask your pastor to evaluate your participation.


Program Sponsors

Special thanks to our 2016 program sponsors who made last year's $500 leadership awards possible: North Georgia Conference Board of Laity, LaGrange College, and Young Harris College.




When Is ELI?

Leadership Week: Accepted ELI participants are required to register for and attend the 2017 ELI Leadership Week:

Servant Leader Weeks: Participants will check in for their volunteer week(s) at the site of the Grow Day Camp on the Sunday afternoon before it begins. Applicants to the program may choose up to eight Grow Day Camp weeks upon their acceptance into the program. There will be 28 Grow Day Camps (about four each week) throughout the North Georgia Conference in 2017. To see a schedule and learn more, follow this link: Grow Day Camps.



Check-In | Check-Out

Leadership Week:

  • Check-in: Sun 5/28/2017 at 5:00pm
  • Check-out: Fri 6/2/2017 at 3:00pm (Closing commissioning service begins at 3pm with check-out immediately following)

Day Camp Week(s):

  • Check-in: Sun 3:30pm at Grow Day Camps location
  • Check-out: Fri 12:30pm at Grow Day Camps location 

Parents are invited to attend the Grow closing celebration on Friday (details available at check-in). Participants must adhere to camp's no cell phone policy during both their Leadership Week and Day Camp Counselor weeks.

What To Pack:



How Much Is ELI?

ELI Fee: $245 (after $500 leadership award)

  • The actual program cost for an ELI participant is $745, which includes the Leadership Week and anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks of room and board and leadership coaching while serving as a Day Camp Counselor. Thanks to the generosity of ELI sponsors, the first 100 applicants accepted to the program will automatically receive a $500 leadership award toward their ELI fee, dramatically reducing the cost from $745 to $245. We're thrilled to be able to offer the same high quality leadership development at a fee that we hope will make this life-changing experience a possibility for more youth than ever!


Our Team

Leadership coaching is absolutely key to ELI. As such, the program is staffed by a team of veteran camp staff leaders who are passionate about mentoring youth. 



Contact Stephanie Gaines, Director of Grow Day Camps & ELI, by email (stephanie@ngcrm.org) or call (706) 864-6181 and ask for Stephanie.