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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does FOCUS Exist?

We believe that every young person should have the opportunity at some point in his or her maturing process to connect with articulate, credible, and thoughtful representatives of what C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” We aim to provide young people with a chance to explore in depth the basis of faith so that they may make an informed decision about their spiritual direction.

What kinds of programs does FOCUS establish in schools?

FOCUS’ presence on campus is the result of an invitation by faculty, school heads, and sometimes a student group. We seek to respect all members of the school community regardless of their religious persuasion. FOCUS staff often helps schools with coaching, or visits schools to support students in clubs, plays, or musical events. Sometimes students invite FOCUS staff to guide their discussion in on-campus small groups such as a Bible study or a fellowship meeting, or to assist with worship. In the independent day schools we may organize a week-night meeting in a parent’s home for fun and games, followed by a simple talk. Staff may be invited to speak at assemblies, chapels or in class.

Who attends FOCUS programs?

FOCUS welcomes students from both independent (i.e., private) and public schools to all its programs. However, FOCUS was founded to fill an important gap. While public school students have many opportunities to interact with Christian organizations, independent school students are often not exposed to opportunities to explore the Christian faith. Hence our primary aim is to enable independent school students to discover – in a non-coercive setting – the reality of faith for themselves.

How is FOCUS funded?

FOCUS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization funded through the donations of individuals, churches, foundations and businesses.  The majority of support for the ministry of FOCUS is provided by donations by individuals.

In addition, a small portion of revenue is provided by fees for overnight programs that seek to be affordable and are supplemented whenever possible by scholarships offered on a need basis. 

How are my donations used by FOCUS?

There are a number of ways you can support FOCUS. The most common contributions are unrestricted gifts to FOCUS to be used where needed most and gifts to support specific FOCUS Area Ministries.

Contributions to specific FOCUS Area Ministries will be used first to fund the operating costs of the local area ministry, including costs associated with providing programs and administrative services at the national level, and excess funds may be reallocated to support other area ministries, or particular initiatives and continuing efforts of the ministry as a whole, at the discretion of the Area Sponsoring Committee and Area Director.

How does FOCUS relate to the church?

FOCUS is not a church. Rather, it is committed to the local congregation and seeks to be an arm of the wider church as it relates to the independent school community. We have no formal affiliation with any religious body, and have staff who have been theologically trained in a variety of traditions. We encourage both students and staff to participate actively in their local churches.

How does FOCUS help students understand the world around them?

While each program is unique, FOCUS seeks to relate the historic Christian faith to the issues that students wrestle with today. Regular opportunities for community service, as well as service trips to needy parts of the world, have been a consistent part of FOCUS’ programming.

Where is FOCUS based?

The organization has a National Administrative Office in New Canaan, Connecticut. We also have offices in ten locations, what we call "Area Ministries," along the East Coast and in California. For more information about individual Areas, please visit our "Areas" page.

What is the FOCUS Study Center?

FOCUS owns and maintains 45 acres on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The Study Center is a picturesque “summer campus” only minutes from Lambert’s Cove Beach. It offers basketball, biking, tennis, volleyball, and sailing. Meals are served on the covered porch of the dining hall overlooking a small lake. Large-group meetings take place in a converted barn or in the outdoor chapel.

Who runs FOCUS?

FOCUS has an Executive Director, several office personnel, and a staff of approximately 40 who work in a variety of Areas along the Eastern Seaboard and in California. The ministry is overseen by a board of trustees composed of leaders committed to the FOCUS vision. This is a rotating board of approximately 20 people, male and female, lay and ordained. In addition to the board, a number of Area Sponsoring Committees support and guide the work in their respective areas.

Does FOCUS work on university campuses?

Not directly. FOCUS commends its graduates to various campus-based ministries that work mainly at the university level. Our concentration is on secondary schools, from grades 6-12. We also have both a middle and an upper school work. We invite our own graduates, as well as faculty and sometimes parents, to serve as volunteers.

What does the FOCUS symbol mean?

A teacher designed the FOCUS dandelion symbol in honor of a student who was killed in a train accident many years ago. It depicts a web of interrelationships held together by a central cross.


Programs FAQs

Where is FOCUS' Property?

The FOCUS Study Center is located on 45 acres in West Tisbury, MA on Martha’s Vineyard. Our property is situated on Lambert’s Cove Road, 10 minutes from Vineyard Haven, MA and 15 minutes from Edgartown, MA. The Study Center offers 8 buildings designed for housing, dining, and gathering. Also onsite are the tennis courts, basketball court, sand volleyball, and the ever popular Seth’s Pond. Please feel free to browse through the photos in order to get a better idea of the Study Center property.

What does a typical day at the Vineyard look like?

FOCUS is dedicated to making a student’s time with us unforgettable. While every program is slightly different, a typical day may look like the following. Our mornings start each day at 8:30am with breakfast, followed by a time for personal reflection, free time, a morning meeting, small group discussions, and a camp wide game or activity. Lunch is followed by afternoon activities which take advantage of all the island has to offer. Afternoon activities can include anything from swimming in the pond, going to Lambert’s Cove beach, a bike ride to Edgartown, playing the famous FOCUS games, sailing off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, going on a hike, seeing the cliffs at Aquinnah, or having a foosball tournament. This is a time for students to choose what they want to do from each days’ offerings. Everyone meets back at the property by 4pm for “tea time” – a delicious snack. Students can continue on campus free activities or attend optional special sessions about culturally relevant topics. Another camp wide activity will follow dinner, then evening meeting, “coffee house” (another snack and hang out time), and back to the cabins for cabin time before a 10:30pm lights out. Morning and evening meetings are for the whole program and include a variety of elements including a fun game or icebreaker, music & singing (both familiar and new songs), a personal story from a leader, and a brief time of teaching.

Where do students stay?

Housing is provided in two dormitories located on opposite sides of the property. Our girls stay in “The Palace,” while boys are in the upper and lower “Bunk Houses.” The Palace has six cabins that open both into a central hallway and out onto the porch. Bathrooms are accessed through the central hall. 4-6 students and 1-2 leaders are in each room. There are four cabins in each of the bunk houses. (The upper and lower bunk house are adjacent.) Each cabin opens to both the front and rear side of the porch. 3-6 students room with 1-2 leaders. The “Barn-Ex” is a separate cabin that is used for additional housing at larger programs. It is located near the middle of campus and is a favorite with those whove had the privilege to stay there. In the spirit of the Vineyard, all housing has both indoor and outdoor private showers, fans, and screened doors.

What is the program leadership and supervision?

During the summer, FOCUS programs have a leadership team made up of full time FOCUS staff and volunteer leaders. Our staff work in FOCUS regions and schools with students throughout the year. Our volunteer leaders are college students and professionals from fields like teaching, nursing, law, ministry, and finance. Most volunteer leaders were involved with FOCUS as middle and high school students, and enjoy the opportunity to come back and give their time for a few weeks as a program leader. Every FOCUS program has a ratio of at least 1 leader for every 3 students. These small leader-student ratios are an important part of the community fostered at FOCUS programs. Safety of the students is a top priority. All leaders undergo thorough national and local background checks. Safety guidelines and emergency procedures are reviewed by the leadership team at the beginning of every program. Drivers must be at least 21, have an exemplary driving record, and go through special training. All activities on the waterfront are supervised by at least one certified lifeguard and additional trained waterfront safety staff.

What is the food like?

FOCUS has a full-time chef who runs our kitchen in addition to a team of rotating volunteers. Fresh fruit, tea and hot chocolate are available throughout the day in addition to 3 meals, and an afternoon and evening snack time. We offer a wide variety of healthy and delicious freshly prepared foods; many students highlight the food at FOCUS as one of the favorite parts of their program experience! Whenever possible, we are committed to using fresh, local products; FOCUS owns two shares of a community supported agriculture program from which we purchase a portion of our produce.

What if I have specific food allergies?

Through the years, we’ve had students with a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. We have typically been able to accommodate these needs by tweaking our general menu or providing special meals.

Do you have a nurse available?

During the summer, FOCUS employs a registered nurse to oversee the medical care of students and leaders at our Martha’s Vineyard property. Our standards of care are regularly updated by an overseeing doctor in the local medical community. Additionally, each program has several leaders who work as infirmary assistants to provide additional care. All prescription and over the counter medications are turned into the infirmary upon arrival at a program, and dispensed by the nurse or infirmary assistants at the appropriate times. In the event there is illness or injury that cannot be handled by our infirmary, parents will be contacted and students taken to the medical clinic or emergency room for additional care.