July 16, 2012 by Will Ray
Yesterday I began a list of 9 things I learned while at summer camp. Here’s the remaining balance of them:
5) Don’t try to impress students with your skim-boarding skills. I do not skim-board. I tried (with little success) to skim-board while at the beach one day, but while nearly risking life and limb. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I got out unscathed, aside from bruised pride. But I’m not totally convinced the risk was worth it. Maybe try something else?
6) Go hard. Standing nearly in opposition to #5, you should always go hard, and we did. This is the spirit that lead me to try skim boarding. Play every game, do every activity, sing every song, dance every dance, and have fun with it. You’ll get more out of it, the students will enjoy it (and you) more, and you’ll never regret giving it all you’ve got. You will regret slacking off, but you’ll never regret going hard (I think this goes for just about anything in life).
Going hard like that creates relational capital with students, that you can call on later when the deeper issues come up. Earn the right to be heard, earn the opportunity to hear students deepest struggles, earn the opportunity to pray for students. That starts on the ball field, in rec activities, and all over the camp.
7) Choose your support leaders wisely. I can’t say enough about our youth leadership team that helps me week-in, week-out to run this ministry. We had a great couple come to camp with us the past 2 years, and they’re life-savers. They touch kids relationally that you can’t, they cover while you fix problems or get things ready, and they help you make things happen. It’s going to be best to take leaders you know and trust, not first-timers, to an event as big and important as camp.
8) Manage students expectations (by lowering them when necessary), then pole-vault over them. Olympics reference! Don’t over-promise while at camp. Too many variables, as we experienced. Under-promise (in case anything goes wrong and plans don’t work out) and then over–deliver big time.
9) Stick your neck out there for your group, if you have to. On the last night of camp, our group was exhausted, sunburnt, and in no mood for the planned late-night messy recreation activity. I had to go to the camp directors to ask permission for our group to be allowed to skip, which doesn’t look good and I know can be frustrating for program directors. But I knew I made the right choice when I announced our freedom from the activity to cheers from our group of 28. Thankfully the program directors had grace for us, too.
Camp can be a life-changing experience for a student, so it’s a great choice to make the effort to go to camp, though it can be hard. We had a great time, and I’ve already heard stories of life change from my students because of it.
Question: What did I leave out? What are other ways to have a great experience at camp, or on a crazy trip with a bunch of students? Let me know in the comments!