Student Ministry Camp is by far the most challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and fulfilling experience of my entire summer. Had it not been for a crazy set of circumstances I wouldn’t have volunteered my first time in 2018, and again in 2019, but, man, I’m so glad I did.
Volunteering for S|M Camp is a big commitment. Even a few days away from work is a lot, especially when you have a limited number of vacation days. When the Student Ministry director at my site was asking for male volunteers so more high school boys could go to Camp my reaction was immediate: “I can’t take that many days off work.”
Week after week, she kept asking and I came up with an excuse each time in my mind. Some of my best excuses: I don’t have enough Bible knowledge, I wouldn’t be a good leader, I’ve never led at Camp before so I wouldn’t know what to do, and someone else will eventually volunteer, they don’t need me.
My company’s policy for vacation time is simple: use it or lose it. One day, I realized my scheduled vacation was after the deadline—meaning I had exactly 5 vacation days left to use for the current year.
After I realized this, I felt prompted to go look again at the Camp website. It was the last day to sign up to lead at Camp. Before I even knew what I was doing, I’d signed up. Immediately after I hit the submit button, all those fears and excuses came back. What was I doing?
When I told my Site Director that I’d signed up to lead, she told me that she’d prayed that morning specifically for just one male leader to sign up. All of the fears and excuses that had come back were calmed. God had used my decision to sign up to answer somebody’s prayer. I felt sure I was doing the right thing, even if I didn’t have all the answers about how to do it.
I had never gone to a church camp before as a kid so I had no idea what to expect. Going to volunteer training really helped calm my nerves. The Crossroads S|M staff gave information about how groups would work, the schedule for the week, and what to expect. I left the training feeling more prepared than I’d anticipated.
And I was still a nervous wreck the week before Camp. The fears that God had calmed were back and louder than ever. As I met the other volunteers at my site before we left for Camp, I felt even more out of place. I just kept thinking: “I’m probably the worst leader here. I don't know half the stuff they do. I’m going to screw this up.”
Despite how sure I was that God had called me here, those lies were still in my head—and loud.
But I got on the bus anyway.
Right away, I started experiencing wins with my students. Over the course of the week, I helped a student learn to pray for the first time, helped another student feel understood by sharing my own story and made it to the Final Four in the 3v3 basketball tournament.
The week went by so fast. When I got home on Friday I was so tired—exhausted from playing games, hanging out with my students, being outside, and experiencing life unplugged. At the same time, I felt refreshed, alive and so happy.
In fact, I was so happy I went back the next year. Because I’ve volunteered at Camp, I’m closer with the students in my community. We have inside jokes, funny stories and great memories together that have brought depth to our relationships. Whenever Camp is mentioned, my students always ask me if I’m going to be their leader next year.
I get to have that kind of community with students because, despite my fears and insecurities, I took a leap of faith. As anxious as I was, I relied on God to quiet my fears. I couldn’t be happier with what he’s done as a result.