The first time I led at Camp, I spent the whole week thinking one thing: I hope I’m doing this right.
I was 18 and I signed up to lead for the same reason I did most things: it sounded fun and I had the time. For those who know me, it’s not a big surprise that I signed up with the intention of having fun and then immediately started worrying about whether or not I was “doing it right.”
Truthfully, leading a small group was one challenge after another. Were my girls having a good time? Did they feel comfortable? Why didn’t they talk more during small group? Was I really fun enough to be doing this? Was I doing any of this right?
By the end of the first day, I was sunburnt, tired and anxious—although the last one might have been because the only thing keeping me awake was pineapple Red Bull. Either way, I was discouraged.
To understand the rest of this story, you actually have to back up a few years, to the very first time I got on a bus with a bunch of Crossroads kids and went to summer camp. I was in high school and, at the time, Student Ministry took students to a different camp, hosted on a local Bible college campus.
I was a radically independent kid. I was homeschooled and spent most of my time on my own. At that camp, I felt a sense of belonging like I’d never felt before. I woke up to a hunger I didn’t know I had—a hunger to be in community, to understand my faith, to really know God.
I was a regular at the Weekly before Camp, but I came back with a sense that there was something missing in my church experience. I wanted the depth of community that I’d had at camp to be a real part of my life—not just a nice memory.
So I spent the next year pouring into my Weekly community. I stepped up in my small group, served at big events, volunteered during the week at the church office and spent every moment that I could in the Student Section of Crossroads Florence. All the while, I was being built into and challenged by my small group leader and by my Site Director.
The next year was my last as a camper. I was sad to go, to leave behind something that mattered so much to me. So, the year after, when the call went out for Camp leaders, I said yes.
When I woke up the second day of Camp, discouraged and frustrated, I thought about my own camp experience. When I was in high school, my leader was just a few years older than me. She was young and probably had more fun things to do, but instead she spent hours and hours building a relationship with me. After I graduated, she came to visit me on my first birthday away from home and asked me to be in her wedding.
I wasn’t sure exactly what she’d do, but I knew she wouldn’t quit. So I didn’t either.
Even though my instinct was to preserve my energy, to hold back what little I had left, I pushed harder. I—usually described as ‘reserved’ or ‘particular’ or ‘kind of a square’—played dodgeball and did the slip-and-slide and sang Justin Bieber songs in the cafeteria.
That’s not to say I was the best leader ever (definitely not), but I stopped worrying about whether or not I was doing it “right.” Instead, I did what I knew how to do. I did what my leader did for me when I was in high school: I showed up.
The truth is, when we say Camp changes lives, that’s not a hypothetical. Six years ago, someone showed up for me by leading at Camp. Today, I have a job bringing students into places where they can find community and experience God—because someone else invited me into one of those places. Now when I serve at Camp, I get to watch girls from my first Camp small group lead their own groups.
So I won’t veil my call to action. Serve at Camp. Lead students. You’re not too young, you don’t have to wait to have more experience. It doesn’t matter if you do it right, but it does matter that you do it. Take what God has given you and reproduce it in younger people. I believe it will change their lives because it changed mine.