I want to start by saying that I freaking love Camp. But my first experience as a camp volunteer didn’t go as I planned. Going into the week, I was ready to change lives. I had so much in my mind to share and such good, relatable stories to tell my group and I was certainly going to baptize them because that’s the goal!
I was wrong. That’s not the goal. And I failed. Nobody asked me to baptize them.
So I went to the next Camp, and then the next one, and then the next one. Now, I know you what you are thinking, “Man this dude either really loves Camp or has some screws loose.” Maybe it’s both. Regardless, I went to the next camp, same hope, same skewed goals, same failure. This summer I was traveling to six different weeks of camp. I had a goal to transform all these lives and I was in for a long summer if I was not going to start hitting my quota I had in my head. Students need to know Jesus! And I need to be the one to introduce them! It’s a reasonable desire, right? Eh…
Summer 2019 wisll be the tenth summer since those fateful months of failure for me and I have encountered hundreds of leaders and thousands of students at camp since then. Here is what I have learned since then:
A student is just a person but younger, and probably have a better sense of humor than you and your adult friends. Students are not going to camp for their lives to be changed by their group leader. That is true just as much as you do not go to the bar for the bartender to lead you in a life-changing exchange, concluded with him or her marking that moment of life change with another round of shots. That just sounds funny even reading it, right? Well, for some reason when camp ‘counselors’ get prepped for a week, they forget or are never told that this is just a great time for students, like an adult going to the bar. And think about if someone plopped down on that stool next to you with the intent of changing your life, would it go well?
I did not learn the importance of relaxing, hanging out and connecting with students at Camp until I stopped trying to fix every issue in their lives. A freshman walked on campus my Junior year. He was excited, so much had changed in his life at the end of high school and he could hardly wait to pursue a different life than his childhood showed he would have. His words to me? “I’m here at a christian college because you were really honest whenever I asked questions and you didn’t try to make everything sound perfect.” There was no sales pitch, no motives, just having regular conversations with a regular person who was in high school at the time. And, to some degree, his trajectory was changed.