It’s that time of year friends. Pull out your sleeping bag and that old suitcase. Rest up and pray for patience. We are going to camp. A glorious week of… late night tell alls, milk shake dates, soda pop chugging, minimal sleep, intense worship services, deep prayer and tough Bible teaching. It’s the kind of week where by the end you’re almost ready to pull your hair out… But some kids life gets totally shaken by the presence of God and set on a new course. Whether its three days with kids or a week with teens, it guarantees to be wearing, wild and wonderful. I love it.
But I’ve learned in my years as a camper and as a counsellor that there’s a big difference between the chaperones who just show up and the ones who sacrificially serve the next generation for the glory of God. Those type of chaperones – by the power of the Holy Spirit – change lives. So what does it take? Here are the big seven I’ve narrowed in on.
- Pack snacks to share. It’s amazing how some kids will open up while you’re passing around a bag of Doritos and a pack of twizzlers. Those late night devotions and conversations are the places where you get to find out about what’s happening in a kids life and sometimes you get to speak life, hope and grace to desperate circumstances, crushed spirits and big dreams.
- Cheer loud. Seriously. During rec sessions or talent times, be your kids biggest fan. Cheer on your team. Clap. Shout. High five. Scream if you must. Be a positive, encouraging and fun voice that motivates kids to be involved and values their contribution to the team.
- Set the spiritual bar. These camps have incredible potential to impact the spiritual life of a child or young person for the rest of their lives. They are looking to their loved and respected leaders for the cue to plug in. They need to see you worship. They need to see you pray. They need to see you responding to God. They need to see you pray with students, including them. It’s how they learn to do the same. Don’t just hang out at the back as an observer. While you may feel “cool” back there, be in the middle of and a part of what God is doing. The vantage point up there, hand in hand with a kid, when God shows up is way better. Trust me.
- Go all in. Really. You’re going to be tired and there are going to be hard some moments – especially at three in the morning when you’ve already told them to quiet down a dozen times or that kid is crying again about missing home. But please don’t just take up space! Don’t just fill a Plan to Protect requirement. Be fully present. Put down the phone!!! Play the games. Worship. Talk to them. Swing on the swings and tell them about your embarrassing first date. Crush them at basketball and then let them tell you about the dreams God is birthing in their hearts. Listen to them. Be the godly big sister some young girl needs. Be a loving voice to the boy who’s family is breaking apart. Be Jesus for them.
- Don’t complain. About the late nights, the food, the camp director, the bed, the snoring of your roommate, the annoying kid that keeps following you. Don’t complain. Again, you set the bar for behaviour. If you choose to be negative, your kids will also be negative. If you look for all the awful parts, they will too.
- Check your pride at the door. These kids don’t need a chaperone who’s too cool. They need a down to earth, in the middle of stuff, not afraid to be silly, self sacrificing kind of chaperone. For less than a week put your own needs and pride aside so you can impact a life.
- Remember yourself as a child or teenager. What were you insecure about? What were you excited by? Who had an impact on your camp life? Why? How would you have responded if these circumstances had happened to you? What did you need in a chaperone? It’s possible that if you felt that way as a teen or child, they might feel that way too. They aren’t adults and don’t process experiences the same as you or another adult may. Handle them with the same care you would have needed.
You are given an incredible privilege this summer to impact young lives for eternity. Don’t waste it! Be the best camp chaperone you can be. Give it all you have. For God’s glory!