I was just thinking today that while camp is a huge part of my 'real life', I don't write about it on here all that much. And I thought maybe some of you were interested in what it is we actually do 'behind the scenes' of camp! So here I am, to lend some hopefully interesting insights into full-time Christian camp life.
Although we work hard at camp all year long, our summer camp season is the pinnacle of our year, and the crux of what we plan for & pray for all year long. We do hold retreats throughout the fall/winter/spring seasons, and these can be more financially profitable for the camp than our summer season sometimes is, so they are important, too, but when I think about the very center of our camp ministry, it always comes back to summer camp.
Here's the scoop: Parents give us their children for five days & five nights - Monday morning through Saturday morning. We have five days to interact with these campers and change their lives for Christ. Everything we do in those five days matters: the way their counselors speak to them, the things our speaker says in chapel, the way I treat them and their parents at the registration table, the way the kitchen staff serves them during meals, the attitudes the grounds staff displays as they unclog a toilet or mow the lawns....everything matters.
Summer camp is the absolute hardest seven weeks of the year for our family (and for the rest of our staff, as well). But seeing the impact that our staff is able to make on campers during those few days and weeks is worth every second and every minute of frustration and exhaustion and just plain HARD WORK.
One of my favorite memories in camp ministry, one that comes to my mind when I'm thinking of giving up, or getting frustrated with all I am responsible for, and with all I have to do in a short amount of time, is one particular Saturday morning a couple of summers ago. I was rushing around, running to the craft shop, delivering crafts to campers, attempting to deliver leftover snack shack money and shirts and was all frustrated with all I had to do, and my husband was struggling with something, so we were at each other's throats, and exhausted to boot, since it was the end of another exhausting week, and we joined the campers in the chapel to watch a video of the week's events. At the beginning of this closing ceremony, our director asked for those who had accepted Christ that week to come to the front and sign our blessing board (an awesome physical record of those who make decisions during the summer), and NINE campers walked to the front. NINE. I had no idea that our ministry had that impact during that week - I was so focused on crafts, snack shack, and the junk going on around me. As tears rolled down my face, I thanked God for all He does, sometimes in spite of us and our selfishness.
Since I'm also a full-time mom now, my ministry at camp has changed over the last couple of years, to be a little bit more part-time. I work as the camp secretary now, and take my little Z to camp with me. He plays in the office and generally wrecks the place while I attempt to answer emails & phone calls & do various mailings. On Monday mornings, I help the parents check their campers in at registration and spend the rest of the day untangling the mess of money & paperwork left in their wake. It's loads of fun. :) The rest of the week, I do my various secretarial duties and take care of my boy. So, I don't really get to interact with the campers much on a one-on-one basis, as much as a counselor would. But I can make a difference in the way I speak to them when I do get a chance, and how I act while they watch me interact with my family and other staffers throughout the week.
At the beginning of this summer, I asked God what my ministry should be this year, and He reminded me that although I need to be at home more with my little boy (while he naps and sleeps) while others are working hard from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm or later (a counselor's ministry is 24 hours a day), I can use that time to pour into our staff - through prayer, and notes of encouragement. So that has been my goal so far this summer, and a way that God can use me to minister to my child's needs and do His work at camp at the same time.
Although I am looking forward to quitting my paid job at camp at the end of the summer and 'just' being a SAHM, I know I will miss the day-to-day camp ministry. But I also know that God still has a ministry for me and for each member of my family at camp, whether we're paid or not. Maybe those of you who have children have noticed this, but our little ones can open many doors - people of all ages, shy people, even the most frustratingly self-centered teenage campers LOVE to see a baby, and God has and will continue to use this to start conversations, and possibly begin to soften a hard heart in the process. I look forward to seeing what He'll continue to do through me and my family in the future.
I'd love to hear from any of my readers about what ministries you're involved in, and if you have a family, how do you balance your family with your ministry?