The week was exhausting. It was wild. It was a blessing. It was memorable. We learned so much throughout the week and by day 2 the other adult sponsor and I were already talking about, "next year we should..."
On the last night the youth leaders were asking who was going again next year. They didn't want to break up "the dream team." Even with the sleep deprivation, I think that I'd still like to go again. However, I can't imagine why there isn't an application process and a waiting list of adults clamoring to go. I feel like I should have to rotate with others who want to go.
We are blessed with some incredible kids. So for those who think they might want to jump on the big bus next year, here are my top tips:
Imagine what could happen if we put as much effort and financial investment into our children's spiritual development!
Take the time off. Reschedule. Commit to it.
Mentally, get ready for this, as much as possible. Pray. Pray. Pray. Get ready for anything. Be open to whatever God has been preparing for you and the youth.
I left the night before from a baseball tournament in Sweetwater, drove home, tossed stuff in a suitcase, and left with the youth at 8am the next morning. I forgot all kinds of stuff - like a towel (Thanks for saving me, Danae) and had too much of others - like clothes. I thought that I would change for chapel each night. That didn't happen.
Practically, bring stuff. The kids will forget stuff, lots of it. Bring some stuff. Hairdryers. Band-aids. An extra towel. Extension cord. If I get to go on the trip again, I will have a very different packing list.
I brought a backpack and that was wonderful. I packed things for the day in it and it came in handy.
Although it looked like we brought two of everything, I was surprised by the things that youth asked, "Hey, do you have a..."
My own child wore the same clothes SEVERAL days in a row. Not sure why. Don't want to know.
That said, I didn't participate in the Rec activities, except by encouraging, cheering and taking photos - lots of photos. The youth were probably thankful for that, although they would have been gracious and allowed me to mess up their groove. I am glad that I went to Rec time, walked around, and visited with them. Watching them play allowed me opportunities to observe the group dynamics too. It also allowed me a different avenue to create relationships with some of the students I didn't know.
Some of the best moments of camp are the unscripted times.
Share. Be ready to share with the youth about your testimony and your faith. They are curious. Once they know that you listen and will keep their confidences, they will start to open up. Remember though, you share to get them to open up.
Camp is a great time to disconnect and to get away. Do it. The lack of cell service in areas will certainly help facilitate this, but be intentional about it too.
I went with the idea of getting some work done while I was gone. Didn't happen.
The real work, kingdom work, that happened will have benefits that last so much longer.
Also, take time to process and reflect. The schedule allows time for you. Take it. Think about what God's doing in you. Pray about how you can play a role in what God is doing in the youth group.
I don't ever take naps. I tease my college students about naps and staying up all day long like big kids, but man, at camp, I LOVED me some nap time. Take time for some naps too. It will make the late nights and early mornings a bit easier.
At some point, our kids will choose to either make your faith their own or reject it entirely. You can't make that choice for them, but you can give them opportunities along the way.
A Bible-believing camp is the perfect opportunity for kids to step into their own relationship with God. For a few days they are not distracted by home life, sibling squabbles, or pressure from school. It's just them and God.
Serve the youth minister and the kids. Help create opportunities for those encounters to occur.