Working at summer camps is more than just a fun summer job to give you something to do while on break. The opportunities you have to share the gospel, grow spiritually, and build relationships through camp jobs are unlike any other. Many of you have worked or will be working at various Christian camps throughout the summer. Here are seven tips and things to know about working with youth:
1. Expect to run on little sleep. Working as a camp counselor is exhausting. The relationships and opportunity to serve God, by working with youth is extremely rewarding, but don’t expect to be getting eight hours of sleep a night. You will have cabins that go crazy and insist on pulling all-nighters, you will have young homesick campers that need some extra attention, and there will be constant activities during the day. You will get exhausted, but remember that your campers will take on your energy. So even if you feel exhausted, be excited! You will have opportunities to relax – it just may not be very often.
2. Rest when you can! You may want to spend every moment of your weekends or free time with other camp leaders, but make sure to rest during those times as well. The last thing you want to do in a job that is physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting is run yourself dry, during the few moments you have to catch your breath and take a nap.
3. Spend time alone and with God. Even if you take just 15 minutes or half an hour out of each day. Take some free time to read your Bible and spend quiet time with God, it will improve how your week goes. By taking this time to seek God and rely on him, you will feel and see Him working in both your life and in how you interact with your campers.
Jesse Belleque worked at Trout Creek Bible Camp for six full summers, as well as his grandparents’ VBS and camp ministry for two years.
“My advice would be to rely on God for everything: the words to say, the strength to cope with the rigorous schedule, and the perseverance to love everyone,” Belleque said. “If we really believe that we serve the living God and that he is our helper, we should have a little faith that he will pull through for us.”
4. Expect for the outcomes of the summer to last much longer than just a season. While you may only be working with a single group for about a week of the summer, many of the relationships you build during that week will likely last much longer. You will be faced with many girls or boys who don’t have the luxury of living in a home of Christians or being surrounded by a community of believers, so they may rely on you for accountability and spiritual mentorship beyond the one week of summer camp.
Dexter Larson was on a camp team last summer and will be working as a counselor at Black Lake Bible Camp in Olympia, Wash. this summer.
“I am in contact with most of my old high school students, and seeing that the work the Lord does at camp keeps on going, throughout the year, is one of my favorite parts of being involved in youth ministry,” Larson said.
5. Be ready to grow. Your job will be to mentor youth, but you will grow just as much, if not more. You will be stretched outside of your comfort zone, and if you’re working at a camp for an entire summer, you will be drained about half-way through. But the growth you will find in yourself and in your relationship with Christ at the end of the summer will be worth it.
6. Depend on your team and don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the biggest challenges I had to work through last summer was learning to share my burdens with the other camp leaders. I have always had a hard time sharing my struggles, because I don’t like feeling like I’m burdening others. I learned when you are working with youth all day; you will need to share your problems with your team. Not doing so will cause you to push yourself too hard, which can result in you hurting yourself, the youth you are working with, and possibly your team.
7.Have fun! While many of these things may make a job working with youth challenging, it is an extremely fun and rewarding opportunity, which you may not have the opportunity to do later on. Take the opportunity to be a crazy kid again for the summer and build relationships.