I have spent half my life in ministry now and most of that spent pouring into student ministry. Though my current path is looking more and more at the adult world, I still have great opportunities to be in the youth world. During camp and event seasons, I am usually pretty busy speaking and helping others dream, plan and execute their own camps and events. Recently, I have the chance to help a youth pastor with his first camp of his own. As walking through this experience with him I was reminded of a few things that won’t make your camp the best thing since slice bread and selfies, but however if they are bad…. man-o-man will they destroy your camp and become the driving force behind complaint after complain and eventually mutiny from the students. You always want to create memories for students, however, you want those memories to be good. What you don’t want is students going back and being negative about camp. Students will talk about bad things more often and longer than they do good things. It’s not just students, look at our daily news; the majority of news reported is bad news. Certain things as leaders we are in control of and will delegate because they are
Here are my top 3 keys that won’t make your camp, but sure can break your camp.
School cafeteria food brings back a lot of memories for a lot of people. However, most of those memories aren’t great. Remember square pizza and corn? Not sure how those ever go with each other, but I do remember that pizza wasn’t the really even close to good and being soggy from corn juice didn’t help its cause. Or how about that “magic meat”, we still aren’t sure if that was suppose to be Salisbury steak, perhaps last weeks meatloaf covered in gravy or if they really didn’t know what it was but they knew it was cheap. But, I also remember chicken nugget day or little smokie day both served with mac-n-cheese and a roll… So Good! School lunch never made my day, but on those days it was bad, it really made my day bad. I was hungry and when I am hungry, I am grumpy and when I am grumpy, my day is bad.
When students are hungry they are grumpy and when they are grumpy, its just a no fun, bad day.
Camp food is so important. As leaders it is something that the majority of us should delegate, but delegation doesn’t mean forget about it. we have to be clear on what we expect. You need to expect good food, not just food. There is a huge difference in having cheap, cardboard, no taste food and having food that people talk about. You and your cook must understand expectations are low about camp food to begin with, so to surpass expectations is not that big of an accomplishment, but it is a must. Feeding students a good meal is a must. It keeps moral up, it it keeps energy up and most importantly it keep their attention off their bellies and on Jesus. A good decent meal doesn’t mean that they will go home and talk about how good the food was, but it does mean they won’t go home and talk about how horrible the it was.
Quick rule of thumb, $20-$25 per day isn’t unreasonable to keep your students or adults fed. Here is my break down for food. Breakfast: $4-$6, Lunch: $7-$8, Dinner: $9-11. Don’t forget desert!!!
Bring the good goodies. Spend the money on good snacks, aka good junk food (starburst, skittles, snickers, etc…) – it’s okay to make them pay more during camp for the super good stuff.
You wouldn’t hire a speaker if you didn’t think they weren’t good, right? This is very true. You hire someone you trust to deliver good, solid, Jesus honoring messages to your students. But, YOU as the leader have a vision for camp. YOU pour hours of praying into a direction YOU want to take YOUR students spiritually. YOU spend lots of time developing a theme and skits and games and stage design and small groups and on and on and on. Yet, you turn over a large chunk of the spiritual time over to someone else. I love speakers, I am one. But, here is typically what we give speakers when we hire them; “I want you to have the freedom to tell my students what God has laid on your heart.” or “The theme is _______, so just where God leads you from there.” YOU have invested so much time into your students and have the vision for camp, please, please, PLEASE let your speaker in on that vision and direction. The name of the camp or theme of the camp does not communicate what you have envisioned.
Giving your speaker clear vision, direction and goals of and event allows them to more effectively use their gifts, talents and insights.
When I hire a speaker for any event I give them a clear cut vision of the whole event and what I want to accomplish. Then I detailed the direction that I want each talk/sermon to take. If I give the speaker all of this information then allow them to use their gifts, talents and insights, I have enhanced the vision of my camp or event. This does not limit your speaker, in fact, as a speaker it is very freeing. Work with your speaker at length. This means at very minimum several phone calls, and several emails exchanging information. If it is me, I do all I can to have an in-person discussion. If that isn’t possible, there are too many ways to video conference.
If your speaker doesn’t understand the vision and goals of a camp or event they can greatly hinder the message. This isn’t their fault, it is yours. Most speakers won’t make your camp great, but they can break it. Think how much more clear the gospel message is when everybody is on the same page.
Nothing breaks up a great experience than a bad attitude. They cause a scene, they start bad conversations among others, they give things a bad taste and they just put a general downer on things. Now you can’t control the attitudes of everyone at your camp or event, however there is a group that you can control and is crucial to a good event. Your attitude must dominate the atmosphere. If you as the leader are sold, most everyone one else will be sold on the event as well. If your attitude about something is negative you really have to options: 1. Change your attitude quick or 2. Get out of the picture. If your attitude isn’t changing, let someone else take the lead the particular part of the event your sour about. Things will go much better if you do.
If we are doing it, it’s the best thing ever, even if it isn’t.
The second group you have control over is the leaders under you, who are actually more control of attitude than you do. My small group leaders and team leaders and event coordinators have always had way more say in the attitude of then event than I do. If they are sold on what your doing, everyone else will be as well. However, if they start discouraging conversation, it will spread like wild fire and your will spend all your time putting out those fires. I have a saying with my leaders, “If we are doing it, it’s the best thing ever, even if it isn’t.” I give them a lot of say into what we are doing, but when I make the discussion to do something here is what I tell them, “If its picking boogers, picking boogers is the best thing you have ever heard of!” The attitudes of others won’t make your camp, but they can break it.
In my last 2 post on camp, I have ended with Pray, Pray, Pray! If you aren’t covering your camp or event in prayer you failed before you started. Prayer will make your camp great and the lack of prayer will line your camp up to fail. So, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! and then PRAY some more.
* This is not a reflection on the camp we just did, in fact, the food, the speaker and attitudes were great! I can’t wait to see what’s next on the horizon for Chip and the youth at The Brook.
** Thanks Natalie
© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014