Teens in Camping Ministry
by Jan Richoux
Teen ministry is an exciting, fast paced, drama filled experience. It is rewarding to see teens from Christian homes take the faith of their parents and make it their own through developing a quiet time, and through practical service, while sharing with other teens. There are a few times when young Christians from non-believing homes come and are nurtured in their faith. A Christian camp is an excellent venue to mentor and train high school students. There is something about living among other Christians in a camp setting, rather than just the one to two hours spent in church on a Sunday morning. Life examples of dedicated college age staff and seasoned adult staff are set before the teens. There are teaching sessions followed by real-life scenarios when they have to live out the teachings of Christ with other staff and younger campers. The camp schedule provides time and structure for personal quiet time. Teens see others reading and studying the Bible, memorizing verses and praying.
Teens need to be trained for the jobs of service in an effective style using varied teaching methods (demonstration, lecture, written handbook, discussion, video, etc.) followed by actual performance. We recommend utilizing levels of service within a program (i.e. first, second, third, fourth years of service). The first-year teen members are given instruction and then paired with a second-year staff member along with a third- or fourth-year fully trained job supervisor. As the second-year staff help guide the first-year staff to know the schedule, they have to review their training of the job skills.
I am amazed at the second-year staff, as they are excited to be back at camp and want to help the new staff. The third- and fourth- year teen members train for the supervisory roles. Sometimes the returning staff needs to be reminded that the new staff is young and needs to be trained in even the simple skills such as how to use a broom. Everyone starts out learning the basic skills and needs encouraging words. There needs to be an atmosphere of learning and positive reinforcement by all levels of staff, including the teachers and all who are training and supervising.
Staff training that includes personality studies is very beneficial in the camp setting, as well as providing a future life skill. Camp Victory starts the younger teen staff together to study the basic temperaments (using the sanguine, choleric, melancholy, phlegmatic studies of Tim LaHaye and Florence Littauer and the Love Language study of Gary Chapman). These two units of study are rotated every other year to encourage the first- and second-year staff members. Third-year staff members study a more intense personality study using the DISC Personality Profile and possibly the nine Enneagram Types. Fourth-year teen staff members study spiritual gifts.
Years ago, at Camp Victory, we were discouraged by the lack of spiritual maturity in college male staff members. The full-time staff made it a serious matter of prayer. The Lord answered that request. Years of dedicated collage staff have now had a rippling effect down to the high school staff. As discipline incidents arose among the high school staff, members were dismissed or limited to serving fewer weeks. We kept up with any “disciplined” staff members to encourage them and to possibly restore them, after a time off. Rotating high school staff in and out lets them know they can be replaced. Also, limiting their weeks gives them opportunity to be involved with their church’s summer ministry and with family. This produces a well-rounded teen member versus a staff member who works every week and becomes too familiar or burns out. Provided we have a large enough pool of applicants, we work first-year members 1-2 weeks; second-year members 2-3 weeks; third-year members 3-4 weeks and fourth-year members 6-8 weeks. As teens mature, they develop stability and stamina to work an entire camp summer season.
The most recent blessing from the Lord happened in Spring and Summer of 2020 with COVID-19. Everything was uncertain during April and May. Staff members were inquiring about summer camp and praying that it would be a reality rather than just counting the days until camp, like previous years. The first 4 weeks of camp (June) were cancelled. When the decision was made to hold camp for the 4 weeks in July, a lot of planning had to be completed in a few weeks. The entire daily schedule was revamped, thus making it that all 7 high school position schedules had to be rewritten. 5 high school graduates were free to come to camp June 15, the week before June 22 staff training. Normally graduates are not free because of graduation ceremonies. COVID-19 caused ceremonies to be cancelled or postponed. So, the 5 graduates, who were also fourth-year staff members, rewrote all 7 schedules and even some of the job descriptions as jobs were traded with changes in scheduling. After rewriting those schedules, they were so mentally prepared to lead the younger staff during the training week. They were invested in the support ministry of the high school staff at Camp Victory.
In leading a teen camping ministry, staff members need to be introduced and drawn into a fellowship of other people their own age. They need to be given specific goals and instructions. Working together while serving on a meaningful project is more fulfilling than a vacation to Disney World. (Side lecture: Successful youth groups study the Bible and complete service projects more than being entertained with fun activities and trips.)
It is encouraging to see high school staff return as college age counselor staff. They are being trained to be future leaders, not only in the camp setting but also for life. Several cycles of discipleship are occurring: campers to high school staff, high school staff to college counselor staff, staff to life situations, and possibly college staff to full-time CBM staff.
Colossians 1:28-29 (ESV) “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Luke 6:40 (ESV) “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Jan Richoux serves at Camp Victory in Samson AL. She runs the CIT (Counselor in Training) and LIT (Leader in Training) programs. To learn more about Camp Victory click HERE: