Camp Counselor Survival Tips

Camp Counselor Survival GuideCongratulations! You have been accepted as a camp counselor for Best-Camp-Ever USA! You probably grew up attending this camp. A life-long summer dream come true, you can’t wait to slip your Keens on and start bonding with the rest of staff.

This was my perspective, at least, when I began training as a CIT (Counselor in Training) at 18 years old. All that energy carried me through my one week as a staffer. However, in future years, I realized that energy failed to significantly impact, not just my own life, but also the lives of those I would mentor each summer.

Excitement and passion for camp (or any summer ministry) is not enough to make a summer count for God’s kingdom. Years in summer-specific ministries (camps, youth group internships, missions trip leaderships, college ministry mentorship) have taught me what a camp counselor really needs to make it.

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1. Acknowledge God.

And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. Romans 1:28

A camp counselor plays so many parts: Bible study skit actor, worship leader, substitute-mom (or dad) for the homesick camper, etc. Sometimes talking about God, praying, even leading a devotional can start to feel like another “part.” The script is easy, and it starts to flow in your words and actions without a lot of thought. While we can praise God for such a transformation, we also should be cautious of becoming robotic in our acknowledgement of God.

To maintain an actual connection with our Lord, make time for your personal relationship with Him every day. That might sound impossible with all the activities, expectations, and your own personal goals during the week. I often prioritized decorating personalized notes for each of my campers above spending time with Jesus. My campers had a cool item to remember me by, but my soul was weak and empty.

When we stop acknowledging God, we start depending on the almighty SELF to take care of things. God has wisdom, comfort, stamina, strength, and fun in abundance for you and your campers. Stop trying to come up with all the ideas and answers on your own. Stop, acknowledge God, and ask for His help and right perspective of each situation.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,[e] casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

2. Find a Mentor

Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

You are doing a lot of pouring out. Camp can be draining physically, spiritually, emotionally, even socially. Acknowledging God is a good way to fill back up each day; however, God has provided an additional tool for your heart-and-soul-maintenance. Hebrews reminds us to observe and imitate the faith-life of our leaders.

I subscribe to many speakers and authors, appreciating their teachings’ impact in my life. But nothing compares to a phone conversation or a cup of coffee with a personal mentor. The intimacy required to share firsthand stories, impart wisdom, and encourage through personal prayers is a beautiful reflection of how Jesus cares for us.

The apostle Paul set up an excellent model for mentorship. Paul was mentored by Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26), enjoyed friendship and ministry partnership with Luke (Colossians 4:14), and trained his disciple/mentee Timothy (Acts 16:3-4).

A camp counselor has built-in “Lukes” (other staffers) and “Timothys” (campers), but sometimes “Barnabases” are not readily available. Perhaps your personality clashes with the head counselor, or your director is more focused on activities and logistics of camp. If you find yourself without a mentor, pray and begin the search. Find someone who will commit to praying for your during your time in ministry, who is open to emails or phone calls, and who is one or two steps ahead in life, so you can “carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”

You can find a mentor in:

  • Godly Parents or grandparents
  • Youth Pastors and wives (that’s me!)
  • Your camp counselor from years past (that will be you someday)
  • Christ-centered teachers or coaches
  • Even parents of campers

And here are tips to help your mentor feel more inclined to walk with you:

  • Fold her laundry while you debrief a rough week.
  • Offer free babysitting
  • Buy him coffee
  • Schedule a round of frisbee golf
  • Most important: find your strength and fulfillment in God first (see above), so you wont become too clingy or needy of your mentor.

Check back soon for tips 3 and 4!

How do you keep your relationship with God intimate during a busy summer? Do you have a mentor? Where/how did you find him or her?