How to Survive as a Camp Counselor (Tip 5): Stay Healthy!

In my opinion, camp is one of the greatest salutes to summer ever imagined. Camping is certainly in the top 5 as well. However, there is something about a group of teenagers gathering for a week away from parents, internet, and daily expectations that sets a soul free.

Whoever thought of this concept of “Summer Camp” is my hero. At least, my hero when I was a camper. When I started pursuing my dream as a camp counselor one summer, and youth ministry intern another, I wasn’t so sure about the brilliance behind the concept of camp.

I think the luster began to fade when I began to fade: spiritually and physically. In addition to the first 4 camp counselor survival tips, these next 4 are key to maintaining physical health and strengths.

tip 5

5. Protect your health.

Taking a weekly break/sabbath (tip #3) is imperative for your health. But breaks alone will not keep you functioning at the physical caliber required for summer ministry. Throughout the week, a camp counselor must be health-conscious in 4 areas:

A. Eat Smart

Camp food sits at the top 3 favorite things for campers. Greasy, heavy, thick, comfort food. Cinnamon rolls, Taco in a bag, and lets not forget the CANTEEN! It’s a camper’s paradise. But a camp counselor cannot survive on soda, sugar, and salt-heavy foods all summer. At one point, you might have to sneak in some asparagus my friend. Choosing lighter portions, adding a salad, and opting for healthy snacks (lets face it, you need snacks throughout the day to keep that energy up). If you cannot maintain healthy eating habits, invest in some vitamins or supplements.

Paul said:

All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Cor. 6:12

Indulging in camp food is certainly lawful. However, be encouraged to set boundaries on food that stops being healthful or dominating.

B. Protect your Sleep

I cannot tell you how often I spent time meant for sleeping hiding out in my blanket-draped bunk, scrambling and preparing for the next thing. Midday quiet-times and curfew didn’t apply to me, so I must not actually need sleep, I thought. In hindsight, I wish I would have shut my eyes a few more hours. Sleep is the first thing to go when ambitious ministry awaits. I don’t think this is wise for two reasons:

I. God gave us sleep as a reminder that He is God, and we are not. He will take care of all the soul-saving without us staying up an extra hour to make a pretty poster for Bible study.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalms 127:2

II. God gave us sleep to keep us healthy. Human bodies need sleep. Without it, our ministry effectiveness can be diminished.

Without sleep, I consistently forgot my campers names and backgrounds, over-ate to stay awake, and had poor confidence (more on this later) among other staff members.

Of course, you can over do this one. The Bible warns against laziness, and even Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake in prayer through the night with Him once. There are special circumstances. Walk in step with the Spirit, be awake when He is working through you, go to sleep when you want to start taking over.

C. Prioritize Proper Hygiene

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 John 1:2

John is concerned with his readers physical health as well as their soul health. We should be too.

We tell our campers to shower. Please, for the love of all that is good on this green earth, SHOWER! And change your underwear, brush your teeth, keep your bed clean.  This is mandatory for a summer ministry leader as well. It only takes 2 minutes to wash your face at night, and you will be grateful you don’t wake up with a fresh distracting zit on your nose in the morning.

Zits lower confidence. Distract us from the mission. Zits are painful.

Don’t get zits. Practice good hygiene.

Same is true for bad breath, stinky feet, ingrown toenails, pink eye (wash your hands), a crusty nostril, and waxy ears.

D. Exercise-wise

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 2 Cor. 9:27

You may feel that exercise is unnecessary during your summer ministry season. Field games, hikes, lake day, giving piggy back rides to younger campers consumes more of your energy than you have. I knew some girl counselors who would wake up 2 hours early to get a run in every morning before the day started. Whew, that’s determination. I was more interested in protecting point B to join them. However, I admire staff who make a point to keep their bodies flexible, muscles strong, and lungs enduring. Do what you can, without idolizing fitness or appearance, or compromising other areas of your life.

I suggest listening to a sermon podcast or worship music during a stretching session, jog, or cardio burst. Just take 15 minutes. Enjoy a mental, spiritual, and physical regrouping to keep you on track for the rest of the day.

How do you keep your body healthy during a busy and highly-demanding season? Leave your answer in a comment.