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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.

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How to Survive as a Camp Counselor (tips 3 & 4): Take a Break & Be Authentic

Camp Counselor Survival Guide

 

Welcome to Campfire Grace, where we explore the freedom God has for us in on-going relationship with Him. This month, we have been unpacking survival tips for camp counselors and other summer ministry positions. For tips 1 and 2, click here.

Many of you have already begun your first week of training. That excitement is running high and you are completely enthralled with all God is doing and will do this summer. Keep that energy, my friend, and add to it a dose of encouragement from the next two survival tips:

survive camp 3 and 4

3. Take a Break

As a camp counselor, or other summer ministry leader (shout out to my intern friends!!!), the responsibilities and expectations for constant enthusiasm can make you feel a bit thin (like butter spread over too much bread, as Bilbo would say).

Here’s what the Bible has to say:

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people to do in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them. Ecc. 8:15

All over the Bible, God prescribes fun, rest, and enjoyment. He is not a workaholic (see the 7th day, in which He created rest and satisfaction). He is not a pleasure-killer (see Song of Solomon and try not to blush).

Life as a Christian is not just about the Kingdom work. It is also about enjoying our relationships together with Jesus. So take a break, when it’s appropriate. Get off campus or out of town for little while. Don’t feel like you have to head straight for the next church or prayer meeting on your day off. While this can be helpful and healthy, it can also lead to a legalistic and “works based” mentality.

Go. Have. Fun!

Just remember to…

4. Be Authentic

Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. Hebrews 6:11-12

The weekend hits and you are ready to unwind.

Detox.

Let loose.

Veg out.

Drop your guard for a little while.

The temptation here is that you can check-in your Christian camp counselor hat for a while, in exchange for the incognito-burnt-out-Christian. You might feel justified indulging your flesh for a bit. After all, you’ve been denying yourself all week! I have fallen prey to this kind of thinking many times in busy ministry seasons. We let our guard down. We see that movie. We tell that joke. We check that website. We waste our rest.

Don’t waste your rest.

Be authentic in your faith, both at camp and “down the mountain.” Here are a 5 good reasons:

  1. Your campers might catch you indulging your flesh.
  2. You have a responsibility to your fellow staff to encourage them in their faith, rather than inviting (by word or deed) to take part in the world.
  3. Taking God-honoring opportunities to rest will be more fulfilling and re-energizing for you in the long run.
  4. Emphasizing your burn-out gives people around you the perception that serving God is a negative, deplorable task.
  5. God is worthy, not just of your dedicated kingdom-work, but of your authenticity in exhaustion.

I’ve got a few more tips for you, so keep your eyes open. And in the mean-time, visit a few other posts about connecting with God, and resting well!

Join the campfire conversation: how do you rest well and maintain an authentic relationship with God in the midst of exhaustion?

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.54.24 AM

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?

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