It's nearing the end of the week at the Christian summer camp where I work as a counselor. I've spent the past several days getting up at dawn and working outdoors all day teaching, entertaining, and watching over kids. The stifling hot days are packed with classes and activities, while the evenings hold worship time and crazy dramas. It has definitely been a full week, and I'll have only two days to recover before coming back for another week.
I've just finished the daily devotional time with my cabin group—six middle school-aged girls. Leading devotions isn't easy for me, as I'm not a natural leader or teacher. Asking who wants to close in prayer, I wonder if the girls even got anything from the devotion. But as a sweet 13-year-old blonde, one of my girls for the week, prays, my heart is both humbled and warmed, and I have to smile.
"Thank You for camp," she prays. "And thank You for our awesome counselor."
Working at a Christian camp is far from "just another summer job." Unlike flipping burgers or running a cash register, camp work is bursting with adventure, purpose, and opportunities to share Christ. Despite the minimum pay (or perhaps lack of pay, depending on the camp) and grueling hours, working at a summer camp is a rewarding experience never to be forgotten!
While spending a summer working at camp, young people will likely have the chance to try things they have never done before, whether it's playing challenging group games, sleeping under the stars, competing in a belly-buster contest at the pool, teaching, being a group leader, or leading a child to Christ. There is never a dull moment at camp!
During the six weeks that I've spent working at a local camp over the past five summers, I've had multiple opportunities to talk with campers about issues in their lives and their relationships with God. I tend to want to solve their problems, but I'm learning that what the kids are looking for most is a listening ear, someone to put an arm around their shoulders, encourage them, and pray with them. The prayer my camper prayed after devotions that day was a reminder to me that counselors are so important to young campers. In fact, I've heard it said that kids remember their camp counselors for years, long after they've forgotten the games they played and songs they learned at camp. One of my campers actually called me on the telephone a year or two after I was her counselor to ask me to pray with her about a family situation.
I won't lead you to believe that camp work is easy. It is exhausting both physically and emotionally. But the rewards far outweigh the costs.
For me, working at camp has been a truly life-changing experience that God has used in many good ways. It has helped me to develop stronger leadership skills. I've gotten lots of practice with patience and loving the unlovable. I've met friends who have been wonderful examples and encouragers. And there is simply nothing like praying with a child and seeing the light come on in her face and her heart.
Is your high school or college-aged student looking for a meaningful summer job? Could camp work be right for him or her? Many Christian camps look for counselors, lifeguards, special activities leaders, kitchen workers, musicians, and other staff positions for the summer. If your teen is interested in working at a Christian camp, take a look at these questions together:
- Is she mature in her relationship with the Lord?
- Is he willing to talk with kids about spiritual and life matters?
- Does she enjoy children?
- Does he desire to see children grow closer to God?
- Is she in good physical health—able to do a lot of walking and endure long hours?
- Is she willing to sacrifice good pay if necessary?
- Is she ready to step outside her comfort zone and grow in leadership and in God?
If your teen answers yes to all of these questions, I strongly encourage you and your teen to research and pray about summer camp work. It will be a productive, meaningful, and possibly even life-changing adventure that your student will look back on for years to come . . . as will the campers who benefit from his or her willingness to serve the Lord through camp work.
*This article published July 16, 2010.
Ashley Smylie is a 2005 homeschool graduate from Sevierville, Tennessee. She enjoys working as a counselor at Camp Ba Yo Ca and has recently joined the year-round staff there, receiving training toward her dream of one day being a camp director.
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store. View our new and free resource, the Homeschool 101 Digital Supplement.