Avoid These During Kids’ Camp
Top ten things to not do
A lot of great things can happen during a week of camp. It’s every parent’s (and every camp supporter’s) dream that the camping experience with the longest impact on a child’s life is a work of the Holy Spirit. However, there are some things that can end up short-circuiting the work the Holy Spirit wants to do.
Although the list could be endless … consider these top ten things to avoid during camp.
- Giving swirlies: It may sound fun, and the kids may chant for you to give a kid or junior leader a head dunk in the porcelain pool … but avoid the temptation! In fact, pranks of any kind should be eliminated. You never know how the child will respond. Even if it’s your own child and you are confident they will think it’s funny, you never know how another camper will respond to how they see you treat your own child. In everything we do, let’s model respect of others.
- Telling scary stories: Instead of trying to scare kids to stay in their beds at night, why not pray and bless them? Encourage them to talk to Jesus as they drift off to sleep.
- Horseplay in the pool: While fun games in the pool are acceptable, you must be careful not to encourage kids to dunk and wrestle in the water. This can be dangerous. Most kids think of themselves as stronger swimmers than they actually are.
- Staying electronically connected: The best camp leaders are the ones who can put away the phone and e-mail device for the duration of the camp and focus on the campers. God wants to use you to impact the life of campers … so stay engaged in those lives.
- Bad-mouthing camp elements: Whether it’s the food, the camp speaker, or the activities, complaining in the kids’ hearing about any element of camp creates a negative attitude virus that spreads. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in sharing negative opinions with kids or other leaders. In fact, make a commitment to speak positively about everything. When you lead the way in positivity, your kids will mirror that attitude and have a great time.
- Being “too cool”: Let’s face it, some of the things leaders have you do at camp do not seem like they’ll be fun. But when you engage in even the most “un-fun” activities, you communicate to the campers that although this might not be your first choice of activities, you are going to make the best of it. Jump in … get wet, get muddy, or cover yourself in slime. Make some memories with the campers. Laugh and lead the way!
- Not sitting with your kids: Meal times can be great times to sit and get to know the campers. Make sure that at every meal you sit with your kids. Stand in line with them; walk with them to and from activities; be with your campers as much as possible. But most importantly, sit with your campers during the service times. Let them see you worship, laugh at the jokes, be amazed at the sermon illustrations, pray, and open your Bible. In all of these things you are setting the standard of behavior for kids.
- Acting like God only moves during an altar response: Although there is something powerful about kids responding to the altar invitation and spending time in prayer, do not forget that God can use the entire campground, schedule, and activities to open an opportunity for ministry. Be ready to engage kids in spiritual conversations at any time. Be ready to pray with kids at any time. Be ready to bless them at any time.
- Not processing about encounters with God: If we believe that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of the campers, then make it a regular practice to ask the kids what God is doing in their hearts. As you begin to draw this out of the kids, you will hear about profound things they are growing to understand. Helping kids verbally process what God did helps them internalize it. This in turn causes their spiritual experiences to have a deeper impact.
- Not coming to camp spiritually prepared: With all that a leader needs to take care of in getting ready for camp, the most important is spiritual preparation. Never forget to prepare your heart for what God wants to do in you. Don’t abdicate the prayers for your campers to a team of people and then personally miss how the Holy Spirit is prompting you before you ever arrive at the campground.
Most kids look forward to summer church camp with an incredible amount of anticipation. In order to make this the best week of their year, make sure to avoid some of the more common mistakes, including the ten listed above.