For many of you, camp is right around the corner. That joyous week of practical jokes, zero hours of sleep, and potential life change. Something special happens when students go to camp, something that you don’t often get to see. What I notice most often is when students get away from home and away from the regularity of everyday life, they let their guard down. At camp is when I experience my girls being the most honest. They share their struggles and questions with less reservation than in our 30 minutes of small group time every Wednesday.

So what is your role at camp? What can you do to make sure that week is powerful for your students? First, be healthy both spiritually and physically. Minimum? Make sure you bring a Bible and have slept more than 4 hours the night before. But if you’re looking to do more than the bare minimum: before camp, spend some time exploring scripture; talk to God about your praises and concerns with your group. Also, be well rested! When your group wants to stay up until 2am having a discussion, you want to be able to join them and not be the boring leader who falls asleep.

Before camp is also a great time to do something for your small group to let them know how excited you are to spend the next week with them. Maybe write them each a note, or make a fun goodie bag. If they know you are excited, chances are they will be excited as well.

While you are at camp together, look for opportunities for good conversation. Many times, the most meaningful conversations happen where you least expect it, like the dining hall or volleyball court. It’s hard to plan something like a student asking advice on an important issue or sharing a personal struggle. Also, if we expect our students to open up to us, we should be willing to let our guards down as well. One year at our weekend winter camp, a girl shared some of her difficulties with self-image during small group time. I told my group that I used to struggle with that as well, and still deal with some of those issues today. The next thing I knew, all the girls in my group were discussing self-image and building each other up. It was a great bonding moment and they felt comfortable sharing once I did as well. It validated that self-image issues are real and okay to talk about.

Mostly, have fun! Some of my best camp memories were with my leader. Of course my faith grew and strengthened, but at the time I loved the silly games and activities. Again, your small group will mirror your excitement so don’t be afraid to get a little goofy; bring costumes for your group to wear to dinner, or have a “cabin theme” for the week. Putting in that extra effort could mean the difference between a week spent texting friends back home and an encounter with God powerful enough to remember all their lives.

Do you have any great camp stories? How about ways you love to prepare?

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