Monday, June 16, 2008

Junior High Summer Camp Reflections

Here are the Joel's Reflections Awards for my 2008 junior summer camp experience:

Most Awkward Moment: On Monday, the first day of camp, the bus driver for our charter bus was asked to stop and change bus drivers by the bus company. Having left for camp the day before, I had no immediate control or knowledge of the situation, leaving a bus full of students parked off an exit for an hour while a new driver was called in. They switched and resumed the trip, only to have the new driver swiftly pull over to the side of the freeway shortly after leaving. The reason for the sudden stop was made clear when the driver got out of his seat and quickly made his way to the back of the bus. There is a tiny bathroom in the back of the vehicle. The driver remained in the bathroom for a few minutes, clearly having a moment. Upon exiting the bathroom, the bus was immediately filled with the sweet smell of poop. Yes, poop. I am not making this stuff up. Can't imagine what he was feeling, walking up a row of 50 junior highers who all know what you just did. Lesson learned: don't get poopy bus drivers. (The driver made up for it by playing basketball with the students at camp).

Best Recreation Team Name: Chuck Norris and the Chupacabras. Their cheer had the line, "Someone's sucking the blood out of all our cows!" Priceless. Runner-Up: The Incredible Green Eggs and Ham. Recreation games were pretty complex this year, which led to some frustration. But it was great to sit down and talk with the camp staff and work things out in a healthy manner. Rec time greatly improved over the course of the week with the increased communication between myself and the camp staff.

Most Memorable Speaking Moment: We had Greg Speck speak at our camp, and he was phenomenal. He had the students' attention the entire time with his hilarious stories and sound effects, but he also communicated God's truth in effective ways. He gave a sex talk on Wednesday morning that was one of the better Christian talks on sexuality that I've ever heard. Students not only remember the general idea of what he said, but even specific points and Scripture references.

Most Memorable Worship Moment: The worship band (Jake, Rilie, Heather, Jeremy, and Brian) were fantastic. Most junior high camp worship is filled with goofy songs featuring lots of hand-motions and very little spiritual truth. The band led worship in such a way that students were engaged, but also created an atmosphere of worship instead of just silliness. We had an extended time of worship the final night, and it was powerful to watch students pouring out their lives to God through song (and dance!).

Important Life Lesson(s) that I Learned:

Lesson #1: Ministry changes as numbers increase. When I first began in youth ministry, I was an intern at my home church in Federal Way, WA with about 20 students and 4-5 staff. This past week, I was leading a summer camp of about 250 students and 50 adult leaders (including youth pastors). When I was an intern/director in Portland, I could lead retreats and spend lots of time with individual students, participating in games and activities with them. This past week, I stayed in my own cabin with my wife. That's the first time I've ever done that, and it brought about mixed emotions. We both really wanted to be in the students' cabins, but also realized that we couldn't give the students the time and energy they deserved. The ministry had changed; it was no longer me that was ministering directly to students, it was my youth staff that had the responsibility. And they rocked. So excited about this next school year and some of the new leadership we have as a team!

Lesson #2: Strengths stem from God, not ourselves. This week I was reminded by the camp pastor, Dennis, that I was leading leaders (many of whom were twice my age and had been doing youth ministry since I was in kindergarten). I was also reminded (by myself this time) that I have never led a summer camp before. Yet despite all that, God somehow used me to connect with others and created an environment where students could encounter Jesus more fully and clearly. It didn't have to do with my experiences or having confidence in myself; it was God doing something in and through me that I could not do on my own. 

I loved getting to know the other pastors and seeing their different personalities and gifts be brought to the chaos that is camp. I loved seeing students come to know Jesus (we had at least 6 students from RMCC choose to follow Jesus with their lives). After it's all over, I think I'm a firm believer in the spiritual value of camp.


  1. Hey Joel,

    Excellent post bro...seriously, I highly enjoyed your thoughts, stories, etc...

    Our group is going to camp in July so that will be cool.

    Keep doing what your doing!

  2. I enjoyed reading your summary of camp - I'm so glad it was a great week. We are blessed to have you and Katie to lead our jr. high ministry!

  3. Joel & Katie,
    Thanks so much for all the time you put into camp. Milan had an awesome time and he can't wait to go back. I know God used you to do His work because He is able........

  4. Blaise, Melissa, and "Bling" - Thanks for all the encouragement!