Monday, August 5, 2013

6 Tips for Summer Camp Speakers

Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre, British Columbia
I'm at Camp Stillwood near Cultus Lake for a week of speaking to 200+ high school students, and I'm loving every minute of it! One of the many awesome youth from NLCC serving as a counselor this summer is Emily. She shared a few tips with me on how to be an awesome camp speaker. So here's some of Emily's advice, as well as a bit of my own! (She's the one in "quotes").

1. Share your life's story. "Personal stories are soooo good. Just tell stuff about yourself like it's really engaging." Everyone has done this: a pastor or speaker is preaching on and on about something, and you're starting to zone out. Suddenly, they begin to share a story: "once I was hiking up this mountain..." or "this time in college..." or "When I was in middle school...." What happens? You perk up and pay attention. Don't just tell stories for the sake of sermonic filler. Share your life, your heart, your failures, your joy, and your faith.

2. Share the Gospel story. One of my ministry values is "the Gospel is everything," and I try to point back to Jesus in everything I preach. If the campers leave camp having had a lot of fun and built a ton of great friendships and heard a lot of awesome stories, but they didn't hear about Jesus, I'd consider that a failure. Share Jesus. Tell His story. It's worth sharing.

3. Stick to one main point each talk. "Try and emphasize one big chunk of what you're gonna talk about." Campers typically don't have a sermon outline with them, nor are they the best note-takers. Stick with one main idea and unpack that truth until it sinks into their minds and hearts. Trying to get three or four points out of the talk tends to dilute the message. This also helps counselors in their cabin time discussions--they can try to focus the conversation around one topic instead of many. "One little focus on Him that you can emphasize is great for devotions for us [counselors]."

4. Be available and approachable beyond speaking. "They will want to get to know you. You'll be the "celebrity" for the week haha. I always appreciate the speakers when they go around and like go from activity to activity and try stuff and to get to know the kids at wherever they are." The difference between a good camp speaker and a great one is the approachability factor. Hang out at meals with campers. Attend some of their activities. Be a judge for the belly flop contest. Remember campers' names. Be pastoral, not just didactic.

5. Find rest and downtime. While it's important to hang out with campers, it's equally important to find times of peace and quiet. Take a nap. Go on a walk. Get some coffee. I'm writing this blog post from an empty gymnasium, which I'm sure will be filled with campers in the next few hours. For now, it's a quiet place to gather my thoughts and pray (and write blog posts).

6. Candy. "Candy will keep ANY AGE involved and listening at camp. Like just asking a question now and then or like memorize a bible verse and you can have this bag of whatever. they love it trust me. Haha. " Emily clearly loves candy. Apparently, so does everyone else. Asking questions and throwing out candy, or just offering people free sugary goodness always goes a long way. You could view it as bribery. Or you could view it as blessing. I prefer the latter.

Got any other wisdom on speaking at summer camps? Share in the comments!

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