Dear Summer Camp Staff.
I see you. I’ve been you. Believe me, I understand what you’re going through right now.
I know that you’re entering the mid-summer slump that plagues camps across the country. You’ve mastered staff training, you have a few weeks of camp under your belt, and the newness of camp has worn off. You may look at the rest of your summer commitment and feel a foreboding sense of exhaustion mixed with a depressing sense of predictability.
I wish I could tell you that you won’t be exhausted. I wish I could tell you that each day will be as exciting and fresh as those first few days. But unfortunately that’s not the case when it comes to seasonal ministry. There will be mornings when dragging yourself out of bed and hiking across camp is the last thing you want to do. There will be afternoons when the sun is too hot, your campers are being difficult, and all you want to do is sit in the air conditioned staff lounge with Gatorade and WiFi. There will be nights when lighting yet another campfire and making s’more #1001 will cease to be fun and start to feel like an actual job.
(You wouldn’t have believed me if I told you this at the beginning of the summer, right?)
Back in staff training your director may have told you things like,
“Camp isn’t about you, it’s about the campers.”
“Treat each week of camp like it’s the first, because for your campers, it is.”
Part of me is sorry to say this, but it’s true and your directors are right. Now, don’t get me wrong. This does not discredit what you’re feeling and experiencing! Every frustration, every tear, every stressor, they’re all 100% valid. But part of the magic and responsibility of being a camp staffer is being able to 1) be aware of what you’re feeling and 2) understanding that in the moment, those feelings must be put aside so you can be fully present for your campers and guests. Because you just may have a camper who will only attend camp once in their lives, and this is their only shot at experiencing the boundless fun and love that camp can offer.
Dear Summer Camp Staff. I hope you take solace in knowing that every staffer, at every camp, in every summer that has ever happened, has felt the exact same way that you do. It’s part of the nature of the incredible, beautiful, challenging, miraculous beast that is summer camp.
I can reassure you, though, that this part of camp is where God can really work in your character, soul, and spirit – if you’ll let him. Embrace the trials. Chase after the wisdom He’s teaching you through every sunset, every conversation, and every nightly debrief. Greet each day with an overwhelming tenacity in spirit and you might just shock yourself with what you can accomplish with the strength and grace that God gives you.
When your team is tired, sad, skeptical, or cynical, I dare you to be the opposite (even if you don’t “feel” like being optimistic.) Trust me, sarcasm and cynicism can feel cathartic and be a stress-reliever. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s one of the first coping mechanisms I turn to when the days get hard. But I’ve learned that 90% of the time it’ll only bring others down instead of actually solving problems. So fight for optimism. Fight for joy. Fight for enthusiasm. Fight for this attitude and protect it with everything you’ve got. It could end up making or breaking your summer camp experience.
Dear Summer Camp Staff. Thank you for what you’re doing for your campers. Thank you for sacrificing so many weeks of your summer for a cause that’s greater than yourself. Thank you for the countless splinter removals, sunscreen applications, water balloon fights, and campfire songs. I see you. You’re making a difference. You’re doing your best. You’re loving the people and doing the job (in that order, I pray.) And you’re doing it for the Lamb and for the Kingdom.
Dear Summer Camp Staff. I hope you know there are thousands of people across the country praying for your summer. God’s got you, and you’ve got this.