I’m sure there are some people that when the idea of leading a camp for elementary age children is brought up in conversation have an unconscious urge to bolt out of the room for fear that their name might be brought up as a consideration. Others might simply make a face of confusion or pain of the idea of spending a full week in charge of 50 kids. I brace myself and get ready for the wild ride that is helping to lead a week of Summer Camp.
There are times in my ministry that I question why I do what I do. The ins and outs of the daily grind (planning, shuffling papers, writing lessons) often gets in the way of the vision I have for ministry. See, kids are my life. Their faces, their hopes, their dreams, their wild conversations make all of the planning and sweat worth it. And let me tell you, this last week had a lot of sweat.
Kids will open up to a camp counselor often more than they will with their own children’s ministers or small group leaders. Suddenly, here’s an adult who seems to really care and who couldn’t possibly judge me. I heard stories of parents in jail, heartbreaking stories of kids who just wanted to see their moms, but couldn’t because of drug problems. Between poverty, foster care situations, and tragedy, these kids relished their week away from their fears, insecurities and problems. They leaped out of their pain and tried new things, played new games, and heard about a man named Jesus who loved them, seeing it in the way their counselors loved and treated them.
No amount of conferences or mountain top experiences have so completely refocused my vision as did one week of camp. Was it tiring? Yes. Rewarding? Oh, yes. Will I do it again? I’m already planning for next year.
Pain, sadness, fear, and insecurity live in the hearts of our kids the rest of the year, too. One week of camp can’t change that. So if you ever wonder how important children’s ministry is, think about the child who, above and other treasure, just wants a parent to come home. These kids need love, and we can provide that love in a safe environment that connects them to an even greater love that God provides.
Why do I still go to camp? Because Jesus loves these kids, and I do, too.