In the Christian culture you hear a lot of buzzwords like: multi-generational ministry, ministry in the context of relationships, servant leadership, discipleship. Kids Camp packs all those concepts up in an old duffel bag and delivers them with a bang into one amazing, “relevant,” “transparent,” “missional” community. If you want to “make a difference for the kingdom” and “experience personal spiritual formation,” plan ahead now to take vacation time next summer and volunteer at Kids Camp.
Kids Camp has been a significant part of our family’s life for twelve years. Jeremy and I first volunteered at Kids Camp in 2005. The twins were three years old. Essentially we raised our kids at camp. As soon as any of the kids were old enough to serve, they have: first as gophers and then as counselors. Camp is a unique way for families to create memories together, while serving together, in an atmosphere that is like a family vacation.
My official and non-descript title has always been Camp Lady. From the beginning that meant being one of the “up-front” people trying to make camp fun and funny for the campers and counselors alike.
Gradually my role and responsibilities increased from being simply a fun camp personality to more of an administrative and leadership role including planning, writing the camp manuals and leading the annual training of all staff.
Then things got serious. When Pastor Mick realized and informed us that kids would spend more time being influenced at Kids Camp than they would throughout an entire year’s worth of church children’s ministry, we got an urgency of the life-change and eternal impact that camp could and should be making.
Camp stopped being mostly fun and games for me at that point. The focus was still on the kids and giving them an amazing camp experience, but communicating the urgency and uniqueness of this spiritual opportunity to all the staff became my passion. “How to Lead a Child to Christ” became a crucial part of staff training.
We began asking non-counselor staff to “adopt” a bunk: to get a list of kids in one bunk and commit to pray for them by name all throughout camp. Staff members might choose to sit with their adopted bunk at lunch, play with them at the pool, or just get to know them better by observing on the challenge course.
The camp speaker began to focus even more on a clear presentation of the gospel and giving opportunities for every child to accept or recommit to Christ. Nightly chapel messages slowly built up this message to the kids: Something is wrong with the world and with each of us. We need saving. There is a Savior for us.
On the third night, the gospel is clearly presented and kids are asked to make a decision for Christ. Private discussion continues with their counselors afterward. During that discussion time, the rest of the staff gathers in the chapel and prays for each camper, each counselor by name and asks for their salvation. The Spirit moves powerfully through the unified prayers of the staff: middle school gophers and church elders and nurses and pastors and moms and dads pour out their requests before God.
God has consistently answered those prayers with many children asking Jesus to save them and to be their forever friend each year at camp. Many of the high-schoolers who now come back to camp each summer to serve, first made a decision to follow Christ as little children at Kids Camp.
In addition to the eternal difference camp has made in many children’s lives, camp is also an incredible opportunity for growth for maturing disciples. It’s the ideal place to learn patience, endurance, grace and trust. People become more real and relationships become more genuine.
Perhaps my favorite display of authenticity is in worship. My husband Jeremy has been the camp worship leader for just as many years as I’ve been Camp Lady. I have watched him transform a group of tired, disengaged, uncertain boys and girls into an enthusiastic crowd of Jesus Freaks. To watch the kids (and counselors, and all the staff) jumping for joy, shouting God’s praises, and dripping with sweat one minute and then to see eyes closed, hands raised in reverence the next…Well, it’s a miracle of God and those are my sweetest memories of all.
The friendships and memories made while serving at camp, as well as the knowledge that kids have found Jesus there, will always make Kids Camp a highlight of my life. As I retire from this role, I’m so humbled to have been a part of such an amazing and fruitful ministry. As the torch is passed on to a younger (and more energetic) generation of leaders, I pray that Kids Camp will continue to grow in its effectiveness as a tool to make an eternal impact for everyone involved.
For more information on how you can join forces in this incredible Eastern Iowa ministry, please visit my church’s website: New Covenant Bible Church.