Young Adult Blog

3 Things I Learned as a Camp Counselor

Camp is an awesome experience for children and adults alike. Volunteering doesn’t just help the kids—it can also help adults draw closer to God.

Camp is an educational and spiritual journey. The lessons campers learn can last a lifetime. But the kids are not the only ones learning at camp. I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did as a camp counselor!

I’d like to share some things I learned in this blog post. Although some of these points may be more humorous than spiritual, the greater lesson behind it all is humility. Here are three humbling lessons I learned as a counselor at Camp Arrowhead this year.

1. If you allow 11 preteen boys to put sunblock on by themselves, you will have a mess.

Before we came to Camp Arrowhead, campers and staff were provided with a list of what to (and not to) bring to camp. One of those items to bring was sunblock. As a counselor, just when you think you have control of your dorm, you tell them to put on sunblock!

On day one, I made such a request, and 11 tiny voices replied, “I can do it!” Before I could turn around to help anyone, I had one boy spray himself in the eyes, while the kid behind him choked and gagged. While I was helping some of the more delicate hands open bigger bottles, I saw a kid with white streaks on his forehead, lips and hair and two thumb prints on his glasses as well.

And forget about bug repellent! Apparently, it repels staff members as well when half a dozen boys (at the sight of one bee) spray their legs like they are preparing for a plague of locusts. Let’s just say the smell was … intense. It was right around this time when I realized that the leadership required of me was going to take a lot of patience.

2. It is humbling to hear, “I can’t find my clean underwear”—and you are the only one who can help.

It didn’t take long for suitcases and backpacks to explode once the boys arrived. Things went missing faster than the boys could pull them out of their suitcases. No matter how organized and ready we were for each day or evening, we had to spend a considerable amount of time digging under beds for necessities.

The greatest challenge in all this was at shower time. No matter how ready the boys were, once the shower was over, either someone had forgotten their clean underwear or sandals at the dorm, or someone had left their stuff at the showers. Retrieving the more personal items for the boys was a strong reminder of how dependent these kids are on adults. My service as a counselor required me to be prepared and to teach preparation to my campers—about things I didn’t expect to teach going into camp!

3. Not all boys are like my boys—and that’s okay.

I have three sons. I knew I had to prepare myself to lead 10 boys who were not my own. I had hoped to bring my routine from home to the camp, but I learned it required a lot of adjustment to fit the personalities and energy of 10 children.

At home, the things I mentioned above seem a little easier to manage because of direct supervision, as well as an understanding of how each boy in my household operates. This was something I could not have been fully prepared for even if I had known all of the boys personally. Because, once they all got together, their combined energy was greater than the sum of what each had individually.

I will list just a few of the observations below:

  • Some never stopped talking.

  • Some seemed to never talk at all.

  • Some could have slept through the whole camp.

  • Some watched me while I slept.

  • Some were very dependent (and that is okay).

  • Some were very independent (even if they weren’t ready … and that is okay as well).

One thing is true about all of them. They all came to have fun and learn.

Why is any of this important? I think all parents should know that their kids were very well behaved. In Philippians 2:12 Paul states, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” These children did just that. This is a positive sign for the Church of God.

Whether I was wiping up messes or gathering up piles of clothes, the experience was worth every minute spent leading and teaching these kids for three days. I challenge all teens and young adults to take the opportunity to be a counselor (or assistant counselor) at one of our preteen camps. There really is no greater joy than seeing kids having fun and at peace—and having a part in it.  

For another insight into serving as a camp counselor, read “93 Stinky Children (and Other Reasons I Love Camp).”

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