By: Rev. Jeff Gage
I often talk to other pastors about going to camp and being a counselor. A CABIN COUNSELOR. Not the preacher for the week. Everybody wants that job. Not the musician. You are not that cool anymore. A counselor!
I am usually turned down with standard responses.
“I’m too busy.”
“I don’t want to go.”
“My kids don’t go to Lakeview. They go to ______.” (Insert camp name. Could be Christian. Could be a sports camp. You name it.)
In response to these, I offer these thoughts.
We all have sermons to write. Calls to make. Sick & shut-in to visit. Yes, plans have to be made for the fall. Bible studies need to be written. I know. But I also know that those plans, calls, and visits can be done at another time. I can work to write a sermon ahead of time. I can ask another staff member or lay person to preach on the Sunday after camp. There are many ways to conquer “the busyness demon.” You know the week of camp is coming months in advance. Make plans now.
I want to stay home and sleep in my own bed. I want to eat my own food. I don’t like to walk around all week with sand in my shoes, blisters on my toes, and sweat in my eyes. I enjoy sitting at home every night with my wife and kids. I’m not fond of sun, sweat, skeeters, and scorpions.
But…I make that sacrifice for the opportunity to share in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am excited to tell kids that he loves them and has a plan for their lives. The week of camp is not about my comfort. It is about leading those kids into a life changing, soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
You are there for the kid who for the other 51 weeks out of the year is told he is worthless, a mistake.
You are there for the young lady who is beginning to understand that the Lord is calling her into ministry.
You are there for the kid who has been living with his grandmother for the past two years because his mom and dad are out of the picture.
You are there for the kids who has to get his three younger siblings ready for school, feed them, and make sure they have done their homework. But for the one week of camp…things are different. During that one precious week, he gets to be a kid and experience the love of Christ in ways he’s never known before.
Several years ago, I served a small church in the small town of Hooks. One summer I took five kids to camp and had a typical Lakeview time- Fun and games. Music and Preaching. Sweat and heat. Fire ants, scorpions and mosquitos.
As the UMC would have it, I moved the next year. I lost track of those kids. Ten years later, I moved back into that district camp and went to camp again. Imagine my surprise when I looked across the room and saw one of the girls from our trip to camp so long ago.
She had returned to camp year after year. In fact, she had risen up through the ranks of leadership and was now the Dean of Women in her camp. When I asked her about how many kids previous church had brought to camp, she didn’t know because she was attending another church. “Oh… Okay,” I said, sad that she had changed churches. “No, no. It’s nothing like that,” she responded. “I go there because I am their youth director.”
She was in ministry now, and I have no doubt that camp played a role in her calling.
I know. You’re busy. Me, too. You don’t want to go. I don’t either. Your kids don’t go. Well… you are not there for your kids.
But then again, maybe you are.