I’ve been involved on camp ministry since I was 13 years old. I’ve held every job from camp dish washer to camp pastor. I know mistakes when I see one because I’ve made plenty of them as well as witnessing many others.
If you’re new to youth ministry, and you are heading out for your first camp, let me offer the big mistakes that get made and how you can avoid them.
Ignoring the camps rules
I was told, “No pillow fights”. What a dumb thing, thing I thought. Camp is all about pillow fights. So, we had a pillow fight. Everything was great until a kid put a toaster in his pillow and gave another kid a concussion. I know what you’re thinking, “The rule should be, check all the pillows before the battle.” That is true, but the bigger truth is, I should have obeyed the rules in the first place.
If the camp you are using has a rule, like, DON’T TAKE CANOES OUT AFTER DARK there’s a reason for that. Don’t think you’re better than the rules, you’re teaching your students a bad lesson that will come back to bite you later.
Not having a plan for cabin/post service time
I was taught, “If you don’t have a plan, your campers do” How will you get your camper to go sleep, settle down for devotions, keep them from sneaking out? Yes, you have to plan for these things, they’re not just going to fall into place.
My plan took different forms for different situations. If I knew campers were thinking of sneaking out, I had a volunteer plan the sneak out to let kids think they were pulling one over on me, but what the campers didn’t know was that the leader had specific order to take them only so far and for only so long. In doing this the kids got to “sneak out” but with supervision.
In another case, told camper that if we did not have any issues during the week we had a glow in the dark pizza party.
Sometimes I had organized activities like camp fire, night games or a run/walk around the lake to wear kids out so that they were ready for bed when we got back.
No matter what, have a plan.
Quick Tip: If you’re afraid of kids sneaking out, take the bed or put your bed by the door.
Not setting expectations
I have campers and parents sign a camp covenant before going to camp. The covenant isn’t long but it is specific about what was expected and what would happen if the standards were not followed.
This was not way for me to get kids in trouble, but a way for me to make sure parents and campers feel safe, that there were real rules and consequences for breaking those rules.
If you’re interested you can grab a copy of the camp covenant here and adjust it as needed for your group.
Making idle threats
If you make idle threats about sending kid home, calling parents, etc. kids will not take you seriously. If you have a rowdy bunch of kids who are pushing the boundaries, you can’t afford to make idle threats because bad behavior puts the whole camp experience in jeopardy for others.
Be sure to have a process of discipline from a warning to a phone call home before you actually have to send a kid home as a last resorts. In fact, you should state in no uncertain terms what will get a kid sent home so they can avoid it, this way no one is taken by surprise if it happens.
Being the first person to go to sleep
What happens when the cat’s asleep? The mice run wild. You have to stay awake until you are sure most of your kids are asleep, because things can get out hand. I’ve seen other leaders go to sleep before there kids and their kids got out of hand because a prank was pulled and a fight ensued. It got ugly.
So, bring plenty of energy drinks or you coffee maker because you may have some long nights, and especially on the last night when they know you can’t send them home.
I have a lot more camp tips in my camp Youtube playlist. Check out a couple of them below.