Looking out at my yard in desperate need of mowing in a 90 degree heat is always a good reminder that camp is upon us. If you’re in ministry you know that the summer is an interesting time. Riding the down hill momentum from Easter you’re prepping for the summer season within your ministry (also known as the great Exodus of volunteerism). You’re also trying to prep your next year’s school calendar and look at events you can use to leverage the back-to-school-season. In among all of this is the season of summer camp and VBS for church leaders and it’s a busy one.
So with our camp just a week away, I thought I’d pen up a few lessons I’ve learned from the crazy and fun season of summer camp. Per my usual disclaimer, this isn’t all the lessons I’ve learned but they do comprise some of the bigger lessons that I’ve learned in the trenches of water balloon tying, large group planning, and s’more clean-up.
- Delegate or Die.
It may sound extreme but, if you’re a leader you know, it’s completely true. The first year that I was director of Route 252 for our KidzWorld Summer Camp, I oversaw Large Group, Large Group Games, Team Field Games, and any Special Programs we hosted. I don’t remember much from that year but I do remember being tired. I was (and still am at times) terrible at delegation. When you have to prepare for a morning large group and then have the kids go directly to Team Field Games after words, at which you had to have 1000 water balloons, it made for late nights and early mornings. Literally I pulled 18 hours days and it almost killed me. Great leaders delegate or they die. In the following years we split that role up and I got more than 4 hours of sleep at night. It may be hard to hand off tasks to staff or volunteers but the more you train and let go the better off your programs can become. If you’re the lid to your own growth (and I most certainly was) all of the things you have your hand in will suffer because you have to have your hands in everything. Whether it’s staff or volunteers choose to delegate and if you can’t delegate it, it may not be worth it. Which leads me to the next one.
- Little details matter until they don’t.
I’m a firm believer in doing things well. I’m a firm believer in paying attention to the details. I think sometimes churches and ministries “mail it in” and usually it sounds something like this “God’s got it.”
While it’s absolutely true that life change is in the hands of the Holy Spirit any reader of Exodus and Leviticus knows that God had an eye for detail and was very emphatic on what and exactly how the Israelites would prepare and use the Tabernacle.
In the few years that I’ve directed our Large Group environments for camp I’ve come to realize that details matter. Especially when you’re 3 hours away from the church and at least 30 minutes away from any major store. It’s not a great time to get down there and realize you’re missing a cable, a prop, or even a sound effect (Good Wi-Fi is a luxury–not a guarantee!)
Now with all that said and as important as it is to work hard, make lists, and check them twice you can’t prepare for everything.
Effectively this is the other side of the coin. While details matter there is a thing as being too prepared. The first few camps that I went on I tried to think of everything. Literally.
The problem was I would spend, hours and hours working at getting everything and thinking of everything and then in context, things would change, needs would change, plans would change and I was stuck because I hadn’t planned for it.
Basically, the old school poster that hung up in your Principal’s office:
“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”
Is absolutely true.
But. So is:
“Flexing your Planning Muscles means Making Your Plans Flexible.”
So that one is a stretch– but it’s true–especially in kids ministry, because as often as you plan, things don’t always happen the way you’d hope. Which leads to the last one.
- Sometimes the Best Moments are the “Mistake” Moments.
I think God has a sense of humor. We’re made in his image and I think he loves to laugh and see his children laugh. I feel like there’s a lot of examples in scripture but one of the most powerful reasons I believe this is because Jesus compares earthly fathers to God as a Heavenly Father. I have two kids and I LOVE making them laugh and hearing them laugh.
With that said I’ve found more times then not as I work to make engaging and fun-filled environments where kids can learn about God, so many times the “Uh-oh” moments are more enjoyable and more engaging than the moments I planned. Perfect example of this happened at camp 4 years ago.
We were planning on doing a hilarious physical comedy sketch as part of our large group. I didn’t invent it so it’s fine for me to claim it as hilarious! It was done by a very funny comedy group called “Men In Coats”. Here’s a clip of it.
The Superman theme song plays someone sticks their torso out as the head, another person sticks their arms out with “pants and shoes” on them and does the feet. There’s this screeching brake sound effect that cuts off the Superman theme at the end and the head looks back and forth and then simultaneously both actors drop to the ground.
It’s pretty funny.
Honestly, if you don’t know what’s going on with the second actor, it can take you a minute to figure out how it’s happening.
Here’s what happened at our camp.
We did the bit.
I stepped out of the curtains and took a bow…and then the middle curtain just fell.
There behind the curtain is Philip Kubish, an incredibly funny guy with socks and shoes on his arms. He looked at me, looked at the audience, and then put his hands behind his back.
The audience…and the actors for that matter lost it.
What was a genuinely funny moment became side-splitting hilarious and it’s because things didn’t go according to plan.
Philip’s perfect reaction.
It’s important to remember sometimes things won’t go like you planned, you can bow your head against it or you can accept it, make the most of it, and honestly enjoy the moment.
What’s ironic is that we had already planned on re-using this bit later at an FX Event. We reworked the bit to include our mistake because it had gone over so well. Of course, even with practice, it never came off the same way that it did in the moment and spontaneously, but it was a great touch, to a great bit. While I unsuccessfully, looked for the original footage, I did find the “remake” which features the equally hilarious Darrel Stinson behind the curtain.
Those are 3 simple things I learned from camp, I’m excitedly looking forward to another year where I’m sure I’ll be learning countless more things and of course creating countless new memories!