Many of you give up precious holiday time during the summer to serve at bible camps, youth conventions, beach missions, house parties etc. I’m sure you all get excellent training for the role but, as someone who’s been leading at youth conventions for the last 15 years, here’s my 10 commandments for being a great volunteer leader at summer camp:
- Thou shalt teach the Bible – as cool as you are, what young people need more than anything is for you to point them to Jesus in the Bible. They need to hear what God says, not what you think. Make sure the Bible is front and centre of what you’re doing.
- Thou shalt pray – in preparation and during the week pray regularly and often for the young people. When you pray remember ‘you are coming to a king, great petitions bring’ – ask great things, expect great things, attempt great things.
- Thou shalt model godliness – young people listen to what you say, and they also watch what you do. Watch your language, your dress, and your interactions. They can all have a powerful impact on young people – for good or bad!
- Thou shalt prepare well – if you’re doing talks, seminars, studies, group work then be sure to prepare. Don’t wing it. Winging it suggests you don’t think it’s important enough to give your best effort, time and energy. Steward the responsibility faithfully. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
- Thou shalt relate well to team – there are energizers and sappers. Energizers encourage other people and bring out the best. They are warm, friendly, positive, and caring. Sappers bring everyone down. They are grumpy, moody, irritable, unhelpful, and negative. Be the former, not the latter.
- Thou shalt see a job and do it – don’t slack off. If you see a job that needs doing, do it. Jesus picked up a towel and washed some feet leaving an example to follow. Don’t think you’re above the master when it comes to doing menial tasks. One of the best ways to love people is to get stuck in to the stuff that no-one really enjoys.
- Thou shalt actually talk to the young people – resist the temptation to form holy huddles of youth leaders. Of course you love the team and enjoy hanging out with them, but make the most of every opportunity to draw alongside young people. You never know when the opportune moment to encourage them may arise.
- Thou shalt get enough food/water/sleep – looking after yourself is one of the best ways to ensure you give of your best to the team and the children/young people. Make sure you’re hydrated, fed, and well-rested. As much as you love team, don’t stay up til 3am talking as you’ll rob the young people of your best the following day.
- Thou shalt be on time – the fastest way to wind up your comrades is to be late everywhere. It suggests you don’t think your team or the youth/children are that important.
- Thou shalt not diss local church – a word to youth leaders in particular here: some of the yp will come from all sorts of mixed church backgrounds. A familiar tale is the one of the young person who goes to a small church which is made up almost entirely of old people. Resist the temptation to wade in on local church. Parachurch (camps etc) serve local churches. Remember that.
And perhaps an 11th – enjoy it. It’s a real privilege to be able to serve in this way. You get a front row seat to watch what God is doing at a key time in young lives. Love every minute!