Dear Camp Counselor…

This Sunday, I’ll drop my oldest off at camp for the very first time.  He’s very excited.  He’s already told us that he can’t wait to “have a vacation all on his own.”

I’m not scared, or sad.  We believe in the power of Christian camp to transform lives, and to present the Gospel in powerful ways to kids.  In fact, I’ve been on your side of this exchange many times.  I was a camp counselor throughout college and even in the years after at various camps.

However, It’s new for me to be on the other side of this transaction.

I want you to know how thankful I am for you.  Being a camp counselor isn’t easy, and it doesn’t pay well.  I know how much you gave up to spend the summer at camp.  I imagine that spending time at the swimming pool, without having to care for kids, or that spending time with your friends seems like a pretty good deal right now.  I also know that you could have chosen any one of dozens of summer jobs which would pay much better.  So I’m so grateful that you decided that being an influence on young lives, and showing the love of Christ to children is more important than your own comfort or financial success.

I want you to know that I pray for you.  The first reason is the obvious; you have a difficult job, and I honestly believe you are doing the work of God.

The second is less obvious.  You see, this boy I’m dropping off and entrusting to your care on Sunday is precious to me.  I care deeply about him, both his physical self but also his emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  I wonder if you know the power and influence over young lives and minds that you have?

I remember when I was young, maybe 12 or 13, my dad told me that one of his biggest fears was that one night at camp after a long day when everyone was tired and emotionally vulnerable, a camp counselor would open his Bible and with the best of intentions, “really mess you up” with a poorly thought-out interpretation of scripture.  At the time, this statement was confusing; today, as a parent, his thought is terrifyingly clear to me.  I have seen camp counselors, young, earnest, and yet terrifyingly naïve, misuse scripture with the best of intentions.  Their young charges, unable to think critically enough to parse what they were told, lapped it up eagerly.

Additionally, something that was told to me as a young camp counselor remains burned in my brain.  My camp director told us that the average Sunday School teacher gets one hour per week, for a total of around 52 hours per year with most church-going children.  On the other hand, as a camp counselor you spend 24 hours per day, for a full week with each camper.  At this point, my camp director invited us to consider who had more influence.  And you know, he’s right.  I remember very little about my childhood Sunday school teachers.  I remember my camp counselors in vivid detail.  I remember their friendship, and how cool they seemed.  I remember how much I wanted to be like them.  I remember the lessons they taught.

So when I say I pray for you, I pray that you will not underestimate your influence.  I pray that you will be guided by older Christians and by the clear Word of God.  I pray that you will realize and remember that your influence and your responsibility is not in proportion to your weekly pay, and that you will take your duties and your influence seriously.  I pray that you will reflect the love that Christ first showed us to my child.

And I thank you in advance for loving my child so much, even though you did not know him, that you decided to give up your summer and what you may have earned working higher-paying jobs to spend your summer chasing crowds of children in the heat and the bugs.

Blessings, peace, prayers…and have a great summer.