The last week of the summer at Wesley Chapel was hopping, singing, playing, and laughing because of the efforts of a whole host of planning, praying, and commitment from the Camping & Retreat Ministry arm of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. All of this in the faces and from the hands and feet of two amazingly organized college-age site directors and six fabulously energetic high-school-age (rising junior and senior) counselors who have ‘applied and interviewed for and been accepted to Grow Day Camp’s sibling ministry, the Experiential Leadership Institute.’ All this to bring faith-based camp to our kids so they experience the week in living groups of 3-10 campers with 2 counselors focused on building Christian community. Bringing a week of summer camp to our house!
‘Counselors plan each day’s activities with the theme of the day and week in mind. Each summer’s theme is based on professionally developed camp ministry curriculum that is age-appropriate, based on scripture, and respectful of God’s creation.’ Activities at our site included chapel, archery (love the sense of danger), group games, bible stories, drama skits (Grow Factor talent show happens on the last day of the week with our kids drawing houses, counting to 20 in Chinese, playing a game, dribbling a basketball, a Civil War monologue, etc.), arts & crafts, and the most amazing day trip to Camp Glisson. Such a fabulous day trip that parents were quick to sign up kids for the fall 3rd-6th graders retreat in September just to get their feet on Camp Glisson soil again. Sweetness!
I will admit that I have been an obnoxious begger to get the program at WC ever since the program began just a couple of years ago. Perseverance paid off when another church had to back out and we were blessed to get the week before school started….everyone is back in town not to miss Meet & Greet…and the parents who reported to pre-planning had a great place for their kids to go. Needless to say the followup survey is completed and I will commence to begging for the same week next year.
The coordinating leadership from Camp Glisson provided banners, marketing materials and paperwork to be completed for the site (do we have fire extinguishers, closest hospital number, showers, etc.) FAR in advance. They were very clear on their expectations of us and what we could expect from them. We don’t have showers, so they bring a trailer with an outside shower that fit our water connections. If we don’t hit the minimum of campers, we have to pay for the difference.
The ELI leader-students slept over at the church, debriefed each day, and planned for the next as they were able to make their own meals in the church kitchen. Another kidmin champion provided dinner one night (her son was our representative for the Experiential Leadership Institute), we provided dinner one night, and I picked up Starbucks love one morning for every leader.
Camp Glisson did an amazing job of training the students. At the end of the week, they provided a slide show, gave it to me on a flashdrive, gave me a framed group photo, and a precious thank you note at the communion (led by our senior pastor) and celebration ceremony at the end of the week. Their training, energy, compassion, kindness, and faith exceeded my expectations. They cleaned up so well it looked as if they weren’t even here…made me kinda sad.
At the end of each day my kids were exhausted, sweaty, and challenged to go outside their comfort zone which resulted in confidence and powerful memories. A week of sacred moments developmentally appropriate with great joy and energy. This I know: the rising juniors and seniors who served on this their 3rd, 4th, or 5th week of their summer were gracious, kind, creative, helpful, and totally confident in their roles as leaders in ministry with children. Gosh, I wish this program was around when my kids were juniors and seniors in high school!
Both programs going on simultaneously, Grow Day Camp for littles and Experiential Leadership Institute for bigs. A true partnership. Can’t have one without the other. My campers want the ELI’s jobs when they grow up.
Henrietta Mears had a definite philosophy about camping ministry that could be summed up in one word: decision. “If Sunday School was the place where people were built up in the faith, then camp was where they made their decisions about following the Lord.”
This last week of the summer, our kids got to see what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, moves like, tastes like, feels like to be a young person who is sold out for Jesus and the local church in the faces of our site leaders and ELI students. Their home churches have done well. Man….I can’t wait until next year!