I recently sat down with a friend, returning to camp, and she asked me what advice would you give to new and returning counselors? After I answered her, I started giving it more thought. What advice would I give?
I have worked at Covenant Harbor Bible Camp for four summers, so camp ministry is not a new thing to me. I have had great times and some pretty difficult ones. Much of the time though, those difficult times were my fault brought on by my own foolishness. So this is an open letter to anyone going to camp this summer. Most reading probably already know all of the counsel afforded in this letter, because many of the people who read this blog are veteran counselors. Allow me a caveat: though this is aimed at new and returning counselors this is still very applicable to anyone serving in any capacity. I hope you will continue to read.
My guidance works into three main categories: the heart, interacting with co-laborers, and the campers. We will address the latter two in the next post.
Make no mistake, you have a difficult summer ahead of you. Counseling, leading the counselors, or serving in another area of camp ministry is not easy. There are many benefits but this could be the most trying summer you will walk through thus far. And that is why I start with your heart. Before you even start serving or think about living on camp property there are things that you need to get straight within yourself.
You need to know that you live under grace.
As I talk with Christians, the tendency is to think that this understanding of living under grace was needed at one point and but after we affirm it we can move on to more complicated doctrines or theological issues. This mindset could not be more anti-Christian. We, at no point, move on from the understanding of grace to anything else. Grace is the foundation and the thing that permeates all others. If you do any theology, or any study of God, or any service, devoid of the understanding of the continual outpouring of God’s grace then you have completely missed the point. This may seem elementary and at this point you may start glossing over to the next bold portion, but this is imperative.
We never move past learning more about grace rooted in the Gospel. The Gospel is that since the beginning of time God has been acting to bring glory to Himself. When He ordained the fall be and sin was introduced due to the willful rebellion of Adam and Eve (make no mistake God did not bring sin into the world), it fractured everything. From the way the universe works, creation relates to itself, to us humans sin damaged every facet of everything. And since the beginning of time God has been on a rescue mission, for His own glory, to save us sinners through the undeserved crushing of the God-man Jesus Christ. He rose defeating Satan, sin, death, and hell, and sits to actively pray for His people (that means you specifically) to the Father. He will come back to judge the rebellious and usher in the new world. At the heart of the Gospel message is the undeserved forgiveness and reconciliation offered by Jesus towards the rebellious sinners. That is us. But often we miss this, that when God saves us, when He changes our desires so that we treasure Him above all else, we are saints.
So when you wake up every morning remember the radical grace afforded to you. Remember the cost. Remember your active rebellion. Remember what His grace HAS turned you into: a saint. Remember.
A professor in college used to always say when you wake up in the morning remember that you are a sinner but when your feet hit the floor rejoice, for you are a saint.
You are a saint. God’s grace has made you into a saint. God creating us into saints is just one outworking of God’s glorious grace. Never lose sight on His grace. His grace is an unending well from which He allows us to keep drawing and drawing water to feed our dehydrated souls.
Jesus does not need you
This may seem like a curiously unhelpful discouraging tenant of the heart category. But I tell you, this is liberating.
Often when Christians talk of serving we speak of “building the kingdom” or serving to save souls or “advance the kingdom.” This is bad theology. Mainly because we never build the kingdom. Advancing, saving, building is all Christ’s job. When scripture speaks of the kingdom it says that we “inherit” or “receive” the kingdom. We have overstated our role in this thing.
So plainly I say: Jesus does not need you. Jesus was not sitting in his throne room and said I need camper Johnny-Face saved and my kingdom advanced so I will send ______ to get the job done. That is not how this thing works. The Trinity does not need any help reconciling all things to themselves. They could do everything in a second. Before you blink next, they could have the whole universe reconciled entirely absent of our measly input. If anything we get in the way.
Rather, I submit to you that the serving we do is actually Jesus inviting us to participate. You are at camp not as much to lead someone to Christ and have them saved but because Jesus has invited you to participate with Him. Jesus says: Hey, I am going to do something at camp this summer, you want to come play? What if your serving at camp, your sacrifice of time, sacrifice of good food, is more about you treasuring God more and seeing Him as more glorious than when you set foot on camp property? What if you not getting a good night sleep all summer and seeing kids come to “accept Christ” (whatever that means) is more about you seeing Jesus work? What if you are actually getting paid to help kids see God as continually beautiful while you stare at Him screaming how can you look at this and think anything else is more glorious?!
How is this liberating? It is liberating because it means that it never depended on you. It was never based on your work but rather in Christ’s work in the heart and souls of people. If you read this and think that you can do poor work or none at all then you have missed the liberating point and traded it in for laziness. Christ builds the kingdom, you don’t. Jesus does not need you but invites co-laborers to come play.
Actively stir your affections
The last bit of advice I give under the heart category is to actively stir your affections for Christ. Be intentional about taking those times to get away, where there is silence to talk with God. That is what counselor devos are for. They are to help you stir your affections, to see Jesus as more glorious.
Actively do those things, even if it means you stay up an extra half hour each night. The fuel for stirring our affections are always prayer, reading and meditating on Scripture, and sitting to hear Him speak but there are those things that we do that when we do it makes us love Jesus more. These things are different for each person. For me stirring my affections at camp consisted of encouraging and praying with another counselor, throwing my kids off the geek at waterfront, laughing, playing signs during Prime-time, preaching on Monday nights, going through A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, thinking about my eventual death, taking a nap, and dominating the hot-shot 8th graders in Braveheart. They are those things that when I did them honestly made me love Jesus more. They stirred my affections, my desires, my longings, for Him.
I make this point on starting with your heart first because it is so monumental that you head into this with your head on right. When you wake up every morning rejoice, for you are a saint. Know that this whole thing does not depend on your work. Lastly, seek to actively stir your affections. Don’t waste the summer, stir your longing for Him.
Go ahead, comment back!: What is advice you would give to someone leaving for camp? How is it you stir your affections for Christ?