I love hanging out at camp and want these students to feel like this is a special place where they are free from expectations, peer pressure, or distractions (Xbox or cell phones). But while I want them to feel free to do a lot of fun and amazing things, I think a couple of times the volunteers and myself need to stand up and say no. Here are three that happened at middle school camp that I have shared with my volunteers:
Don’t Cut Girls Hair
Since we keep different cabins for the boys and girls, after 9PM I have little control over what happens in their cabin. So I received a surprise when the girls came up and each had a new haircut. At the time I chalked it up to crazy girl time that I did not understand, but when the parents saw it after we got home, I received an ear full. Apparently one of the girl’s felt pressured to do it and hated the results. At that point, it did not matter that she rededicated her life or really made some amazing connections.
Make Sure They Eat
It was not reported to us that one girl was anorexic, but at the beginning of camp she was not eating much of her meals. After sitting down with her and having he promise to eat, it did not become a problem the rest of the year. It really was not a big deal until her parents talked with us after camp. Apparently, our encouragement and non-judgmental attitudes completely removed her doubt of self-worth. Those few days back, she ate more at family meals without putting up a fight than she had in years.
Support The Parents
A lot of junk comes out at camp, in cabin time and one-on-one’s. Some of the time, those conversations lead to how much they do not feel loved by their parents or that they wish thy were around more. This is not the time to give false hope, but we want to support an uphold the family. Reminding them of good memories, love even in busyness, and sharing in what could be after camp is a perfect way to honor the parents.
Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.