well, now that student life camp is over and i have had some time to think about the week and all that it did and did not have to offer i'll share my thoughts.
since it was my first experience with student life i had an unadulterated perspective. my thought is that i will compare it waith a camp i am very familiar with and the pros and cons, etc. that camp is the United Methodist Summer Camp in Leesburg, FL. We attended Student Life at Covenant College on Lookout Mtn, Ga. After the first day and really after the week, i would consider this type of camp much more of a conference than a camp. I felt that it lacked a true "camp" experience, like what takes place in Leesburg. However, as a good conference it's worship times were excellently put together, especially to include it's audience, 700 teenagers. While there were some technological failures (of which the learning comes from expereince)such as batteries dying on mics while they are in use, missing video cues from the speaker, and forgetting to advance slides early enough during the msuic; the services were complete. They contained video, annoucnements, transitional video between different worship acts, live drama, the speaker Tony Nolan, worship leaders Spur 58, lighting, props, the times were fluid, they included games, and each service in some way get the crowd involved in the worship expereince. While the quality of speakers and musicians is just as good in Leesburg, they are not the big names, but they are just as good. Howver, the camp in Leesburg could learn from what ttok place in this area. Not that what they do is bad, but in some ways it could be more complete.
SL (used from now on) also handed out a magazine (or handbook) to each camper. This handbook contained the curriculum notes for the week for worship, family groups, and quiet times. It also contained othe rinteresting facts about teenage life, interviews with bands and speakers, and ads for teen bibles and other SL events. There is deffinitely some self-promo stuff going on there. However the handbook was a really neat tool for the campers to have and it gives them a way to bring what they recieved back home with them once they left camp. Another good thing.
The cmap also was in great support of the youth pastors that were there with their groups. The youth pastors were not given any responsibility other than to be present and hang out with their students. It truly gave me an oportunity to get to know some of our students on a depper level and develop some relationships i hadn't had a chane to with others. We had a meeting each day with the other youth pastors to share and pray together including one afternoon in which we prayed over the worship space, prior to the students coming in.
Alongside of those things there were a few things i didn't like or wished would have been different. The first and the biggest things was the lack of interaction between campers and the SL Camp Staff. The only times the staff interacted was during worship and at recreation. Now of course with worship they are on stage and at the sound booth. it was more of you saw them there. at rec they were running the show and the family group leaders (adults from the churches) were the ones actually involved with the students. The Staff did not lead family groups either. At meals you saw them, but rarely saw them with people other than different Staff members. To me this was disappointing and it is an area i feel that the camp in Leesburg does an excellent job at. The counselors in Leesburg are given the primary responsibility of spending time with campers. If they are not, unless they have other responisbilities, they have not fulfilled their duties. It is what makes the camp so sucessfull. The relationships that the students build with the counselors is primary to the communicating the gospel message to the campers that come. But, what do my students know about the SL staff? I asked some of them. their relationships were limited to names an what color team they were on that week.
While registration went very smoothly the day we arrived at SL with a group of 54, there were a few things we needed to return for the next day. One of these were key cards to get into the buildings after 11pm. We were supposed to pick these up fromt he college staff (not camp staff) and they were not aware they we were supposed to recieve one, much less two. After returning to the SL office, the two young ladies that I spoke with, while polite, were not sure what to do about it.
I was also disappointed with SL not having any medical assistance on staff. Now, i have been in youth minstry for 11 years, and with any other trip i would be prepared to take care of medical issues. But when each student is paying top dollar to attend a camp, you would expect for the camp to have some sort of medical assistance. However, there isn't. When one of girls got hurt and we needed to go to the hospital, there was no one available to help. The college had a nurse on staff, but she was not allowed to work with SL and SL was not allowed to provide any transportation. With the help of another youth pastor there, we did get her to the hospital. Now, what if this happened during Rec or during another time that i wasn't available. Who would be responsible to help? Now, yes, i did know about this issue ahead of time and in fact commented to our summer intern that it concerned me.
So, there are some immediate thoughts about the camp after my first expereince. All in all it was a good week. I did disagree with some of Tony's approaches in worship, but not with what he was sharing. There were certainly some good things that happened in the life of our students; lives change, relationships started, prayer for each other, new walks with Christ. God will always be working in us not matter what is going on.