In our ministry, we have noticed that a number of our alumni summer staff are getting involved in cross-cultural missions, and continuing on to overseas discipleship programs. While this is incredibly exciting, it has made us stop and think about the similarities between our Youth Discipleship Program and other summer missions opportunities.
1. Leaving Home
The obvious connection is that both Camp Ministry and Short Term Missions occur away from home. Staff and volunteers serve and live, often for weeks or months at a time, in a completely different environment.
Working at camp is a great experience for youth who may be nervous about leaving their “safe” places; home, friends, church, etc. Hopping on an airplane and traveling around the world can be daunting, but to drive an hour or two is pretty manageable, even for the most nervous travelers. Many camps have options for equipping their staff and volunteers to keep in touch with their families, and provide opportunities for family to visit.
At Fair Havens Ministries, we provide meal and accommodations discounts for our summer staff, so that they can invite their family to stay for a few days. We find that this is a great experience for parents; to see their kids living and serving, and ultimately thriving in their element.
If you have ever been on a short or long-term missions trip, you probably experienced some training prior to the adventure. Depending on where you traveled, you could have received language and culture training, team building, orientation, and a review of the schedule and itinerary.
Likewise, many summer camps and ministries provide training opportunities prior to the summer term. At Fair Havens, we offer a variety of serving opportunities on our teams, whether food service, administration, children’s ministry, youth ministry, maintenance, housekeeping, etc. Our trained staff train youth and young adults to excel in their departments during their work terms.
We also provide comprehensive training on how to handle Emergency Situations, staffing conflicts, and any other situation that could arise during their summer experience. All of our summer staff are required to have updated first-aid and CPR training prior to the summer, as well as a recent criminal record check. They also receive a summer handbook, in which they can reference Frequently Asked Questions, and become familiar with whom they can address concerns.
While many missions trips contribute to one method of service (evangelism, construction, outreach, etc.), summer camp ministry requires a lot of work to keep the ministry afloat. In that capacity, every role is considered “service”.
Summer staff have the opportunity to choose where they would be most comfortable serving for the summer term, and the hiring team(s) assess individual giftings. Youth and Young Adults have the unique opportunity to serve others, while growing in their abilities, which can contribute to a diverse resume and testimony. This ultimately contributes to…
The opportunity of leaving home for a summer, while committing to serving others, creates great opportunity for personal and professional growth. Youth can find themselves learning in ways they may not otherwise experience in a classroom (known in the education world as “Experiential Learning”), and growing skills they did not possess before.
At Fair Havens Ministries, our hope is that all of our staff and volunteers have ample opportunity to grow in their relationships with God and others. To that effect, we provide spiritual programming for our summer staff – to pour into them as they pour into others. Through the Stepping Stones Youth Discipleship Program, summer staff sign up for topical Bible studies, have daily devotion times, and have access to personal Prayer Counseling Ministry. We also provide staff chapels, and worship events, in conjunction with our Family Camp ministry schedule.
5. Community (serving in a team)
One of the lingering effects of a missions trip becomes the friendships formed among the team. Team members share a special bond that accompanies living, serving, adventuring, and traveling together.
Likewise, we recognize that camp ministry has the potential to forge these long-lasting friendships. Year after year, we continue to hear that Fair Havens has become “home” to our youth, and that the friends made here have become family.
Keeping that in mind, we strategically hire staff devoted to creating an environment that builds into these relationships. Our Community Life Team plans events, arranges youth in cabins, appoints and trains cabin leaders, all devoted to cultivating a healthy and fun community and culture.
Throughout the year, we pray for our summer staff, plan reunions and coffee dates, and ensure that all individuals feel like valued members of the family.
Our slogan at Fair Havens Ministries is “life changing experiences”. There are moments in each of our lives; special, life-changing moments, that shape who we become as people.
Our desire is that each of our guests, volunteers, and staff members have the joy of experiencing these life-changing moments. Photos fade, but the memories linger; whether you feel the sweat on your brow while digging a well in the desert, or the overwhelming joy of leading a child to know Jesus in your own backyard.
Where will you be this summer?