This blog post is the second installment of a series on church camp. You can find the first post about Kids Camp by clicking this link here.
And again, I have to just get it out and call it Junior High Camp. No, not middle school camp. Junior High Camp. With the proper letters capitalized and all. I’m just weird, I know. I know!
For this camp, we had an even smaller attendance from our church. My daughter Becca (13), another girl from our church, and myself. I was very excited to spend time with these 2 girls as one is my daughter and I love the other one dearly. This camp we had about 80 kids in attendance, again a big drop from the old days. But more on that in another post… Teen Camp A (JUNIOR HIGH CAMP, heh…) was for those in 6th-9th grades.
(Okay, I’m just going to refer to it as Junior High Camp for the remainder of this post. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I don’t mind the other name at all. But it just
rolls off the tongue, er, flows on to the keyboard/reads easier. So follow: Junior High Camp (the old skool name) = Teen Camp A (the new official name). Both mean church camp for tweens and teens. Now moving right along… and pretending I didn’t just get all neurotic so early in a blog post…)
Camp ran from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning, with chapel in the morning and evening.
Morning chapel began in the with a “warm up” song… They were the same songs to get the wiggles out at Kids Camp, but it was still fun. Not that there wasn’t enough exercise walking up and down the mountain from dorm to chapel and back… But we could all use a little more, right? 😉 Especially with all the delicious food! It was also a great way to transition from being loud all morning to being on task in service.
Chapel still had games, but the focus changed from kids competing somewhat randomly to dorms competing against each other in “Dorm Wars”, which also carried over in to the rest of the day/night activities. Musical pies, who could drink the grossest concoction, guess the movie title by the emojis, stuff like that. We would then have worship, which was some of the same songs from Kids Camp minus the motions, (though some of us just couldn’t help ourselves and let motions pop out now and then) and a few more songs added in. Next would be the big reveal of who won/lost dorm inspections… which involved losers cleaning bathrooms and winners being the first in line for lunch. We would then be dismissed to go back to our dorms to have devotions and discuss our reflections from the sermon the night before.
Evening chapel began and flowed similarly. Worship lasted a little longer than morning service. With each service, the kids became more involved and hungrier for the presence of God. Towards the end of the worship portion, one of our SoCal Youth Directors, Roque or Nancy (who was still pregnant and still putting us all to shame), would give a statement to encourage the kids to draw closer or dig deeper. A few different nights, instead of one of the District Youth Directors, a Youth Pastor in attendance as a counselor would make the statement instead. Every time it was right on point and definitely God inspired, resonating with the kids.
It was refreshing to not only have Directors and a speaker that were obedient to give the message given to them by the Holy Spirit in the tone that it should be delivered, but also obedient as to WHO should give the message… and then that these Youth Pastors were obedient to deliver the message they received in the way it was intended. Whether that be excitable, serious, emotional… because how it is delivered makes a huge impact on how it is received. Then the person hearing the message is much more likely to be obedient as well. It is a chain that just keeps going down, I know. But when you have seen ministries that are not always obedient, it was exactly as I said, refreshing.
For Junior High Camp, Mark McGaffin’s series was titled “Flip The Switch”. He actually built a giant make-shift switch and presented it in a way to really grab the kids attention on the very first night, having the sound/lights people do techy things to make it seem as if it was really plugged in and could function part of the time. (He’s still working on this invention after all.) I thought it was cute when the first night one kid I didn’t know turned around and said to me, “I can’t tell if it’s real or not.” Hey, maybe it is!
Bro. Mark’s sermons were mostly based on stories of Peter with titles such as “Flip The Switch: From Doubt to Faith”, “From Guilt To Grace”, “From Fear To Courage”, and I know there was one more but here is where my old age comes in… I can’t remember what it was right now. While the messages were geared towards tweens and young teens, they still challenged some of us adults and inspired us.
The altar calls at Junior High Camp were REALLY good. Kids came down and gave their lives to Jesus. Tweens and teens were filled with the Holy Spirit. People were revived and renewed. There were different calls for prayer each night, for those with certain problems to come down and receive prayer. Calls were also made for if those that just needed prayer for something else. These altar calls usually began with Mark after his message and would also include another call after a few minutes from our leader, Roque, or another youth pastor in attendance that had made a statement at the end of worship. These kids were getting closer to Jesus and experiencing Father God and the Holy Spirit in ways they hadn’t before. Some of them, one being my daughter, matured a lot spiritually for having only been at camp 4 days.
Similar to kids camp in that there was good food, friends made, lizards caught/released (Though less than kids camp… what is it with kids and lizards? Not just boys, girls too!), and dirt sticking to everyone, tweens and teens church camp was a lot of fun.
Lunch took a little longer since for Junior High Camp lunch was not provided by the dining hall (breakfast and dinner were still provided) and was bought by each camper from the Snack Shack… the camps well known grill and snack bar… where they could choose what they want and wait for it to be prepared. This is like a rite of passage for some of these kids. Same at Kids Camp, but there they are mostly buying candy, sno cones, and sometimes a small meal after evening service. For some it is the first time that they are on their own somewhere, without their parents, with money that they can choose how to spend. Money that they can order what they want to eat with no judgements from grown ups. They loved it! So while lunch didn’t take forever, it did dig in to a bit more of the afternoon time, which was fine because there was a LOT of time.
Afternoons consisted of optional activities from softball, basketball, volleyball… (some other kind of ball I’m sure… Do I look athletic? 😉 There was sports. How’s that? Ha!) to making tie dye shirts, paint classes, and other options. Some of the activities required a small fee, but it was never more than a few dollars and always worth it.
I quickly regretted not making a tie dye shirt… So when another day they offered the paint class, I was glad that Becca, the other girl from our church, and a friend that they made while there all wanted to do it so I wouldn’t look ridiculous painting by myself a picture that looks like it was painted by a 3 or 4 year old instead of a 34 year old. I learned a lot about my daughter and the other girls I was sitting with just by painting a picture together. Funny how that works, huh? How we say stuff without actually saying it when we’re being creative? Another blog post for another day…
Afternoons also meant… DORM WARS! Now, dorm wars outside of chapel isn’t “Oh, let’s stand around and play a game where we guess/yell stuff or get messy and gross”. No. Dorm wars means actual war… Like, not guns and death, but war on old people’s bodies as the kids run so fast ahead of you that you begin singing that old song, “See the bright light shine! It’s just about home time! I can see my Father standin’ at the doooooor”! Basically, it is a group scavenger style race. Each dorm carries their flag and begins with a card stating what station to go to. You RUN to that station, do the required activity (usually something physical, but sometimes eating something gross or a puzzle kind of thing), get a card saying where to go next, repeat. For like 3 years… or maybe it was around 30 minutes. I’ve blocked some of the trauma out. What I have not blocked out is where every hidden bathroom is located because I was drinking a TON of water and running made it… well, you get it.
Now, this is where I have to give a shout out to another counselor in our dorm, Mallorie, because she showed up and showed out. See, each dorm is required to have at least 1 counselor participate… She did it almost every time and rocked it. She also drank the gross stuff in chapel and showed us all how to take a pie to the face without really taking it. Now, me having left my brain at the Carl’s Jr we stopped at to use the bathroom on the way to camp, forgot until I rolled my ankles that I’m not supposed to be doing things like running. Did that stop me? No. I kept trying. Until I finally realized I had lost my mind, I am not young anymore (sad face), and parked myself on a bench.
Did I say afternoons meant dorm wars? Oh, that’s not right. Afternoons and nights after chapel also meant dorm wars. Even more fun in the dark and better because less people see you fall or spit dripping out of your mouth as you run! In all seriousness, it was fun. I wish I was in better shape. The kids loved it. Even though our dorm (GO PIIIIIIINK!!!!) lost, probably my fault, it was still worth it… now that I can’t remember the pain.
With adolescence comes… crushes. I was shocked to see how my daughter acts when she likes a boy, which wasn’t bad, just something new and I’m not sure I’m ready for her to be a teenager yet. Can we go back to Kids Camp? No? Anyways, the kids at this church camp did differ in one major way from the way it was at my Junior High Camp. Less boy craziness. Don’t get me wrong, it was there and more so in some girls than others, but most of these girls all seemed to have more confidence in themselves and less need for the attention of a boy.