Christian Camps Challenge and Change College Students

New students can quickly recognize common fashion choices among the students of Cedarville University. Some of these items are oversized sweaters and TOMS shoes. Another popular item seems to be a kelly-green sweatshirt featuring a series of three arrows stacked to look like an evergreen tree, the logo of Lake Ann Camp in Lake Ann, Mich.

“I keep seeing people wearing this sweatshirt for Lake Ann,” said freshman student Kendall Facer. “I want to know what it is.”

Working at a camp can provide a full-time job for just a few months over the summer because students are limited to a college schedule. For example, at Skyview Ranch in Millersburg, Ohio, the majority of the summer staff is made up of college and high school students, according to apprentice Caleb Wright.

But working at a camp is not just limited to a summer job. Full-time positions and extended internships are also available at camps, such as Skyview.

At Skyview, Caleb and Kendra Wright are currently serving in apprenticeships after graduating from a Christian college with non-missions related degrees.

“It’s the most challenging thing you will ever do and the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do,” Caleb said.

He said there are physical and spiritual challenges workers experience on the job, which require significant training and teamwork with the rest of the staff.

Counselor training at Skyview consists of long hours of work at the ranch while working on community building and spiritual accountability, where they get to know the standard they are held to.

When this is complete, the campers come and the work continues.

While college recruiting is prolific for them, Kendra said camp is not for everyone and they will figure that out quickly.

Flexibility and adaptability are major aspects of this ministry, she said, a ministry that also does not typically provide a lot of money.

Kendra said they see some of the best results in students who are looking for something different.

Aaron Cook, director of discipleship ministries at Cedarville and former director of guest ministries at Scioto Hills Camp in Wheelersburg, Ohio, likened camp counseling experience to a “spiritual greenhouse.”

Senior Jordan Treece who worked at Skyview for the past four summers said, “It’s a really great place to grow yourself spiritually. You are 24/7 on the clock with God like full-time missions, and everything you do is going toward leading kids to a closer walk with God.”

Cook said camp training is intense spiritually. “(It’s) a time to work out some of the things they are learning and apply them right away in a relatively safe, guarded environment,” he said.

Kendra said this safer camp environment provides an opportunity for people in a transitional stage of life to learn and be challenged. The rest of the staff is there to hold each other accountable for mistakes but also to help fix them.

This community and the challenges it poses create unique personal growth, according to Caleb.

And Treece said, “I credit my time there as what helped me become the person I am more than anything else.”

Also speaking of the camp environment, Cook said a favorite growth experience from working at Scioto Hills was when he saw growth in a few staff members just by walking through life and daily conversations in that environment.

Cook led a Cedarville Missions Involvement Service (MIS) spring break trip to Mexico in 2007 while on staff at Scioto Hills.

At the camp they partnered with in Mexico, he met one of its staff members, Leandro. Leandro then came to Scioto Hills to work in the summer of 2008, a year and a half later, and Cook said he was still struggling with faith in God and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

For several years, Cook and Leandro served together and had conversations daily to answer Leandro’s questions and help him work through these issues.

“There was an amazing life change that happened through long, difficult conversations, “ Cook said.

Serving on staff, Cook noted the joy of “seeing others shine while you fade into the background.”

Because of this joyful experience, he said he encourages students to take camp ministry seriously in how students minister and where. He talked about another challenge of how easy it is to manipulate a situation when working with kids and teens to get a reaction. It is important to use God’s message and his method when encouraging others to follow Christ in this ministry, Cook said.

For students looking to work at camp this summer, he said it would be in their best interest to interview the camps they are interested in while they are interviewing for the job. Cook said it is important to find out the goals of the camp and how they work to equip leaders and campers because the camp has to be the right fit for the student.

“I’ve noticed that Cedarville definitely puts a lot of focus on camp involvement,” Facer said, “but I think that it’s great to have those opportunities made so available for students who may not have the time to seek them out on their own.”

Cedarville’s Career Services will host a camp fair on Feb. 3, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Representatives from 24 different camps as far west as Colorado and as far east as New York will be recruiting in the lobby of the Stevens Student Center.

Amy Radwanski is a sophomore journalism and broadcasting & digital media major and reporter for Cedars. She is pursuing a career in broadcast performance with her studies.

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