If I've learned anything over my years in the ministry, and especially when it comes to camp ministry, very few things are more important than having the right people on the bus. What I mean by that is we can have the greatest facilities around, or the best program and activities, but if we don’t have the right staff, everything we do will be a hollow shell of what could be. As I type that last sentence, Paul’s words to the church in Corinth come to mind, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). For camps, if we have awesome high ropes, but don’t have staff who know how to encourage, we’re just a sports center. If we have cool worship, but not staff overflowing with the Spirit of God, we’re a concert. Hopefully you get the point.
The priorities of Camp Rockfish are Faith, Friendship, and Fun. The reverse of those three words is our strategy: Fun, Friendship and Faith. Though everything is ultimately about coming to know and grow closer to God, the potential of that happening revolves around friendship. Specifically, “Friendship" as connection with Christ-centered staff who overflow with the love of God so that the gospel of Jesus Christ is both taught AND caught. We have to have the right people on the bus in order to live into the call and mission God has laid on our hearts.
I’m working on this blog as I drive through the snow-covered hills outside of Nashville, TN. Why am I in Nashville? Because over the years I’ve met unbelievably, sold-out-to-Jesus students from some dynamic Christian universities in the great state of Tennessee. I believe so strongly that for Camp Rockfish to be the camp God has called us to be, I’m willing to go to the ends of the earth to find the right summer staff (or at least over the Smoky Mountains if that’s what it takes).
What does it take to be summer staff? What are we looking for? Whenever I’m recruiting, and an interested student poses that question, my go-to reply is, “We are looking for two things: Do you love God, and do you love people?” If they have those two, we’ll teach them the rest. We can teach almost anyone to facilitate archery or art. We can train most people on our high ropes adventures. We can even turn a shy person into an outgoing drama guru given enough time. But you can’t teach the love of God, and you certainly can’t teach a love for people. One of my favorite quotes (and I’m sure the Rockfish staff is tired of hearing me say it) is, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” If our goal is to introduce people to Jesus, AND help them move further down the road in their faith journey, we need staff who are already on that journey themselves, AND excited about bringing others along. Of course, maturity, a strong work ethic, and a little bit of patience is always a plus when it comes to summer camp work. But the bottom line is give us some folks who are sold out to Jesus and God will work wonders.
If you’ve ever hired anyone for any position, you probably already know the truth of the wisdom of the great philosopher, Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Despite our best efforts at interviewing, clearly stating a Christ-centered focus, and relentlessly checking references, summer staff—like people in general—are like a box of chocolates.
For example, last year, a very reserved young lady came to work for us. Before any campers arrive, Rockfish summer staff go through 10-14 days of training. During the entire training, the young lady remained quiet and reserved. Her voice was soft, and she always seemed to be sitting in the back of the room. Because we weren’t sure what we had with her, we decided to assign her as an assistant counselor the first week of resident camp. Once camp started, “We were we blown away” is an understatement. She turned out to be a ROCK STAR for Jesus! Part of our tradition at Rockfish is to challenge each cabin group to quote a scripture before going into the dining hall. Typically, we start off with the easy, go-to verses like “Jesus wept,” or John 3:16. Sure enough, that first night, we heard the stand-by verses unenthusiastically quoted from different groups. Then Ms. Quiet and Reserved stepped up with four of the girls from her cabin and proceeded to recite a verse in song that not only was long and intricate, but supported the theme for the week. In an instance the bar was raised for the rest of the summer. If you were serving as a resident camp staff, you’d better up your game when it came to scripture recitation from your group. Summer staff are like a box of chocolate.
So, as we travel around the southeast over the coming months, pray for our recruiting teams. If you know of a school to which we need to go, let us know, we’ll go. If you know of someone 18 years old and older who has tapped into the well of living water (John 4:14) and oozing the fruits of The Spirit (Gal 5:22), point them in our direction. Denominational background doesn’t mean a thing to us. As far as we’re concerned, there is no one way to worship of follow Jesus. All of us who are Jesus-followers are just beggars telling other beggars where we’ve found food. Or significantly paraphrasing John Wesley: If you love Jesus and want to change the world, let’s get ‘er done.
The first sentence on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” The Camp Rockfish summer staff recruiting mantra is, “Send us your tireless, your poor in spirit, those who huddle daily in the arms of Jesus because they yearn to be free. With them as summer staff, we can bring the Kingdom of God to every shore.”