What I learned as a Camp Director this summer

by | Sep 19, 2021 | Leadership, Personal Growth, Reflections

what I learned as a camp director this summer  

First off – I am not a camp guy – I love camping and traditionally we go as a family every year – but I hadn’t been to an organized camp for around 17 years. In fact, we hadn’t even sent our kids to camp before.

In late May, a board member asked if I’d consider being their Camp Director for the summer. I immediately wondered how to turn down the opportunity. Why? Because camp was not on my radar…at all. But before turning it down, I was a little intrigued and also curious to see what my wife would say. It turned out, she was intrigued too. Fast forward – our intrigue continued until June 1st when I was officially the Camp Director with 28 days to get ready for staff (that we didn’t yet have) to join us in preparation for overnight camps. This included not just finding staff but answering my own question, “What does a Camp Director actually do?”

What did I get myself into?

This was a legitimate question I asked myself regularly. Why did I take on such a big task, with so little time, doing something that I knew nothing about?

And I asked this question with panic and anxiety. I’d pace and panic some more with greater anxiety upon focusing on the reality of how green and inexperienced I was at all things Camp.

So what did I do (learn to do)? Here are just two simple things:

1. I became a student and sought people out who had more experience and expertise.

It’s amazing how willing and eager people are to help and support you when asked. It was easy for me to ask for help because I was so green I wouldn’t even know how to fake it.

I called a couple Directors from other camps for support, resources, wisdom and context. These were some amazing people who were obviously not just great Directors but great leaders. They provided resources and helped me frame what it meant to be a Camp Director.

In addition, I relied heavily on the Camp’s Board Members for practical advice, wisdom and encouragement. I am grateful for their time and the passion they carry for the vision of camp both past, present and future.

The reality is, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And the limited time we had made it much easier for me to be quick to learn from others.

2. I relaxed and accepted help.

This may sound the same…but it’s not. When it came to actually get things done, I learned to accept the help whenever and however it came. If things were going to get done, people had to be empowered to do it without my two cents at every junction.

I typically like things done a certain way, but I learned that not only was it good for people to be empowered, but it was good for me to empower them. Why? Because I didn’t have the energy, time or resources to try and minutely influence every matter. And I certainly didn’t need to because it would have been detrimental to the entire camp.

What did I learn?

1. When you step into a challenging situation, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.

Because of how close we were to summer before being asked to direct camps, I am not sure if camp would have happened if we hadn’t said ‘yes’. But as a result, our ‘yes’ gave many others the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to serving at camp as well.

This collective ‘yes’ made camp possible for youth & families this summer.  I realize that my family’s presence, the Program Director’s presence, the Cook’s presence and the presence of all our staff at camp made camp possible. Their ‘yes’ paved a path for relationships to be created and numerous stories to be written this summer.

I’ve wondered how many times I’ve talked myself out of opportunities because the opportunity had challenges I didn’t want to face or didn’t think I was ready for. In those moments I was not able to see the vision beyond the reasonable and even logical excuses I gave for saying ‘no’.

I know this lesson to say ‘yes’ will be a challenge still in my future. Yet, I pray that I will remember this summer and that when we say ‘yes’, we’re not just saying ‘yes’ (or even ‘no’) for ourselves. Rather as we walk through a door, we simultaneously open doors for others.

2. God provides where He guides

I knew this was where my family and I were supposed to be this summer. Even though I legitimately didn’t know how I would make it through the summer and there were moments that I wanted to get out, I knew this is where we were to be. I don’t say this lightly either because there aren’t many seasons of life where I’ve had this level of conviction.

In this season – God provided. There were times when, in the moment, I wish He would have provided something different. Like having more staff during our teen week. But that would have meant a good friend of mine wouldn’t have been part of the team because he said ‘yes’ only if he was a last resort. And had my friend not been there, the impact of his story about the absence of his dad vs. the presence of his Heavenly Father would not have been shared at campfire.

I sat there, listening to the effects of my friends vulnerability that night as it rippled through the stories of our youth and it made me realize my struggle to be a Camp Director was all worth it if just for that moment.

3. Your Leadership isn’t about you, your Leadership is FOR them

If I’m honest, I have a distorted view of the purpose for leadership. Not for lack of understanding or because I couldn’t articulate it into words. Rather my approach and experience hasn’t always aligned with what it ought to be. There are moments and seasons where God reminds us of what we already know to be true and teaches us to live it out.

As a culture, we’re attracted to all things leadership – books, positions, titles, conferences – I think because in some way we look to our leadership because of what it does for us. It makes us feel important, sets us apart, validates us and – well – it makes us feel special! Though not bad, it’s not the purpose.

Leadership is hard! The older I get and the more I experience leadership, I have to admit that I don’t want leadership if it’s purpose revolves arounds me. But when we get a glimpse of how our influence reaches into the lives of others, we begin to see how the value of leadership outweighs the cost.

Leadership really is an emptying of oneself for the validation and the setting apart of others. It’s about adding value to others from a deep place of knowing our own God-given value and purpose.

Make the turn!

The One Degree Shift MasterMind group provides a framework for people to begin to take steps towards acting in that area of intention that’s remained in the ‘good intentions’ box for too long. Join other likeminded individuals in a MasterMind of 5-8 people who are looking to make the turn.