Camp Counselor 101

Every year I have to field the question, “Why should I go to Camp Counselor training if I am never picked” or “Well I went to Camp Counselor training, when will someone call me?”  only to be disappointed by the beginning of the summer when one realizes that they will probably not be called.

Camp Neotez is a unique place in that it allows teenagers to serve as regular camp counselors.  This is not true of most camps.  That being said, there is an increased amount of expectation that directors have for the teenagers who they will need to depend on and work with.

I thought I would share some insight to being a director and some of the challenges I face as well as the expectations I have for my staff.  These are only my thoughts and they do not represent anyone from the Board or other directors.   That being said, it might help you to think through some of these things on a personal level.  I believe some of the points below will not only help you become a better prospective counselor, but a better student, a better employee and better person in general.

Here are some ways you can help your chances to be chosen as a counselor (these are in no particular order):

  • Be older– ok so you can’t do much to control that.  The younger you are the fewer options for counseling you have and the bigger the pool is.  Lots of kids can counsel for pre-camp but only a few are chosen.  Solution – be patient, you’ll be older soon enough.
    • Counselors must be at least 15 years old (I believe there may be some exceptions to this – especially for PreCamp but it would be rare)
    • Counselors must be at least 2 years older than the oldest camper for the week.  Which means that you have to have finished 10th grade to counsel at Middle School week, etc.
  • Take your faith seriously – one prerequisite to being a counselor is that you are a baptized believer.  So should you go be baptized so you can be a counselor?  NO…as a director, it is my job to find young men and women who are following Christ – not just who have gotten wet.
  • Be direct – Call the director of the week you want to go to and tell them that you are interested in being a counselor and tell them why you would make a good counselor.  Taking the initiative will impress people and cause them to pause and at least consider you.
  • Don’t be picky– if a director says “I am ok on counselors but I need a dishwasher” – that may be your “in”.
    • I have had teens tell me they would not serve as a dishwasher – which tells me they would be a high maintenance counselor as well.
    • It is not uncommon for a scheduled counselor to have a conflict at the last minute and need to be replaced.  The “Utility Crew” (the word I use for dishwashers) is the first place I look.
    • This is a Jesus-principle through and through – you gotta be willing to serve
  • Be Recommendable – being active in youth group and church helps a lot.  If a director calls the minister of your church or the youth minister or an elder or someone else, you don’t want them saying, “Well, I see them on Sunday  morning sitting in the pew with their parents but that’s about it.”  You should be serving where you are.  That includes serving other teenagers by being engaged in your youth group.
  • Be known – Directors will go to teens they know first – that’s just natural.  Some of the directors are youth ministers – become involved in areawide activities were they can get to know you.  The directors who are not youth ministers often call the area youth ministers for referrals.  If you’re name keeps coming up, that may cause a director to call you.

ONCE YOU’RE IN

  • Don’t Blow it– if you are asked to be a dishwasher (or even a counselor) – DO YOUR BEST JOB and better! Directors do not want to babysit.  Everyone has a job – including the director – and if he has to be reminding you and telling you to do your job, it makes his job harder.  You will most likely not be asked to come again and directors talk to each other.
    •  There is a tendency to look at someone else and say “Well they’re not doing what they are supposed to, why should I do their work”.  I guarantee you that the director knows – because the Cooks are telling him or other counselors are letting him know or maybe even the campers are complaining about it.
    • Bottom line is YOU do YOUR best and better and you will “move up the ladder” quickly!
    • Do you want to know why I use the term “Utility Crew” instead of dishwasher? I had a dishwasher tell, me when asked to do something that wasn’t dishwashing, “that’s not my job, I’m a dishwasher”.  Needless to say, I have not used that person again.
  • Whatever the director says is Law. Directors have been given a huge responsibility and are expected to make the best decision for everyone – not just you or a few.  That’s not to say directors are never wrong.  Sometimes they have to make decisions based on information you may not have (this is true about many situations in life – parents, elders, employers, bosses, teacher…).  Assume that they have your best interest in mind.  Don’t be afraid of them but don’t challenge them in public.  They may love the idea of helping you understand or hearing a different viewpoint if they believe you are really interested in hearing them.
    • This would include not undermining the director with your cabin – i.e. telling campers that “a rule” doesn’t really apply to you since you are a counselor or they don’t have to follow it because it doesn’t make sense.
  • Stay above the fray – that means keep focused on your job.  Don’t become a glorified camper.  Sometimes teens want to counsel so they can be a big-shot.  It doesn’t work that way.  Don’t get caught up in the drama or the gossip.  Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.
  • Have fun – be safe.  Campers want counselors who are fun.  Parents want to their kids to come back in one piece.  Be that tool for the Lord that does both.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means but is simply meant to get you thinking and help you “think like” a great counselor (and human being)

-Mike

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