What do you get when you mix two recent high school graduates, five college students, a graduate student, five adults, and 30 middle schoolers?
A great week at camp, that’s what.
I’m so fortunate to have spent a week co-directing Middler Camp for the Diocese of Fond du Lac, where we studied God’s #Relentless Pursuit of His People. It was undoubtedly one of the best and most impactful weeks of my life, and as I’ve been reflecting on my time there, I’ve assembled a list of things I learned.
So without further ado, Rachel Mills presents: 19 Things I learned at #fdlcamp2k15:
1. In the words of my boo thang Julius Campbell, “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.”
Julius, although being sassy when he said this, was right. The attitude of our campers was impeccable. Now, I know what you’re thinking, a week of middle schoolers at camp must have been filled with drama and tension. And I would’ve thought that, too. But oh, how wrong we are. Our week was filled with campers who never muttered a disgruntled word (ok, there were a few disgruntled words, but not many!). The kiddos we were blessed enough to work with had such positive attitudes about everything! And that’s a direct reflection of the leadership of our counseling staff. Man, oh man, did we have awesome counselors who were quick to show their excitement and enthusiasm all week! When things got #cray, our counselors kept their cool every time and exhibited such positive attitudes that our campers couldn’t help but catch the positivity bug, too. You want an awesome week with awesome kids? Start with awesome leadership.
2. Buoyant force is important.
Just kidding, I hate physics. What I’m really trying to say is that kiddos rise or sink to the expectations you set for them. Middle schoolers are AWESOME and if you treat them like you believe that and hold them accountable to act that way, they follow through. I’m a firm believer that middle schoolers are hurdlers, not limbo masters- meaning wherever you set the bar, they’re going to do their best to jump over it, not slide under it. Just give them expectations that challenge them enough to want to hurdle.
3. Tutus are making a fierce comeback.
4. Turtle calls are weird, but swimming is fun.
5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me! Mutual respect is key.
Hi, um, don’t treat kids like they’re the scum of the earth. I’ve noticed this phenomenon when I tell people that I co-directed a camp for middle schoolers where they contort their faces into an expression that would make you think I just told them that I dropped cockroaches into their mouths at night. I said it once, and I’ll say it again: Middle schoolers are AWESOME. All kids are. In fact, people in general are mostly awesome if you treat them kindly. So stop acting disgusted by middle schoolers. When you respect them and treat them with the dignity that every human being deserves, regardless of their age, they’ll respect you, too. And then you can, like, have fun together and stuff instead of just yelling at them all the time.
6. If you find yourself despairing at youth- spend some time with them.
Maybe this is just a post about how much I love middle schoolers because that seems to be all I can talk about- but for real, spend time with youth! It’s good for you! Kids will surprise you with how clever, quick-witted, kind, hilarious, smart, sweet, and goofy they can be. Plus, as a member of an older generation, you have, in some way, contributed to raising this generation. So, why are you so intent on being disappointed with them? Dudes, you’ve helped them become who they are- and once you get to know them better, you’ll see that that is something you should be so proud of! In case you missed it the first two times, middle schoolers are AWESOME! So stop despairing at the idea of youth, get to know them, and start to love them! They rock! I mean, if the world would treat each other with as much kindness as our middle schoolers treated one another this week at camp, we’d be a heck of a lot closer to God’s kingdom being here on earth. We can learn a lot from this generation. These kiddos are growing up in a world of Sandy Hook Shootings, human trafficking rates on the climb, and increased teen suicides. They know first hand what the damage of bullying and unkind actions can do, and they’re passionate about stopping it. Talk to these goofballs about how people should be treated and get ready to be inspired. This age group is nothing to despair over at all.
7. Ga-ga! It’s the single greatest community builder out there.
There’s this game called Gaga, and it’s #thebomb. It’s hard to explain, so I’d advise just googling it- but the point is, you’d think that throwing a bunch of 11-14 year olds into something called a Gaga pit where they whack a ball as hard as they can at each other would be a bad idea, but it’s actually the coolest. It’s an elimination game where people are constantly being kicked out of the pit for “not being good enough,” and you’d think that would create problems- and maybe sometimes it does- but this week, we got to watch as our sweet campers would cheer each other on and encourage them when they got out- where they reminded each other to be sportsmanlike, and where they forced each other to say kind things about one another instead of cheering against each other. Need to build a community? Forget the high-ropes course- throw your team into the Gaga pit and watch their true colors be revealed. I love me some Gaga, and I love watching campers walk away from the pit with smiles on their faces in spite of wickedly competitive tournaments. Yet another reason middle schoolers rock.
8. Small beings have the capability to cause a huge reaction. For example: mosquitos.
Mosquitos suck. Literally. HA! But for real, for being so “young,” there were several times our campers brought one or more of the counselors to tears by their ideas or actions. And on a larger scale than human emotions, these kids are going to go on to change the world. That may sound cliche, but truly, these kids will soon become adults who are taking charge in industries, families, governments, charities- everywhere. And as they continue to rise up and become leaders, they’re going to make such a positive impact on the world. I can see how they’ve already impacted one another and our staff. #worldchangers
9. God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
I feel as though this doesn’t need much elaboration. My mom and I co-directed Middler camp- we did everything from write the curriculum, to run errands, to roast s’mores. And I will be the first to tell you, none of it came from me. This week was made possible by the strength of the Lord and by His guidance in every moment. The messy, chaotic, less-than-mediocre week my mom and I would’ve planned on our own was crafted into a week of beauty, full of God’s love and glory. His pursuit of us is indeed #relentless, and he undoubtedly pursued us as counselors and campers this week.
10. Waffle fries are still one of the highest form of potato.
11. Sharing is caring.
Sharing stories- struggles, successes, worries, excitements- everything- is a blessing. It’s through sharing stories with one another that we become vulnerable and let people into our hearts. And it’s through hearing others share that we experience that truly magical moment of realizing that we are not alone in our pain. We are given the gift of not only having someone to rely on who can relate to our struggles, but we are able to become someone on whom others can rely. That’s community, man. And watching that unfold in middle schoolers is crazy cool.
12. Sometimes, you just have to decorate a boring room, blast some music and dance like there’s no tomorrow. It cures a multitude of ills.
13. Timothy knows what’s up.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
This one goes out to all my “young” friends out there. Keep on keepin’ on, y’all. You are an example for me and for others who are my age and older. We have a lot to learn from you.
14. Greater is the One living inside of me, than he who is living in the world. In the woooooorld, (where) IN THE WOOOOOOORLD
15. Give a kid ice cream, and they’ll like you for a while- trick kids into thinking you’re taking them to Culvers and then lead them blindfolded all over camp and give them ice cream sandwiches instead, and they’ll be surprisingly forgiving.
16. Don’t be a grumblite.
(Cheers to you, Jon for being awesome and coming up with this name!) For crying out loud, stop grumbling like the Israelites did just because God’s plan doesn’t match yours. Be flexible, yo. As I taught this week to the Middlers, God always provides and He is always sufficient for you- and as I learned this week from the Middlers, God’s provision will often times exceed your expectations.
17. In the words of Kesha or someone like that, rain is a good thang.
Just hang out in the rain with a smile on your face. It’s good for you.
18. I have been changed for the better. Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
If you have the opportunity to volunteer at a camp or youth group or anything where kids are involved- DO IT! I promise you, you will learn more, be more impacted, and change more than you could ever imagine. (Not to mention, there’s nothing cooler than having kids come back years later to tell you what a difference you made in their lives.)
19. You are #holy, #righteous, and #redeemed.