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High School Summer Camp. I was fourteen and going into my freshman year when I first participated in this ritual. I had spent my Junior High career on the fence. I went to church, but sat with my parents in a deliberate ploy to avoid accountability. I read my bible in the morning, but spent the day bullying my classmates.

Summer camp was a turning point for me. Somehow, I understood that I had to pick a team. I saw that there really is no middle ground in life. I would not be allowed to pretend anymore. Either I would commit myself to following Jesus, or I would be swept away by the tide of the world. Faced with such a fork in the road, I chose Jesus and never looked back.

And so, I support summer camps, and I encourage every teenager I know to attend. I have put in my share of time on the other side of this experience as well, as a counselor. Such a position is one of enormous responsibility, and it can tax people to their limit. With our own High School and Junior High summer camps on the verge of kicking off, I thought I might make a short list of tips. I’m no expert, but I’ve had some great leaders to follow. So here are a few of the things I picked up along the way: Five Tips for the Counselor to Thrive at Summer Camp.

#1 Know your kids. – Get to know them ahead of time if at all possible, it will make miles of difference. Some kids will need more attention, or a watchful eye. Some will make an excellent disciple/sidekick. It really helps to pick these kids out at the beginning, or you may regret it by the end.

#2 Be the first to shower in the morning, and the last to sleep at night. – Honestly, teenagers are gross. They can turn a clean bathroom into a stench filled terror in no time. Bathe before they can do that. Just like on a crashing airplane, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting the child next to you. You’ll be awake, ready, and in prime position to wake up those little campers and send them on their way. Sleep in, and you will be at their mercy. The same goes for bed. You don’t want to be asleep while a teenager nearby is awake. They think all kinds of bad ideas are good ideas, and that a great many things are funny which you won’t find humorous at all, especially at night.

#3 Make friends with the staff. – Especially the kitchen staff. They’ll show you where to get your coffee in the morning. It’s really just a good idea to know who to talk to if you need help with all the situations that come up. They know where you can wash out that wet sleeping bag and where you can get a nasty flesh wound patched up. Hopefully neither of these situations will come up, but they might. And if they do, hopefully they don’t involve you personally.

#4 Make sure your kids are eating real food and drinking water. – They forget.

#5 Discipline. – Start off strict, you can always back off as the week goes on. It’s almost impossible to go the other way around. For example, we have a strict bedtime policy. Set a lights out time and keep it. Anyone who makes any noise at all gets kitchen clean up duty, or picks up trash during free time. It might make you feel like a drill sergeant, but the kids need sleep. Besides, you can’t sleep before they do.

#6 Bonus Tip – It’s just for a week. Yeah, it can be hard. But it is short. Be a man about it. Even if you’re not a man, you can keep it together for a week. You’d better, because the kids need you, and the pay off is eternal.

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I’ve got another chapter of Four Stops up now: Machine. I have had this written for awhile, but I wanted to wait until I had the last chapter done before I posted it. Well, the last still remains to be written, but I couldn’t delay any longer. So far, every chapter has been longer than the last. I assure you, this has been unintentional. Hopefully, chapter 6 won’t be too long coming.

In other news, I’ve got a new photo project I’m working on. Say hello to my Little Friend