by Dylan Wade, Children’s Ministry Coordinator
During the interview process with our perspective JOY staff we ask a difficult question about their faith. This question goes something to the effect of: “If a kindergartner were to come up to you at camp and ask how they get to Heaven, how would you respond?” It is amazing how uncomfortable these young adults feel when asked this question. The room gets very quiet and you can feel the tension in the air. Our decision to hire them is not entirely dependent on how they answer, but their answer helps me and our leadership staff determine where they are in their faith. It also helps us determine how much we need to guide them and help them grow. It may surprise you how many applicants do not include Jesus in their answer (not very many do).
The mission for JOY is that each camper will acquire skills, develop relationships, and grow in the faith. When you get down to it, the only way to accomplish our mission is for our staff to model it, teach it, and live it out. Therefore, intentionally, my leadership staff and I devote hours of training and support through the summer so that our staff are best equipped to be mentors to the campers.
I have lived by the mantra that the more you teach, the more you learn, and this is the side effect of JOY. That side effect is that our 14+ year olds on staff acquire 10 times the amount of skills as a camper, 10 times the relationships as the camper, and their faith deepens more than 10 times the amount as a camper (my estimates are based on what I have experienced). So our mindset is that JOY is not just a ministry for younger kids. It is a ministry for our high schoolers, college students and college grads, as well as parents – in fact, probably more so than the campers.
At the end of every summer, as our staff head off to school or to another job, they leave having grown in some way. I am proud of this, but at the same time I think – how can we do better? How can we as a church help them feel like they belong here? Do they see Christ in this church beyond JOY? We send our staff a small thank-you gift each fall to thank them for their service at the church. We pay them a competitive wage. But do they know us? Do we as a congregation know them? I think we can do better than this.
The PCJH staff and members of session are reading a book called Growing Young by Kara E. Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. If you have been to church in the last few weeks, you may have heard it referenced in service and seen the booth with books you can purchase. You may have also heard that Brad Griffin will be leading a workshop on this subject the third weekend in October. All this to say, in the book there is a chapter on how a church growing young fuels a warm community. The people in a congregation are authentically welcoming and get to know youth and young adults. They are relational and really get to know and mentor them. I think PCJH can improve in this area, and one way to do that is to make our JOY and Little Lambs staff feel like they belong here, more than just to pour themselves into the kids at camp and preschool in our community. They are not only feeding, but feel fed at the same time.
We hope that by the end of the summer our staff feel confident and equipped to answer that tough question we give during interviews, and I think the best way to help them get there is through meaningful relationships and even mentorships with our congregation here at PCJH. Would you be willing to get to know our staff and perhaps be their spiritual mentor? If so, together we can transform these young adults’ lives in Jesus Christ and strengthen the side effect of camp!