Why was I stupid enough to say yes? I stared incredulously at the camp meeting assignment sheet. My name was at the top of the youth department staff list. There it was in black and white, Leader Don Keele Jr. Something was terribly wrong. I shook my head in disbelief, and finally decided it must have been a typo. I went to the president of the conference during the break in minister¹s meetings and told him that a slight typo must have been made.
"Oh, we meant to tell you about that before this meeting. Guess it must have slipped by us. Don, we would like for you to head up the youth/earliteen department this year because you are our only youth pastor in this conference, and you work better with kids than anyone else that we have."
"Yeah, but what am I supposed to do? I¹ve never done campmeeting youth before!"
"Not to worry," he smiled that conference president¹s smile of confidence, "it will be 10 of the most fun days of your ministry. Just plan the programming and your staff will help you make it happen."
"Yeah, right!" I thought to myself.
Maybe you're staring "10 of the most fun days of your ministry," or if you¹re lucky, "four of the most fun days of your ministry" in the face and you¹re asking that same question. But what am I supposed to do?
After 17 years of leading/working in the youth department of camp meetings, let me offer some practical planning strategies that may help you on your way.
There are two ways to go about planning for campmeeting. Both have positives and negatives. Let¹s explore them briefly:
Team Consensus. With this approach you bring together everyone on your team and you brainstorm ideas about how you all want it to run. You talk about guest speakers, musical guests, Sabbath School time, activities, etc. and if you are lucky, you come out with some consensus in less than 3 or 4 hours.
Then, every time you run on a snag, you call everyone and ask them what they think, get input and make a decision.
This method is great for buy-in, but takes enormous amounts of time and energy to gain a little ground.
I prefer the second method.
Two Scheduled Meetings. One in January or February, and one the week prior to camp meeting. (Usually during camp pitch—about the time the heaviest work is occurring. This is a GREAT time for team building. Just kidding of course...that would be political suicide. But that¹s not much worse than running the youth department, so take your pick. Just remember, if you quote me, I¹ll deny it!)
I come to these meetings with an agenda and action sheets. The agenda covers our discussion topics, while the action sheets leave us open to pursue ideas, ministry assignments, activities, etc.
So what do we cover in camp meeting planning? Here¹s a list.
Before anything else...what¹s your budget?
1. Theme. What is the overall theme of campmeeting? Can we piggyback on that, or modify it? Should we go with our own?
2. Guest speaker. Who are we calling? Who will make the contact and all of the arrangements? How much leeway does that person have to make decisions regarding airline prices, motels, rental cars, honorariums, etc.?
3. Musical guest artists. Who are we calling? Who will make the contact and all of the arrangements? How much leeway does that person have to make decisions regarding airline prices, motels, rental cars, honorariums, etc.?
4. Local musical talent, especially among the kids. Who can we feature for different special musics throughout campmeeting? Who will contact each of the individuals or groups and who will they report to for coordination of each?
5. Other concerns
Backdrop. Who will lead out in putting that together? How will it incorporate your theme? I¹ve found that one of the easiest is to build some backdrops out of 2x4¹s and plywood, and save them from year to year and simply repaint them. Designs can be done on a computer using clip art and special fonts, made into overheads and then projected onto the backdrop where you can pencil on the design and paint.
Platform schedule. Who will be coordinating each meeting? Spread this to all of your staff. Each should take a turn in doing the announcements and acting as platform chair.
Lighting and sound. Get as good as you can in the realm of equipment. Rent good stuff if you have to, including a wireless for your guest speaker. Don¹t forget monitor speakers for your musical guests, unless they are bringing their own stuff. Make sure your sound guy is competent. (Hey you, kid, what¹s your name? Can you run this thing?)
Praise and worship music. Who will be leading out? What will they need? Will words be on overhead or computer or song sheets? It is generally safer to give some guidelines here, especially if your praise and worship band is student led. I talk about context sensitivity. Make sure there is a balance in music, from the lively to the worshipful.
Crowd control. I make it plain to my staff that if they are not on the platform, they are on crowd control. We have two areas in our youth department. Area one is the talking area...it is OUTSIDE the tent or building. You are welcome to go to area one. But if you want to get anything out of the programming, check out area two. It¹s INSIDE the tent or building. It is the listening, actively participating, and learning area. Staff members ask which area they would like to be in when they are distracting. Either way, they are included in the youth.
Clean up after each meeting. I ask for youth volunteers to work with my staff in helping clean up all of the wrappers, etc that get dropped.
Prayer team leaders. After evening meetings, it is often nice to have prayer teams, with kids leading out in those. Ask who knows kids that would be willing to help.
Team Shirts. While not necessary, they certainly are a nice way to identify your staff during campmeeting, and serve as a team building device. Always get extras for your guests, kids that REALLY help out, and one for the conference president and/or treasurer. (It helps get more support for the youth department in years to come, and helps them remember the youth each time they put it on.)
What's available in the surrounding area? Should we do recreational versus mission, or a combination of both? One day recreational, the next day mission. Who will be in charge of what days, including making arrangements with the sites to visit, as well as transportation arrangements? How much money do they have to work with?
What should they charge the kids, if anything? (This is where a 3 or 4-day campmeeting is much easier than a 10-day session, but both can be managed by plotting each event out.)
Activity ideas could include:
A bowling extravaganza
Wacky sports day*
Community clean-up day
7. Allow for lots of prayer time over planning the actual event. Leading up to your meetings, during and after, get you staff together to pray that the Holy Spirit will touch lives. Encourage parents, other pastors, and conference personnel to pray for and with you.
8. Keep your conference president informed. This is not brown-nosing. This is SMART! If something goes amiss, it is better that he hears it from you first, before hearing it from an irate parent or an ultra-legalist with only half of the story. Be assured, if something is out of the ordinary, he will hear about it one way or the other. Get there first. That way you get support and wisdom rather than being called in on the carpet.
Finally, keep a positive attitude. You just might be entering the most fun days of your ministry. Seriously. Ok...at least you can endure it, and maybe have fun too.
*Playing games they are used to except changing some or all of the rules. e.g. wacky baseball...running the bases backwards...Have to tag someone before they are out, no more than two people on base at any time. Guys throw opposite handed, etc.)
Don Keele Jr. is an Adventist pastor in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.