Our youth leaders don’t have one look to them. They might be jocks and cheerleaders from the local high school across the street. Some are youth group junkies from our church’s ministries or elsewhere in town. Others are lonely kids who need to be somewhere where people love them.
Our VBS is as much a ministry to the youth leaders who run the camp as it is to the campers.
We believe this with all of our hearts – which is why we have no faith restrictions when is comes to kids who want to serve on our leadership team for VBS.
You may think we’re crazy for doing this. Let me walk you through our process… and let’s see if you call us “crazy” on the other side.
STEP ONE: JOB PLACEMENT
During the application process, students fill out what is essentially a full job application in order to be considered for a position on our VBS team.
On that form, applicants list, among other things, their home church (if applicable), whether or not they have a personal relationship with Jesus, they must then describe that relationship, and they list an adult as a reference.
From there, we sort our LEADERSHIP kids in the following way:
To be a Crew Leader (lead a group of 8-12 children and coach a crew of 1 Co-Leader and 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus. The student must be able to articulate a statement of faith.
To be a Crew Co-Leader (help coach a crew of 4-6 Crew Assistants) – the student must list a home church that our children’s ministry director (currently myself) has a relationship/partnership with. The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus. The student’s reference must be able to easily confirm that the student has placed his/her faith in Jesus.
We try to make sure that every VBS team has at least 1 Crew Leader and 1 Crew Co-Leader. These are the leaders that are appointed to answer questions children may have about Jesus during the week and they are the first responders during the time when children are given a chance to give their lives to Jesus on the 4th day of camp.
Here is how we sort our ASSISTANT kids:
To be a Crew Assistant (provide oversight for 2 children. makes sure child is engaged and having fun) – The student must indicate that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.
To be a Crew Buddy (travel with group during rotations. in charge of head counts. helps decorate classrooms and campus) – Turn in a completed application. Shows interest in working with children. Has a friend in the crew who is an Assistant, Co-Lead, or Lead.
To be a Rotation Buddy (assist rotation leaders) – Turn in a completed application. Does not work well unsupervised. Great worker if given direction from an adult.
To be on the Facilities Crew (assists facilities team) – Turn in a completed application. Does not fit any other position.
STEP TWO: TRAINING
We spend 20+ hours training our youth leaders to ensure that every leader knows our policies and procedures as they relate to children on our campus.
To see what this training entails, read this post.
During training, our primary goals this year shifted from policy education and campus decoration to a focus on spiritual development of our leaders. We wanted leaders who already had a relationship with Jesus to go into the next week EXCITED about their faith. We wanted every leader who did not have a relationship with Jesus to go into next week WITH a relationship with Jesus.
STEP THREE: ACCOUNTABILITY
All along the way, there is a person directly in charge of each youth leader. We try to avoid putting our youth in situations where they can fail. Ultimately, the success of each youth leader is something that my VBS coordinator and I are directly accountable for. We believe that with proper training, lots of prayer, and a structure of accountability, that our camp can be successfully run by students who may or may not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Our Basic Structure is: Children’s Ministry Director -> VBS Coordinator -> Adult Rotation Leaders -> Crew Leader -> Crew Co-Leader -> Crew Assistant -> 2 Assigned Campers.
I understand that not everyone will agree with the way we do things.
Every year, we have parents who initially push us on the fact that we have youth leaders at camp who may or may not have a relationship with Christ.
But, quite honestly, I think it’s one of the best things we do.
I think that the 29 counselors who accepted Jesus as their savior during training this year would agree.
Agree with what we do? Disagree?
Share your thoughts in the comments section!