Everything I Need to know about Leadership Training I Learned at Camp

I went to camp. Summer camp. Church summer camp. For the first time….ever!

I was invited to participate in the Leadership Training and Discipleship (LTD) program at Gull Lake Camp. I taught the Level Two (second year of three) students spiritual formation.  It was intimidating, demanding, stretching, incredibly rich and humbling to journey alongside young people and be a part of their formation, their intentional discipleship.  What a great privilege to rise up as leaders and innovators and entrepreneurs in the world which will soon be theirs to mold!

I have written on this blog about our need as churches to become more intentional about discipleship as ways to develop us as communities equipped and empowered to be the presence of Christ in whatever sphere of life we are in, and to demonstrate the characteristics of the kingdom. Please enjoy the following article written by Steve Roadhouse and note the marks of discipleship, of community building, that all the staff at Gull Lake Camp are devoted to. They are crucial elements of how we can build our communities stronger and more effective for the work set before us.


~Shannon Youell, CBWC Church Planting Director


My name is Steve Roadhouse, I am the director at Gull Lake Centre, the CBWC camp on Gull Lake in Central Alberta. At the camp we run a high school leadership program called LTD (Leadership Training and Discipleship), and we also have a great summer staff program. This year we will have over 1000 campers in our overnight camps. But it is our leadership programs that we are best at.

At Gull Lake we create space for campers to connect with Christ and each other.  e are incredibly protective of the culture that is necessary to create the space conducive to those connections. Here are a few things that we do well at camp to help create that space:

1. We work together: Jobs are never done alone. Everyone is part of a team. Program Team, Kitchen Team, Cabin Leading Team, Full Time Staff Team–the list goes on. The LTDs are never alone either: they are always intentionally paired with a mentor that we think they will benefit from. You get to know someone when you work beside them.  One of the first things that we make the first year LTDs do when they start the program is pick rocks out of a mud pit together. There are actually some great reasons behind this, but it is a long story. You grow close when you are stuck in the muck and mire together.

Annihilation-42. We play together: We have fun at camp. Heaps and heaps of it! Work days are long here: from 7:30am to about 10:00pm, with 2 hours of time off. So play is important. We have fun while we work. We compete and joke and tell stories and try out the games and the food. Morale is incredibly important to the culture here and having fun is a great way to keep morale up. How much fun people are having is also a good indicator of your morale level.

3. We worship together: The second year LTDs focus on spiritual practices during LTD training week. So often in our churches we get stuck thinking that singing is the only form of worship. The Level 2s are charged with the task of leading the entire camp in a worship service one evening and it always becomes this beautifully eclectic collection of ways of worshiping at camp. Often with some singing, but also with Scripture, communion, art, poetry, conversation, and silence. Worship cannot be forced.  We can only invite people in and create a safe space for them to enter.

This safe space can only be created together. It does not come from one person,
it comes from the group. We also do not confine worship to the set “worship” times on the schedule. Our play is worship, our work is worship. We worship God by serving Him and others, as well as by pausing to sing songs of praise.

4. We cry together: There is a joke at camp that no one can enter my office without crying. It is a huge compliment to me that people feel safe enough to come to me and be open enough to cry. Camp is exhausting sometimes. The days are long, it’s hot, and you are constantly pouring yourself out into the campers. Some days you just run out of gas and need a good cry.  That’s ok here.

We also engage in deep relationships with each other and share our joys, hurts, longings, and sorrows. Sometimes we cry when we do this. It’s a good thing.

5. We spend time together: We spend a lot of time together actually. I know that quality time is important, but quantity time means a lot too. We do everything together. We share rooms, we all eat together, we have leader meetings and team meetings every single day, everything we do at camp we do together. Summer staff are together 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks. That is a lot of time.

glc_2015_007886. We make memories together:  We do some ridiculous stuff at camp. Crazy stuff. All safe mind you, but it feels crazy! That is what you remember. Can you remember that time you drove somewhere six months ago? No, you can’t. Can you remember that time you were driving and your friend laughed so hard that Slurpee came out her nose? Probably. Well, probably not because that likely didn’t happen to you, but if it did, you would remember!

We don’t remember the mundane and the ordinary.  We remember the ridiculous, the special, the spectacular. I remember the late night conversations. I remember doing a speech while riding on my friend’s back like a horse only to have him fall and have us both tumble down the hill in front of everyone (only our pride was hurt). I remember feeling like I was laying in the palm of God’s hand. At camp, we create space for these memories to be made.

Does discipleship outside of the camp context need these 6 elements as well? What are your great memories of discipleship? Comment on this blog or contact me directly at syouell@cbwc.ca.

For more information about Steve’s work at the Centre, visit www.gulllakecentre.ca.

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