-by Jessica Noonan, Associate Director of LEAD
Have you ever been part of a child’s life as a neighbor, cousin, aunt/uncle, mentor, teacher, coach, or parent? Were you lucky enough to watch them grow, learn, change, and mess up as they became their own person? What a privilege! I have been blessed to be part of my own children’s lives as well as the lives of many other children through ministries I served in, including my children’s friends and neighbors too.
Right now, both of my girls (9 and 13) are really into finding recipes and making their own meals. Especially the trending salad or dessert on TikTok or Instagram. In trying new things, they have learned so much in the process of cooking/baking and are becoming more independent and creative. They usually have me nearby to help decipher a recipe, find a substitute ingredient, or even help them when they burn their arm making pancakes! This is how children/youth grow, as individuals and leaders, by trying new things, expanding their skills and gifts, and making mistakes along the way with an adult mentoring them as they lead.
Many years ago, I was introduced to Camp Hope, a ministry started in Houston almost 30 years ago that at first look is an amazing Christian day camp for children. When you look closer you realize it is a leadership school for high school and college-age students from the church and neighborhood. Students apply for specific positions on the camp staff, then they are trained and mentored by adults from the congregation who help them plan and prepare to lead 1-3 weeks of camp at their congregation. The camp staff gets daily practice teaching a new Bible story each day, telling their own faith story, and learning to serve God and neighbors by using their gifts as leaders. They mess up. They learn. They get to practice again. They LEAD!
There is a reason that God calls children to serve all throughout the Bible (Samuel, David, Jeremiah), because children have gifts too. Children and youth are leaders right now, not the leaders of tomorrow. Camp Hope is a great ministry for any congregation to begin in their setting as an outreach into the neighborhood and to nurture young leaders. It’s a true honor to host this ministry in your congregation and be part of building leaders. The students who serve on Camp Hope staff all across the country get the opportunity to discover how God is calling them to use their gifts as a leader in the church and in life. If you want to learn more about this ministry and how to start a Camp Hope in your setting, talk to our Camp Hope Director, Jinny Sutherland Breedlove.