Monday, August 15, 2016

Being the Body of Christ: A Reflection from Camp

I recently spent a week serving at Royal Family Kids Camp. I was one of 74 adults there working with 38 kids from the foster care system. It's an absolutely amazing ministry, and I am proud to be part of our local camp.

People sometimes wonder what I do at camp. Maybe a strange stretch for a college professor to work with hurting kids?

That's me up in front, leading a silly song as part of our camp training.
Image by Royal Family Kids of NW Iowa [All rights reserved]

Officially, my role is to serve as a member of the music and drama team. We are in charge of putting on a daily chapel time for the campers: singing songs, reading scripture in a way that connects with the kids, teaching a Bible lesson each day, and putting on a drama. We are also in charge of "breakfast club," which is an hour-long time of fun and silliness (and sometimes serious stuff too) to entertain and engage the campers while their guides take a much needed break. (The guides are absolutely amazing, basically being right with their campers 22 hours a day.) role is to help out in entertaining and encouraging the campers, supporting the guides who work with the campers much more closely.

"But what do you actually do, Dave?"

To answer that question, I feel like I should quote Liam Neeson's character in the film Taken:
"I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." 
I joke, yes, but it's kind of true. At camp, I...
Ah...the banana costume...
Image by Royal Family Kids of
NW Iowa [All rights reserved]
  • Play my guitar
  • Run the slideshows during chapel
  • Act in the dramas
  • Sing energetic silly songs (sometimes while dressed as a gigantic banana...)
  • Perform as a puppet
  • Juggle, and teach campers to juggle
  • Use my bellowing voice to get people's attention when needed
  • Do yo-yo tricks
  • Mime and move my body in strange ways to get the campers active and moving too
  • Film and edit ridiculous videos 
  • Wear silly hats and fake mustaches and awful sunglasses and generally look foolish about 97% of the time
  • Dress as a clown at the birthday party, and pass out red noses to the campers too
  • Generally serve as comic relief to both the campers and the staff.
Basically, I try not to take myself too seriously, while taking the work of serving the needs of emotionally wounded kids very seriously.

Yes, I have been part of many camps before, and yes, I served as a middle school teacher for 14 years. (And that's where many of my "particular set of skills" developed.) It's the role I play at camp, and I feel well-suited for it, even if it's hard to define. My wife, who serves at camp alongside me, calls me the "director of silliness." I kinda like that...

I have a big presence at camp. I recognize that I am taking on a role to some extent, but the role I am playing is just a juiced-up version of myself. I love kids, I love being a geeky goofball (owning it), and I love helping to create a culture of fun, laughter, love, and caring for both the kiddos and the staff serving them.

"They call me...Silly Dave..."
Image by Royal Family Kids of 
NW Iowa [All rights reserved]

I confess, I sometimes am jealous of the guides and guides-in-training. The campers love "Silly Dave" (and I truly love serving in that role!) but I recognize that while I get to know all of the campers because of my highly-visible, all-too-silly role, these are very shallow relationships for the most part. High fives, fist bumps, making goofy faces and the like get you so far...but those aren't the basis for highly-impactful relationships with the kiddos.

At some point during the week of camp, I was sharing these concerns with one of the leadership team members while we were writing cards to campers. This leader, functioning as a true leader, paused thoughtfully and said something along the lines of this: "Dave, you are so good at...being YOU with the campers. Not many people have the combination of talents and skills you bring to camp. We need you to do that job here!"

And suddenly, I was struck: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 had been my theme verse in my classroom for many years as a middle school teacher in a Christian school:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it...
Huh. Good reminder for me. We each have different roles to play both in the Church broadly, as well as in the more specific ministries where we find ourselves in service. For me to say, "Oh, because I'm not a guide, I'm not having an impact on the campers" is a lot like the ear saying, "Oh, because I am not an eye, I don't belong to the body."

Even that geeky, flailing goofball is a member of the Body of Christ!
Image by Royal Family Kids of  NW Iowa [All rights reserved]

Perhaps the opposite is true as well? Maybe there are other staff members who look at the crazy stuff I do and think, "Wow, I wish I could play that kind of much of a difference am I making?" My role at camp is more visible than some others at camp; I'm often out in front, keeping the campers and staff entertained, fostering a crazy camp culture with my zany antics. But every role at camp is needed.

I am one member of the Body. Each of us on the camp staff comes with particular gifts, talents and strengths, and we are called to use them for the good of the body. And so, I come with my geeky silliness and I put it to work for the good of the Body. And honestly, as I'm thinking this through now, I don't know that I am well-suited for serving as a guide anyway. I don't know that I have the emotional constitution for it! But I am not going to be sorrowful about this at all. I am using the gifts I have been given--my "particular set of skills"--to the joy of the campers, and the glory of God.


  1. One of the best parts of being part of God's family, in my opinion, is that when we all use the gifts and skills He's given us, all of the right things will be taken care of. When some of us choose not to use our gifts and skills, there are holes in the way serve the kingdom. God distributes these gifts JUST AS HE SEES FIT and we go from there. Thanks for serving in the right way for you.