5 Ways I’ve Seen My Own Kids Develop Being Staff at Camp

Mike ReimerSummer Staff

I’ve attended, worked at, and been a part of various camps for over 43 years. All that time I have heard and said to parents how good it was for teenagers to spend their summers at camp, as opposed to getting another job in the city. Parents have asked many times: is it worth going to camp and giving up the money my kids can make at home?

First of all on the money issue, we’ve made a big investment in our compensation when you work at Mini-Yo-We beginning this summer, notably with a 45% increase in staff pay. You can watch a clip that explains it here.

Money is only one of the many ways we compensate our staff at Mini-Yo-We. I want to talk a little bit about how I’ve seen my own kids develop as they’ve worked at camp in the summers. I have 3 kids: 18-year-old Emma, 20-year-old Josh and 22-year-old Jackson. They have collectively spent over a dozen summers working as counselors, waterfront staff, and section heads as part of the leadership teams at a couple of different summer camps. I have seen them grow and develop in amazing ways–here are a few:

Leading and Mentoring Others

Nowhere else do teenagers and young adults get a real opportunity to lead like this. They didn’t just spend a summer folding clothes or flipping burgers, they were in charge of others and responsible for the safety, performance and development of these people. It’s good to learn about leadership, but it’s great to actually lead others. Working at camp provides practical, hands-on leadership experience that has set them up well for the future.

Developing Their Faith

I can talk to my kids as much as I want, but having another adult or mentor speak into their lives has been critical in their personal faith development. Hearing the same things I would say from a different voice has helped drive the points home. Most kids who grow up in a Christian household start out believing they’re Christians because their family went to church, my kids included. As the expression goes, God has no grandchildren. But being at camp in those key teen and young adult years has been one of the biggest reasons each of them has made their faith their own. They have others teaching and demonstrating to them what it means to really follow Jesus, all while providing opportunities to practice this on their own. This has helped them grow and develop their faith tremendously.

Developing Community

Friends with the right / similar values and beliefs at school can be hard to come by. But at camp, young people are surrounded by 150-200 others who, while coming from different backgrounds, share a desire to grow closer to God. My son Jackson came home after his first summer as staff and told us he couldn’t believe it: there were other people just like him out there! Years later, camp connections have brought about his housemates at university. These are the people he hangs out with, lives with, and the people he comes back to camp to be with again each summer.

Developing Independence

Going to camp for one, then two weeks at a time when they were younger, my kids started developing some independence at an early age. Spending two months away from home as camp staff prepared them to handle each of their respective gap years and the transition from home to university life. They were confident and comfortable to head out and take on whatever challenges they faced after high school.

These are just a few of the ways I have seen my own kids develop into the men and the woman God created them to be.  When I talk about why a parent should encourage their kids to work at camp, or when I tell a teenager why camp is a better option than getting a job in the city or even an internship, it’s because of the experiences I have had all these years seeing others do it. It has been great to see it from the perspective of a parent with my own kids, and I hope you’ll get to experience this too.

Who Do You Know?

Now is the best time to apply to join our Summer 2023 staff team! Who do you know that would make a great addition to our team?

Encourage them to take the first step today!