From Camper to Counselor

Transition and growth in leadership.

Bethanni R.

Camp Tzadi

Camp Tzadi community counselor leadership Messianic Judaism teens

Before going to Camp Tzadi, I was a camper at a different Messianic summer camp for two years.

In those two years, I met some of my closest friends who have loved and supported me through the past three years of my life. Camp was where I learned the most about what it means to be Messianic and what helped me decide to take on this religion for myself, helping me grow deeper in my faith and practice. When I turned nineteen, I was old enough to give back to the camp experience by returning as a counselor. My goal for coming to Camp Tzadi was to help make camp as spiritually motivating for the new campers as it had been for me. I wanted to help my cabin develop long-lasting friendships with each other, and I wanted to be a good leader for them. However, the transition into this leadership role was much different than I expected. There were moments when I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsure in my leadership abilities. However, it was in these moments that I learned about myself and how I could be a good leader.

The first three days at camp were the most challenging. I was getting to know the girls in my cabin, trying to memorize the layout of the campgrounds, and exhausting myself by turning every ounce of energy into excitement for the various camp activities. During this time, I was deciding what kind of leader I was going to be. Early on I knew that I wanted to be a leader who led by example. I found out very quickly that this is much easier said than done. There were times when we were all exhausted, the energy levels were low, and I still had to push myself to keep jumping, keep singing, and keep motivating the teens to be crazy and have fun. Another challenge I ran into during those first few days was establishing myself as a counselor with some of the campers whom I knew outside of camp. I have known many of them for years, and some of them I met three years ago at camp. It was awkward to cross the line from camper to counselor with these teens who have previously seen me as their peer. Of course, we are all friends, but I took on a different role this year.

After those first few days of establishing myself as a leader, I was faced with another challenge. The teens had all gotten to know each other pretty well and felt comfortable talking, laughing, and being silly with each other. This was when the real work started. I had to pay attention to all my campers and keep track of who was where, who was with whom, make sure they were all having a good time, drinking enough water, etc. It was a lot to keep track of! The other counselor in my cabin and I tried to come up with fun games and ways to keep our girls together when we were walking from place to place, focused during lessons, and, perhaps the most memorable Cabin 3 goal, clean after mealtimes. Not all our ideas and games stuck, and some backfired on us, but they were all fun and memorable. Through all this, we were able to deepen our bonds as a cabin, and I was learning how to keep track of not just the teens, but also the different responsibilities I had as a counselor. It was overwhelming, but I was able to learn how to juggle multiple responsibilities at one time.

There were times throughout camp when I doubted myself, and I wondered if I was being a good leader or giving the right advice. However, even through these moments of doubt, I pushed on and always focused on being the best I could be for the teens. I was so glad that I got to spend time connecting with my cabin girls and learning more about them with each conversation we shared. They constantly reminded me of the importance of camp and being a counselor. Young Messianic teens need people to whom they can turn for help during tough periods in life. They need friends who understand their belief system and who will encourage them in a godly way. Camp is the perfect place for these teens to meet new friends and strengthen bonds between old ones.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to go to camp as a counselor and the role I get to have in these teens’ lives. I have been able to keep in touch with most of the girls from my cabin and some other teens from camp as well. It is amazing to see how they are taking aspects of what we learned at camp and applying it to their lives. I am proud of each of them for the tough decisions they have made since being home. I love that I get to be a part of their journey and I get to watch them grow as believers in Messiah. Camp is such an important aspect of these teens’ lives. It is a place where they can leave all the worries of the world and be surrounded by people who understand them and who will be their friends for a very long time. With the Messianic community so spread out, it is an amazing opportunity for teens’ to connect with like-minded peers and create relationships with their counselors. We all need people whom we can trust and turn to when we need support. Although being a counselor was not easy, it was a perfect way for me to develop my leadership skills and be part of a bigger mission for the future of Messianic Judaism.

I highly encourage anyone out there who is young and wanting to meet other young Messianics to apply as a counselor! It is an experience of a lifetime, tons of fun, and a great way to get to know and build our young community!

For more information on being a counselor and the application process check out the Camp Tzadi website here.

About the Author

Bethanni is just a girl in workout gear with coffee in her mug, running from work to class and back again. In her down time you can find her traveling the world, either at Disney or in other countries ready for a good adventure or trying something new.

Camp Tzadi

Camp Tzadi community counselor leadership Messianic Judaism teens

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