When Joanna and I recorded our first album our friend told us we should apply for Centrifuge Camps. We ended up applying and got accepted for the audition/interview in Nashville for a summer camp position. After an awkward time of leading worship in front of one person and Jesus we ended up receiving a call saying that we were selected! These camps played a huge role in launching our traveling ministry. Summer camps may not be possible for everyone, but if you’ve ever thought about serving in this way I hope the post below will be helpful in moving you towards this opportunity.
In this post I will be sharing steps to help you find a summer camp to lead in, and share some ways that camps and conferences can help you expand your ministry impact. They are truly unique opportunities to reach people you wouldn’t meet otherwise and they let groups of churches know your sincere heart. These opportunities to be with people for a few days at a time can potentially lead to some great ministry events when the camp is over as well. These “steps” won’t guarantee these opportunities of course, but I hope to give you some good advice from our experience as to how to find a camp to consider and some things I wish we had an opportunity to know before we entered into our first camp leadership experience.
Steps to Finding a Ministry Camp in Need of Worship Leadership.
- Start looking a year out. This will not be an immediate booking goal. Summer camps typically secure their worship leadership 6 months to 1 year before the camps begin. For our first camp we submitted an application 5 months out and were selected 4 months before the camp’s start date. We were fortunate because they were behind on filling some of the camp locations they managed. It’s a good idea to talk with your pastor or youth minister, and see what denominational camp opportunities are available in your state or on a national level. Ask them if there are any other camps they would recommend or have contacts with. I recommend speaking to the pastors you know first just because they may provide warm contacts for the camps they suggest, but if they don’t have many ideas or if those camps are filled, then web searching is your next step. For us, we spent our teenage years going to the camps were applying to lead worship at, and it was awesome to be a part of the summer camps that impacted us when we were younger. So I highly recommend seeking camps you are familiar with first.
- Once you determine a list of camps you are interested in begin to research them. Go to their website or call their point of contact and ask them any preliminary questions you may have.
- Determine what statement of faith you will need to agree to. If for some reason you don’t agree with what you will be signing look for a camp that shares your faith or denominational values.
- Learn what your job description will be and see how long the camp’s schedule is. Summer camps can be some of the longest and most packed work schedules you can imagine. Some have less responsibility for the worship leader and others have many other duties and responsibilities that you will be expected to take care of in addition to your worship leadership roles. In addition to your roles see what the salary will be. If these things aren’t available on the website or their contact doesn’t have answers, make sure you learn these things before accepting the position if it is offered to you or your group.
- If you agree with the camp’s values and it seems like a potentially good fit, submit your application. There’s a good chance the pastors you talked to earlier would be willing to be a reference for you. For the worship leader position you may need to submit a video. This is easy to do these days, but in 2003 we had to use church video footage captured during a Sunday morning that we led at our church. Your video probably won’t need to be professionally done, but make sure what you submit gives them a good idea of your abilities, personality, and heart for God. If you can demonstrate how you connect in front of a group that would be even better. So much of connecting with people and God during worship goes beyond a person’s talent level. Camps want people who can connect and draw new groups of people into an encounter with Jesus, and this can’t be taught, this has to be something that is springing out of the life of worship you are living out.
If You’re Selected…
If you find yourself being offered a position, ask a few important questions. You should ask if you can sell your merchandise, if you have it, and ask what times your merch. table will be made available. If the camp location and prep. meetings are far away, find out what travel reimbursement they offer as well. It is also important to find out if you can gather an email list so you can share ministry news or contact church group leaders when the camp is over.
Through it all don’t be a diva! Be polite and humble during the hiring process. Camp boards are looking for people of peace that are team players and not just in it for future booking opportunities. If you are only doing it for the future opportunities you will miss incredible opportunities that God will give you to minister at the camp or miss out on camp altogether.
Before Camp Preparation
After the hiring process is complete start making attempts to connect with team leaders and camp pastors. Recognize that you will be assisting your camp director and camp pastor in making the worship and arts portion of the camp the best it can be. As a leader you will be casting vision and serving your team. Be proactive and contact as many of your teammates before the summer begins. You don’t have to have long conversations, just make sure they know you are looking forward to serving with them and that you want to do the necessary prep. work before the camp begins.
Most camps have a short onsite training program before camp begins-usually 3-5 days long. During this time get a sense for the personalities of the people you will be working with. Find out how hands on your camp pastor or pastors are in worship planning. Some will want to be team planners and others will want you to orchestrate around their message theme without much of their input. You will also more than likely be in charge of incorporating creative elements into services. Find out how those elements will impact your daily worship experiences. Make a template, if you aren’t given one, for the summer so you won’t be reinventing the wheel each week. Make sure you learn from the camp ministry director what theme is being emphasized for the summer. Ask the leadership staff to help you form the way you will be communicating the camp vision and theme from the stage. During training look for any opportunity for practice time with the band-especially if your band was hired separately and they aren’t musicians that you have played with before. Observe your band members’ personalities and learn about them. Try to find out who your most talented people are, those who have minimal ability, but most importantly look for those who have a mature faith and heart for God. God is wanting to work in different ways with all of them regardless of their ability or maturity. Develop a plan in the back of your mind that will help you love them where they are and help lead them into different places that you hope to see them grow into. Don’t be afraid to take on a role as a mentor. You don’t have to announce this or do it formally, but ask them questions about goals they have, things they feel confident about, and areas they’d like to grow both musically and spiritually.
After Camp Begins
Through the camp check in with your team to get input about how things are going. Take their feedback, take an opportunity to encourage your band members where you see growth, and be as tactful and encouraging as you can when you are giving constructive feedback. As the summer goes on make a point to spend genuine time around camp attendees and church group leaders. Don’t be a hermit. Most life-changing ministry happens off stage so don’t miss out on it!
After the Camp is Over
In the denomination we were a part of most of the youth groups who came had weekend retreats once a year that were held at their local church. We contacted some churches and some churches contacted us to do these events. We ended up being a part of several of these retreats. Joanna and I led small group break out sessions, led worship, and often times led worship for the main church service on Sunday morning. On many occasions we even did a concert for the church during Sunday evening services to cap off the weekend. It was a crazy schedule, but a lot of doors were opened through it.
Since we now have a family we stopped doing that type of schedule, but initially it really helped grow our reach. Today if we do a retreat we won’t typically will just lead worship for the weekend and for the church on Sunday morning. We only perform a few of our original songs during these weekends. This allows us to promote a few original songs that they can attach to, and it enables them to join in worship with the more popular songs they already know. The few songs that we do of ours will help point them to discover more of our music and possibly purchase it online or at our ministry table afterwards. This is especially important for us not only from a financial standpoint. We believe that when people take our music with them that it has greater potential to impact their lives and that it can become good fuel for their journey with God.
Note About Recurring Conferences and Retreats
I hope this has given you some things to think about if your considering camp leadership. Though I’ve spent most of this post talking about summer camps I’d like to say a little about how this applies to retreats and conferences. When it comes to discovering retreats and conferences to lead there are a lot of similarities. Once you find recurring conferences and retreats through your search, contact the point person for these events and see what the openings are for future years. Ask them if you can send them some physical or online promotional materials. In this regard it is more like booking a church event. You’re basically sharing your ministry and music with them to see if they believe you will be a good fit for what they are putting together. Unlike multi-week camps, you won’t be hired as an employee but will typically be paid a fee for your involvement and that fee is typically based on a portion of what attendees are paying for the event.
Challenge: In the coming week try to pinpoint a camp, retreat, or conference that has an opening in the coming year and contact the point person to see what opportunities are available.
Your Turn to Share
If you have done a camp before share a fun story or how camps have helped you expand your ministry’s reach.