How do you go to summer camp as a mom of 3?

     A question I get asked a lot! "When you are a woman in youth ministry with three kiddos, how do you even do the summer camp thing?" I've been doing youth ministry for almost 18 years and I've been a mom in youth ministry since 2001. And I've gone to camp every summer since. Well almost.  There was the summer when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and the Jr. High Pastor I was working with was kind to let me skip out on that one. It would have made for a good speaking illustration to actually give birth at middle school camp! I like when crazy things happen, it gives me more stories to tell!

     So how do I do summer camp when I have 3 kids? I have two secret weapons. First is my husband. He is a school teacher and has summers off.  God, in His infinite wisdom called ME (a girl!) into youth ministry and gave me the gift of a true ministry partner who has a love for youth ministry and a love for family AND a ministry friendly schedule to make it all work. God gave me a husband who is always off when my youth group students are off. I married a teacher and his schedule makes my schedule possible. He stayed home this past week while I was away in Big Bear at camp Pondo with high school students.

     Our kids (Josh, Jenna, and Julia) love camp week, because Tim makes it special by doing "dad" type stuff with the kids. Late movie nights, too much video game time, Mc Donald's for lunch, bike rides to Starbucks, lots of visits to parks, less reminders to shower, and a lot more ice cream. The kids know dad style fun is in the house when mom leaves. Before I left, I stocked my fridge with tons of Kitchen to Go meals from Fresh & Easy.  My husband LOVES when I leave a ton of fun food in the fridge for the week (especially when it's a Kitchen to Go meal!) Look at all the yummy food I left for him!

My Kitchen To Go Meals for Tim and the kids while I am away at camp!  
     Do you know what is really cool?  Tim, my husband loves youth ministry too! In fact, next week, thanks to his super-awesome-absolutely superior-divinely appointed teacher schedule with summers OFF, he is going to Middle School Camp with our church as a volunteer counselor. He is going with our son Josh to camp Pondo in Big Bear with our middle school youth group. Josh is really excited to have dad along. It's our 11 year old's FIRST middle school youth group camp experience and he has been counting down the days! He even cleaned out my car to earn extra cash for the Pondo camp store.

 My Secret Weapon #2 is family! 
     If I plan it out right and ask ahead of time...I have a wonderful mother in law who has a big heart for ministry and loves having nana time with the kids. She is willing to take vacation time to spend with my children and help out while I am away speaking at camps, conferences, or if Tim comes with me on a youth ministry trip. My husband is GREAT at youth ministry, and when possible he comes on youth ministry trips too. He is full of personality and fun, and having him on a trip is a huge bonus! So if I ask ahead of time, I get nana JoAnn to come down (she lives 6 hours away from us) and watch the kids. They love it, and she loves it (although I am sure they wear her out!) My sister in law is also a youth worker. We try to coordinate our trips and take turns asking Nana for help...so we don't both need her at the same time (although it's tempting to drop off all the grand-babies and run!)

     My mom has less vacation time, but if needed for shorter weekend retreats or speaking gigs, I ask her and she helps out too! Currently, my mom watches the kids every Wednesday night while Tim and I hang out with high school students at our weekly summer beach bonfires (yup...a tough southern California life with youth group at the beach!) My mom and dad live locally and it helps a lot.

    If I didn't have family near, or a husband who has summers off, I would have to ask church family to help, or take students to camps which provide counselors and drive up and visit them while they are at camp (not my ideal).  There are also some camp which provide youth pastor's cabins to stay in (so you can bring the family).  I've also seen some youth workers book their own families into a "family camp" and their students simultaneously into high school (or middle school) camp during the same week at the same camp. Bigger camps/conference centers tend to have this option. It can work! You have to be creative and take it one summer season at a time.

     If you are a mama youth worker....how do you make summer camp work?


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