Let the Poor Kids Sleep!

Youth Specialties
January 5th, 2012

This may come off as a bit RANT-ish. You've been forewarned.

True story: go back a few years to the days when I was a teenager at a Christian summer camp somewhere in Minnesota. I was tall, super skinny, and liked to sleep a lot – as most teens tend to. One problem: my adult chaperone – or whatever they called adult camp volunteers back in the day – didn't value sleep as much as I did. At least, that's what his actions communicated.

This is what happened pretty much every night… The lights would go out. Some kid would fart… sorry, I mean “pass gas”. Laughter would ensue. Some kid would start talking. Others would join in. Some kid would go to the bathroom. Every other kid in the room would go to the bathroom. The leader may have yelled “Go to sleep!” or “Be quiet!” a time or two but – other than that – no real action was taken. I pretended like I was enjoying being needlessly “entertained” and extremely exhausted in lieu of said company. The next day I would find myself nodding my head in small groups and service times.

Come back forward a few years with me. Another true story: As a youth pastor, student event coordinator, and camp director over the past ten years, I've placed a high value on that little thing on the schedule called “lights out”. I communicate with leaders the importance of really having kids “present” in the times where the opportunities for ministry and spiritual impact are at their highest. That doesn't belittle relational things like boys laughing at the passing of gas and other such oddities. That can happen at any time of the day – and hopefully, when they are well-rested enough to actually enjoy it!

Is anyone with me? It seems like this is important for more than a couple reasons…

1. RESPECT – Respect for the kid at camp that really wants to pursue a deeper relationship with God. A few jokers staying up late and keeping everyone up ISN'T funny. Also, respect for the volunteer leader who has given up a week of their time to love God and love kids. They deserve a good nights sleep!

2. HEALTH – “Imagine a cure-all that helps prevent cancer, weight gain and heart disease; one that can improve memory and athletic performance and even fend off colds. Now suppose that this panacea is pleasurable. It's not a daily pill, painful injection or bizarre-tasting tonic.” – Patti Wolter of SELF magazine. It's SLEEP!

3. ABSORPTION Studies have shown that a lack of sleep severely affects memory and attention span. Aren't we trying to MAKE memories?

4. ATTITUDE – Want generally better attitudes at your event? Provide space for adequate rest.

5. SAFETY – Typical camp activities such as rock wall climbing, ropes courses, and other physical challenges become more dangerous than they should be when kids aren't fully there because of a lack of sleep. In addition, that drive home with sleepy adult leaders is NO GOOD on any count.

As a NextGen leader, lets value our students and leaders by making sleep a higher priority than students' perceived need to stay-up-late. A few points of action to consider…

If staying-up-late is that important to you, do the smart thing and schedule accordingly. Plan for it ahead of time. If something happens in your schedule to keep students and leaders up later than planned, fix that by being flexible with your schedule the next day. Meaning: a later wake-up time. Educate your leaders and inform students ahead of time. Let them know your expectations. Be loving but firm with action and consequences for those keeping others up past lights out. It's not only affecting them; it's affecting everyone who's in their room. Don't let that happen.

So, what's your take? Am I just a wounded camper-boy taking out sweet revenge on unsuspecting campers or is there some value in all of this?

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.