When Camp is Over

Issues Kids Deal With / Leadership //

I spend a good chunk of each summer at camps speaking to kids. I kinda really love it. It challenges my communication skills, it gives me amazing “kid time”, it draws me closer to Jesus, it allows me to build into young leaders, it gives me stories and illustrations for days, and the list goes on and on. It’s equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.

I’m currently winging my way towards New York where I’ll be doing my 30th camp in 5 years. What an incredible blessing.

I do something that apparently is unique to most speakers, at the end of my week I give kids my card. They are given one of these.

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Kids are natural connectors and most of them are more sentimental than grandmothers. When they connect with someone they want to continue that connection. I’m the queen of sentimentality so I get that, I understand them. So I allow them to have access to me.

A lot of people think I’m crazy to give out my information to kids. I know I’m not crazy (ha ha), but I am unique. Kids make huge decisions at camp that directly affect the rest of their lives. That impact is never felt quite so deeply as right after camp when the spiritual high is low, the sunburn is peeling, and the songs are still stuck in their heads. They begin to question and doubt and wonder. Mostly they’re looking for someone who was there, someone who remembers. I remember.

And then there is Miss Mel’s heart who has thousands of kids etched upon it. Each one holds a piece of my heart and I love that. I love them.

So I allow them to be connected. A lot of them follow me on Instagram. They go through right after camp and like every single picture I’ve ever taken and then they take silly pictures and tag me in them. A few of them put right in their instagram bios that you simply MUST follow @melissajmacdonald.  Very few actually text or e-mail me for very long. I typically average about 10 a camp and they usually taper off in a few days. 3-5 call me in a summer. But nearly every kid who had me at a camp the year before will tell me they still have their card. They know right where it is and they’ve saved it.

Camp Decisions

It’s worth it.

2 weeks ago I got a call from an 8 year old girl from camp. She said, “I figured since you were religious I could talk to you about my mom’s cancer. I’m scared.” So we talked and I prayed with her as my eyes welled up with tears.

One 11 year old has been texting me every day telling me about how scared she is about her grandpa’s health and how much she wishes her mom wasn’t in jail. So I text back and tell her I’m praying.

And then I get these kind of e-mails:

Hi Miss Mel,
It’s Kami!! I haven’t written to you in a while! I miss you so much. I have great news!!! I FULLY ACCEPTED CHRIST INTO MY LIFE!!!! I’m so excited and happy!!! I just wanted to let you know!!!
From camp rivercrest last year

Sent from my iPod
Hi this is Tara from 9 square

It’s not getting better for  family but I am still praying.

Dear Miss Mel,

I was one of your students at camp rivercrest. It seems as if I am having a different relationship with God outside of camp also I don’t feel like my life is complete still I am with God but I feel as if my whole life has been turned upsidown because of my mom and dad have been divorced since i was three and I am worried about going back to school and that I’ll have no friends and get made fun of and I know I am a pineapple person because my mom dad and grandma say that I am being rude to a lot of people but i really need your help especially with my moms boyfriend Steve I just hate him so much and I really need your help please write back talking to me and telling me what I should do you can contact me and write back at

The cost per card is pennies, the cost for me to reply is nothing but heart time, and the meaning it has for them is priceless.

I am by no means saying that everyone should do this but for me it works and I thought I would share. I love love love all their messages and pictures and awkward texts. It brings joy to my heart and it reminds me to pray. It’s worth it to connect.






About the Author

Passionate about children's ministries Melissa J. MacDonald is a published author, in demand speaker, and a children's ministry innovator. Melissa is also the national Children's Disciplemaking Ministries Specialist for the C&MA (Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination). She spends her time training, coaching, speaking, equipping, and consulting with churches and groups both in the US and abroad. Melissa loves everything about children's ministry except for stale cheerios and cranky volunteers. Find out more at