Preparing for The Gauntlet As A First Time Room Leader | Fear, Faith and Facing the Unknown

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Monday morning at 3:30 AM, I’m taking a leap of faith. Well, really a short drive of faith, actually, to NewSpring’s Anderson Campus where I will park and follow instructions and receive the identities of 4 young ladies who will be my “campers” for the week of July 25th through 29th… my first group of Gauntlet girls.

Wait, The Gauntlet? What the heck is The Gauntlet? If you’re not familiar, The Gauntlet is NewSpring’s version of “church camp”. This year over 5,000 middle school and high schoolers and about 2,500 volunteers will descend on Daytona Beach, FL for a week of immersion into faith and fellowship and following Jesus, and of course fun!

{Gauntlet 2014 Recap}

I have no idea what my students’ names are, whether or not they like each other or if they will even know each other. I don’t know what their interests are, who their families are, what school they go to, or whether they are even believers. I don’t know what the sermons will be about, what questions my girls will have, what their life experiences are.

Am I nervous about having 4 pre-teens or teenangers that belong to other people in my care for the week? Absolutely. Am I nervous about being asked tough questions that I may have to rely completely on faith to answer in the spirit of the moment? Absolutely. Am I nervous that I will be able to find the right words of support and love and care and encouragement if and when the week calls for it? Absolutely.

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{Gauntlet X Stats from NewSpring’s 2015 Annual Report}

Here is what I do know:

It is practice.

At the most basic level, next week will be good practice in more than one way. Van and I want to have children some day. I’ve taught pre-school, I have a god-daughter who is in middle school and a god-son who is about to be. I have nieces who are two and three. I have lots of friends who have kids. Cousins who have kids. I was a kid once. I love kids. I also feel like it’s not only important to practice parenting skills with infants, toddlers and small children, but also with pre-teens and teens. Practice makes perfect, right?

It will also be good practice in being a thermostat instead of a thermometer.  A thermometer measures the temperature, but a thermostat SETS the temperature. (Special thanks to NewSpring’s volunteer training for that fabulous analogy & life lesson). Next week is an opportunity to practice SETTING the temperature no matter what the circumstances. This is a good life skill for any situation. It’s going to be hot – the real temperature outside, I mean. There will be long days. Lots of walking. Lots of people. Lots of opinions. Lots of variables. So many variables. I will be sleeping on the floor of a hotel room for 4 nights and I’m in my mid-thirties, so I will likely be tired a majority of the time. However, I can choose to complain, to show my fatigue outwardly, to lead the way in being a whiney pants or I can choose to make this the best week ever and show these girls that all circumstances are temporary and life is what you make of it. If I maintain a positive attitude, chances are, they will be too (at least part of the time). If I sing and act silly to fight my fatigue instead of wallow in it, chances are they will too. If I drink lots of water and just try to ignore how dang hot it is outside, chances are they will too. If I work hard to keep it fun and faithful and fulfilling, chances are, they will too.

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It is an investment.

An old adage says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I am part of a village. I have committed to investing this time with these kids, using my vacation days from work, stepping away from my home and husband and sweet pup for a week, sacrificing my time that I could spend working on unpacking and painting and decorating my new house, time I could spend painting picture and creating invitations and updating my Etsy shop, or time I could spend going on a relaxing vacation by a beach somewhere with my hubs instead to invest this precious and valuable time in loving and encouraging and listening to the future of our community, our state, our nation and our world.

These kids – each and every one of them – matter. They matter tremendously. As we have seen more and more recently, the state of affairs in our world is not exactly ideal. Investing in the next generation is the best thing we can do for the future of our communities. These may be someone else’s kids, but they are our future workforce, our leaders, our law makers, our artists, our educators, and our community builders. “NewSpring believes in pouring into the next generation and teaching them to love and follow Jesus with their whole hearts,” the megachurch explains on its website. “We have The Gauntlet in order to create a focused, distraction-free environment where students can hear the truth of God’s Word, be challenged in their own personal walks with Jesus, and just have a blast hanging out with other students at the beach!”

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It is an act of Faith.

So, I’m a little bit Type A. I like to be prepared. I like to gather information about the unknown, especially when it affects my circumstances. I like to be able to see the big and to process what is going on from all angles. I was probably one of those annoying “Why? Why? Why?” three-year-olds. Don’t get me wrong, NewSpring does an excellent job training volunteers for the week of The Gauntlet – including a mandatory volunteer training meeting – whether you’ve never been before or if you’ve been to the last ten, a background check, an interview, at least one video training showing you where you’ll be and how it will go, and additionally some available Q&A time with staff. However, there are always things you don’t know about something until you’ve actually participated in that something, like, what ELSE should I bring that’s not on the list. What ELSE do I need to know that’s NOT discussed in the video or training guide or Q&A or interview. I am a hands on learner, so I learn best by actually doing something for the first time. In this case, there’s not really a practice round. I have been asking people who have been before (see the list at the end of the post) for tips, tricks, and as much information as I can get my hands on. Hindsight is 20/20 right? I mean, I’m spending a week with four pre-teens or teens. I need all the help I can get. Ultimately, I have to just use what I know, pack (lightly) what I think will be best, and have faith that I’ll figure the rest out when I get there.

Fear of the unknown is powerful. This situation has a lot of what-ifs… what if I get asked some really hard questions? How will I know what to say? What if the kids sneak out? Should I sleep in front of the door? What if they are frenemies? What if they just can’t get along? What if I can’t relate to them? What if they think I’m an old fuddy duddy? What if I am completely clueless as to what it’s like to be a teenager today? I mean, it has been a few years. What if they just won’t talk? What if they talk about experiences I have no clue about? What if one of them gets lost? What if one of them gets hurt and their parents hate me forever? How will I know what to do in any situation that arises? What if I get so emotional that I cry? Will they think I’m ridiculous? What if? What if? What if?

Faith, however, is more powerful. I feel called to spend my time and energy – as in my life – creatively inspiring and giving to others. What is more creative than leading the next generation in a supervisory capacity so they can connect with each other and Jesus? What is more creative and faithful than to love these kids that, right now, I don’t even know so that they can spend a week growing in their walk and finding the way in their faith?

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Faith tells me I will probably get asked some hard questions, but I will know how to answer them when the time comes, OR I will know where to find the answers, OR I will know who to ask to help me answer them best.

Faith tells me that sometimes one of the wisest things you can say is, “I honestly don’t know, but I will help you look for the answer.”

Faith tells me that they probably won’t sneak out, and if they do they will learn from their mistakes and have to face the consequences of their actions.

Faith tells me that they might be frenemies, but maybe this trip was put in their path to bring them together and learn that anyone can find common ground if they just look hard enough.

Faith tells me that they might not talk at the beginning of the week but they probably will by the end.

Faith tells me if they do get lost, we WILL find them. There will be a lot of people down there that can help look, after all, and as a responsible adult I will establish a check point with my crew on the first day in case we get separated.

Faith tells me accidents happen, and they might get hurt, but they probably won’t. Or they might, but there are plans in place and people who can help and places to go for pretty much any situation that arises because the planners at NewSpring think through every potential situation they can possibly think of or has arisen in the last 10 years of The Gauntlet.

Faith tells me that I will find the way to navigate through the tough questions, the iffy and uncomfortable conversations, and even the possible (and likely) teenager hormonal emotions, and what will most likely be one of the best weeks of my life if I just stop, and breathe, and listen.

Listen carefully. Listen intentionally. Listen hard. Listen well. Just listen.

{You Make Me Brave – Amanda Cook & Bethel Music}

Without a doubt, I know from experience that every time I have taken a leap of faith to face a fear in my life, I grow. It might not be easy or instantaneous or seamless or perfect, but I always grow. I learn. I make new relationships or I end harmful ones. I become a better person. I become more faithful. One thing I know without a doubt is that Every. Single. Time I choose to face fear and rely on faith, I gain freedom and peace and gratitude unlike any other.

I can’t wait for next week.

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If anyone has tips or suggestions for this first timer, I welcome any or all input! For any of you other first timers out there…here are some things that have been suggested to me:

  • Uno/Deck of Cards
  • Gatorade powder or instant drink mix for a change of pace from water and for girls/boys who may not be as inclined to chug water without some flavor. You don’t want to have to take your whole group to medical because one person is dehydrated.
  • A Portable Phone Charger (I ordered THIS ONE)
  • A goody bag for your girls (or guys) with pens, journal, candy
  • Something to unify your team – headbands, bandanas, bracelets
  • Lots of sunscreen
  • Pack extra snacks to have during small group time
  • Protein Bars
  • An air mattress
  • Advil
  • Dollar bills for drink machines
  • Two towels
  • Pack Light, Wear cool clothing
  • Workout gear for day time, casual comfortable night time – 2 outfits per day
  • Pillow/Blanket for bus ride
  • Extra Coffee
  • Expect to be tired
  • Listening is more important than answering
  • Pray for the Lord’s guidance
  • Find time to chat with each girl (or boy) individually
  • Play 20 questions the first night to get to know each other (each person in the room writes 5)
  • Ask how everyone wants to spend free time and make a plan for the week so there is no argument when the time comes.
  • Have each girl (or goy) write an expectation for the week and then discuss it at the end of the week
  • Comfy Shoes, Comfy Shoes, COMFY SHOES!!!!
  • Patience, Kindness & Love

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The Olive Shoe | Paperie & Design | Celebrating Creativity and Creatively Celebrating is designed and run by Laure {LAC} James © 2016 LAC James All Rights Reserved.

Lauren {LAC} James is a Sr. Designer of Product Graphics for an international manufacturing company by day and a creativity crusader, designer, planner extraordinaire, artist and blogger in her “free” time. Follow her and The Olive Shoe on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram! Please subscribe to receive emails, and of course, come back and visit again soon!

Please visit the online art gallery {Art by LAC} and Etsy Shop too!

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