Advice for the Republic Leader

Day Camp Director Rick Howard is a Birmingham, AL native, former basketball player, and collegiate statistician. While attending Belhaven University, he first served on Barefoot Republic Camp's summer staff in 2012 alongside his now-wife, Morgan. Together they have two children, Israel and Ezekiel.

Rick Howard smiling with three campers at Nashville, Tennessee camp

Serving as a camp counselor at Barefoot Republic Camp is a very fulfilling experience. Since we call our cabin groups “republics”, counselors at Barefoot are known as “republic leaders” or “republic counselors”. Republics are small communities of kids from all nations who come together as a united family.


Republic leaders and republic counselors have the unique opportunity to shepherd the youth in the way of the Lord. Republic leaders not only serve as the logistical leader in the group, but they are also called to lead our camp activities, known as specialties.


Whether your main role is to be the spiritual leader or specialty leader, being a camp counselor at Barefoot Republic Camp will yield a valuable experience and lifelong friendships.


Serving as a counselor at Barefoot is not a small task. Before joining us during the Summer, it’s important for the staffer to remember these 10 things.


1. Be creative


As a republic leader and working at a camp in general, one should know that everything doesn’t always go according to plan. What if you have a counselor who’s homesick? What if a camper is having a tough time following the devotional for the day?

We will always equip our staff with necessary tools to utilize during those “what if” moments, but Barefoot counselors who are great at going off-script are well loved by campers.


2. Be real, authentic, and honest


One of the toughest parts about being a counselor at Barefoot is being able to relate to all your campers. Because we are intentional about having republics filled with campers from different backgrounds, there is a strong need for the counselor to be cultured. At the very least, one should be empathetic and show the willingness to listen to what each camper has to say.

Campers want to know that you are being genuine and not putting on a show for them. When one is honest they’re able to build trust and cultivate relationships with the camper.


3. Pray


One of my favorite parts of serving at a Christian camp is the freedom we are given to pray. While we know how to have fun in several ways, our shared faith and love for Jesus Christ anchors our commitment to Barefoot Republic Camp. By regularly communicating with God, we’re demonstrating our trust and reliance on Him alone. This trust allows our faith to grow, and we encourage our campers and staff to take all things to the Lord in prayer.


4. Know your campers’ names


Not everyone excels at name recollection, and that’s okay. Some leaders have the ability to hear all the names in their republic once, then perfectly recite them. Others might need to rehearse these names each day to commit them to memory. No matter where you are on that spectrum, you have no idea how excited it makes a camper when they hear their name called. Campers know you care when you’re willing to take the time to remember their name. I recommend that all republic leaders and Counselors use a mnemonic device to remember the names of the camper’s they are responsible for.


5. Don’t be afraid to discipline campers


Discipline is HUGE. It’s so huge that it sets the tone for the week, in my opinion. You’ll have some campers who try to test their boundaries, so it’s vital that they lovingly establish the order of their republic early. I recommend that the leaders of each republic talk through their policies before going through the week. Making the camper aware of how they should behave keeps everyone on the same page. When those boundaries are crossed, all parties understand that this has taken place. Speaking the trust through allows the camper to understand that while you’re firm, you’re operating out of a place of love.


6. Have joy


Being upbeat and happy is great, but having the joy of the Lord represents a fuller version of that excitement. When a republic leader has that “unspeakable joy” 1 Peter 1 describes, their day isn’t conditional to their mood. Sure, one will undoubtedly have some tough days. Being a camp counselor anywhere is a grind. Having the joy of the Lord assures you that nothing you face during the summer or anytime will separate you from the Love of Christ.


7. Be Flexible


Because your campers have different needs, learning styles, and are different in other ways, republic leaders need to be flexible. Being able to adapt your teaching style to suit the camper is key to the relationship you’ll have with the campers in your republic. You’ll have campers who are kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learners, so you need to be able to teach in multiple ways.


8. Get rest/recharge


When there’s a lack of sleep, burnout is inevitable. It’s important to know that getting your rest is biblical. Yes, we’re called to sleep and recharge. One might want to burn the midnight oil to study the Word in preparation for the next day’s devotional, or simply to hangout. However, getting the proper rest helps you to recharge for the rigors of tomorrow.


9. Meet camper families


Getting campers to camp on time to be registered and navigating through traffic can seem like a mad dash. Sure, you have the notes for each camper in your republic, but there’s nothing like going the extra mile to meet the parents or guardians to stamp the overall experience at Barefoot Republic Camp. After Friday or Saturday’s Youth Production, take some time to meet your camper families. It brings joy to the camper as well as the parents and staff members.


10. Journal


Not everyone needs to journal to remember their experiences- but, personally, this was one of my favorite pastimes when I served as a republic leader at overnight camp in 2012 and 2013. So many exciting and moving moments would happen throughout the course of a day, so I had to be intentional about organizing my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. There was NOTHING like sitting on the top of the soccer field recapping the week, on a day when all campers, other staff, and the week of camp had come to an end. Sitting alone with my thoughts, pen and paper, and my Lord was the perfect way to remember why Barefoot REALLY rocks.


Sound like a rewarding and fun experience?! Apply here to serve on Barefoot summer staff.

Group of campers smiling on steps at Kentucky summer camp



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