Be intentional about getting trained in how to lead cabin time. Meet with your Area Director/staff person or another experienced leader and ask them how they do it. Experience is the best teacher.
Prepare for a Marathon
You wouldn't go into the Olympics without training before you got there. A week at Young Life camp is going to feel like a marathon, physically and spiritually. Get physical and spiritual rest. Be with Jesus. Cast your cares and fears upon Him.
Earn the Right to be Heard
Once you have spread mulch, washed cars, and sold doughnuts with kids to help them raise $ for camp, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. My pre-algebra teacher had a sign on her desk that said, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." Spend time BEFORE you get to camp earning the right to be heard. Your hours fundraising and doing contact work before camp will directly impact your cabin times at camp.
Connect With A Head Leader
Head leaders serve on the Assigned Team and their main job is to help you. If you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask one of them to come and sit in your cabin time with you.
Set Group Rules With Your Cabin
- Everyone sits on the floor in a circle. No one on their bunks. It’s too easy to fall asleep and when folks are on different levels it makes it hard to look one another in the eye.
- What's said in cabin time stays in cabin time. We want this to be a safe place and not a starting place for gossip. Protect kids. Stand up for them. Sharing honestly could leave them vulnerable to laughter, ridicule, and shame.
- Respect one another. When someone is talking, don't interrupt. I use a pair of clean, balled up socks. When you're holding the socks, you can talk. When you get done talking, you toss the socks to someone else.
Our job as leaders isn't to use the cabin time to give another talk. Listen more than you speak. Don't fear silence. Be patient. Invite everyone into the conversation. Try to open cabin time with a question that everyone can answer. Get folks involved who might otherwise just sit there silently. Make sure to use open-ended questions that cannot be answered with the words "yes" or "no." It helps if you are familiar with the questions and can be more conversational. Don't just read questions off of a sheet and check them off, be engaging and facilitating a conversation. This is a learned skill that takes practice. I think it's worth practicing with a group of leaders before you even get to camp!
I have a pocket-sized notebook I carry with me everywhere at camp. I take notes during the club talks and during cabin times. I tell my cabin on night 1 that I'm taking notes because I want to be able to remember everything. It's super helpful to write things down that we're said in cabin time so you can follow up later with specific kids. I also use the notebook throughout the following school year to help me pray for kids.
Individually Prep Kids
If there are kids in your cabin who have been to camp before, pull them aside before cabin time and ask them to 'hold back' and not give 'all the answers.' Ask kids who are following Christ to help you facilitate the time by chiming in appropriately.
On the first night of camp it's ok to let the cabin time be brief and not super deep, but make sure you set the precedent that your cabin is going to do this routine every night, non-negotiable. Let them know that you want to hear from them. Club is their time to listen and cabin time is their time to speak.
Listen to the Holy Spirit
Your camp speaker will likely give you great questions to use in cabin time. Don't feel obligated to use all of them, they are just a guideline. Listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide your time. Don't stress if you feel like cabin time isn't what you had hoped. It's not your job to manipulate kids, just create a safe place, set the tone, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead.
Read the Room
Ask the Lord to give you an awareness of what's going on behind the scenes with the kids in your cabin. Some of them are dealing with heavy stuff. After the cross talk on night 5, there will be some kids who want to have a 4 hour cabin time and some that don't want to talk at all. Be aware of how the conversation is going. It's okay to end cabin time and ask a few individual kids if they would like to keep meeting while the others are dismissed to free time.
Often kids will go silent if you ask a direct question about them. Ex: "What is the biggest temptation you personally face?" If you simply rephrase the question, "What do you think are some of the biggest temptations people your age face?" they will be more likely to speak up.
Tell Me More
If a kid cracks open a door to their heart, be sensitive. And when it's appropriate, ask them to tell you more. The simple phrase "tell me more about that" will give kids permission to go deeper.
The 10 Best Questions
Follow your camp speaker's lead as to when certain questions should be asked, there is a strategic progression throughout the week, simpler questions at the beginning and deeper questions as the week progresses. Below are some of the best questions that have led to deep discussions in our cabin times in the past.
- What do you do to be noticed? (Rephrased: What do your friends do to be noticed?)
- How would your friends describe you?
- What emotions describe you these days? (Frustrated, lonely, confused, etc.)
- Describe your best day.
- Describe your worst day.
- What is your relationship with your parents like?
- Finish the sentence, "Jesus, don't you care that..."
- What have you done to deserve a relationship with God?
- How has your picture of Jesus changed this week?
- What is keeping you from believing and following Jesus?
Take it Home
Many Campaigner groups have started out of cabin times at camp. At the end of the week suggest to your cabin, "Wouldn't this be awesome if we could continue having cabin time regularly once we get back home?" Go ahead and look at your calendar now and find some time that could work for you to schedule a few post-camp cabin times after camp.
Written by Drew Hill.
Here is a link to tons of great cabin time questions collected by Sean McGever at YLHelp.com.