By Michelle Noyes, Staff In Training (SIT) Leader
*This post originally appeared on the author's blog and has been shared here with her permission.
I have so enjoyed getting to know the various members of staff. I've found that Jessie is far more "hard core" than I initially thought. She ate a worm!! She also can run all the way up the mountainside wearing a heavy backpack. We have decided to be prayer partners this summer.
I am primarily focused, of course, on the SITs (Staff In Training.) The first group arrived Sunday – Taylor, Jacob, Rachel, and Joanna. They are sort of like my campers, and sort of like my friends, and very much like my partners. I am their leader, but I am also one of them. We are the “sits” (or “the zits”, as James from Maintenance lovingly calls us.) Or, if you listen to Staff Pastor Rick, we are the Stupendously Inimitable Team. :) That is title the SITs have decided to adopt into their poster.
I'm going to have a fresh batch of SITs every two weeks all summer, but it is hard to imagine any could ever be as wonderful as these four. They are all 16 but have the most inspiring attitudes. When they first arrived on Sunday I told them straight up, “The rest of the staff don't know what to expect from you so they aren't counting on you at all. It is on us to find ways to make ourselves useful. We have been given the materials to wash cars. SITs, time to earn your spurs!” The rest of that long, hot afternoon, those SITs hooted and hollered and danced in the streets, begging people to let them wash their cars for free. I think they recruited about 5 cars over the course of the entire day, but they rejoiced over each of those cars as though it were a grand prize. By the end of the afternoon, all four were worn out, Rachel had sunburn, and Jacob's eye was swollen shut from a mysterious allergy. But they had proven that they were willing to work – work hard, with a cheerful attitude. Their two weeks of service had begun!
Staff In Training (SITs) have a rather ambiguous job description. They fall under the category of “Support Staff”, but they do not belong to any given support department (for example, Kitchen assistance, Nature instruction, Maintenance, Housekeeping etc). Support Staff usually support counselors and campers. SITs, on the other hand, support the Support Staff! Sometimes the SITs get pulled in to do fun things like help counselors take campers hiking or boating, but most of the time the SITs work behind the scenes washing dishes, cleaning toilets, and pulling weeds.
SITs don't even have the benefit of the status and social support of being “full staff”. They were not present during staff training/bonding week, plus they are the same age as some of the campers! This means they have to work twice as hard to be respected as the (temporary, volunteer) staff members that they are.
I told them that the way to earn their rightful place among the staff is to be even more “staff-like” than the staff! “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but instead set an example for the believers....” (1 Timothy 4:12) I told them that if they, the SITs, exemplify the values of the camp, (professionalism, selfless service, cheerfulness, etc.) then they will fit in seamlessly with the other staff members. To this end, I also taught them to introduce themselves and offer their services. “Remember, you are not campers. You do not need to be taken care of. You are staff! You will have to initiate.”
My job title is SIT Leader (though I usually introduce myself as the SIT “supervisor”.) My job is partially to coordinate and supervise their work assignments. (I coordinate with the leaders of other departments and lend out my SITs wherever they can be useful at a given time.) Just as much, however, my job is also to mentor and disciple them. To this end, we have a daily “Mining for Gold” hour, which is set aside for spiritual exercises (such as Bible study, prayer, labyrinth, and anything else I think of.) I think my favorite Mining for Gold activity so far was praying for various members of the staff who are going through a particularly hard time and then writing them encouraging letters. Most of all, my goal (and job) is to lead them (by example) in being truly Christ-like servants.
Lucky for me, they arrived with very good attitudes and very realistic expectations. (Rachel told me that her one hope was to receive a staff T-shirt.) In one of our Mining for Gold sessions, I asked them each to choose a personal “theme verse” to inspire them throughout their two weeks. Taylor chose Luke 17:10, the verse which says, “I am but an unworthy servant, for I have only done my duty.” This verse prompted us to talk about how simply doing an excellent, thorough job when assigned is the baseline of our duty. We want to go above and beyond!
I told them each time they find a chance to do something extra, something above and beyond the call of duty, I will give them a bead to put on the chord that holds their name tags. The other night I saw Rachel helping Tina (a tiny firecracker of a kitchen assistant) stack chairs. Pretty soon all four SITs were folding chairs all over the cafeteria, finishing the job in no time! Tina later told me that she was very blessed, especially since stacking all the chairs is her least favorite job; it hurts her back. I cant tell you how I burst with pride to see the beads stacking up around each neck.
As part of leading by example, I have also been watching for chances to serve “above and beyond” my duty. The SITs set a high bar; I have to struggle to keep up with them! The other day I came across TWO plugged toilets. One was full of number two. Instead of finding someone else to deal with the problem, I decided to gingerly “man up”, and wincingly wield a plunger. It is enough to say that I did successfully unstop the toilets. I also, however, ended up with poop splashed all over my foot. >< It turned out that Jacob was also cleaning toilets that day. We exchanged stories and he said that MY experience reminded him that he always has something to be grateful for. He might be cleaning toilets, but at least his shoes are clean.
As the SITs leader, I am also their servant. They are servants of servants, and I am servant of all! What a great joy, challenge, and privilege. I am incredibly lucky that, by some miracle, my parents managed to instill in me a deep joy and thankfulness at the prospect of getting to serve the humblest members of the staff. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do unto the least of these my brothers, you did unto me." Matthew 25:40