When I was a teenager, 89% of my energy at summer camp and church retreats was spent trying to kiss girls. Tender Ronis if you will. The important word to note in that first sentence is “trying.” I know this may shock many of you, but I was not a ladies man. I didn’t even want to be one but there’s a secret guild of pastor’s kids that makes you misbehave. They approached me when I turned 13 and informed me that as the eldest son in our family, it was my job to live up to the song “Son of a Preacher Man.” So I did what I had to do for the safety of my family, the PKG (Pastor’s Kid Guild) is a dangerous bunch. I’ve said too much.
But times have changed. I’m a dad of two little girls now that will one day go to summer camp or a church retreat. And when they do, some punk kid with a name like “Thayyne” is going to try to make purple with them. (Boys are signified as representing the color blue and girls the color pink. When they kiss, they make purple, so it’s common to hear youth ministers yelling “no making purple” at camp.)
And knowing that I can only arm my kids with so much sarcasm and Godly wisdom, I decided to create something youth ministers and leaders can use to dramatically reduce the amount of making out at camp. Taking lessons from Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, I have created the “Reduction Of Making Purple” Manifesto, or the “ROMP Manifesto.”
1. Eliminate wartime propaganda
When Mao was fighting against the Nationalists in China, they used all sorts of propaganda to encourage their enemy to give up and join their side. Think that same thing doesn’t happen at camp? You’re crazy. The first thing you want to do is make a rule that no pants with writing on the butt can be worn.
2. Encourage bad breath
In the eighth grade I used to date a girl named Sue. After every school dance, during which boys sat sweatily on one side and girls on the other while listening to Ace of Bass, we would walk to a local pizza joint. It used to kill me when Sue would eat ranch flavored chips. Those may taste great, but it makes your breath smell like warm garbage. And white cheddar popcorn has the same effect. It tastes good but makes your fingers and your mouth smell like throw up. So instead of having a well-stocked snack table or snack booth at camp, only offer bad breath items after 5PM. Call it the “garlic pickle rule.” Don’t sell gum or mints or other things that are going to make kids’ mouths like Alpine ski resorts of freshness. Focus on things like Swiss cheese, beef jerky and other unpleasantly-flavored delights.
3. Know your enemy.
Weeks before camp or a retreat begins, go over the roster of people that will be attending with your staff. Put a check by the name of everyone you think is likely to at one point kiss someone. Go ahead and put a check by any of the pastor’s kids. Don’t be fooled by the dorks either. You might think the kids playing world of warcraft 82 hours a day aren’t going to make out, but they will. As Sun Tzu says, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt.”
4. Don’t create Gremlins.
In the movie, “Gremlins,” the little creatures that were the star of the film got out of control if you fed them after a certain time. I look at kids and energy drinks the same way. Don’t let the kids load up on caffeine, but don’t just throw the energy drinks away. The Art of War says that “a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy.” Save those drinks for yourself, you’re going to need them my friend.
5. Get an informant.
You need an inside man. Someone that can feed you information, like when someone is sneaking out or where the sneak out spot is. You’ll be tempted to play this role yourself, but don’t. Teens can spot a youth minister trying to act cool a mile away. Instead, find someone that will do the job for you if you give them an important sounding title like “assistant to the regional manager of no kissing.”
6. Master the terrain.
Chances are, there are only a few places that kids could use for making purple. On the first day you get to camp, send out advance scouts. Have them analyze the area and take control of the high ground. Cabins your group isn’t using, secluded spots by the lake, tool sheds, your enemy is like water flowing to a weak spot in a dam. Go there first and create a “kiss map” so instead of trying to cover an entire camp ground at midnight when two kids go missing, you can check the five or six possible spots.
7. Make a sacrifice.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand was one of Napoleon’s chief advisors. When Napoleon was first sent to exile, Talleyrand knew that he would try to retake France. He felt that Napoleon would destroy the country, so he actually helped speed up Napoleon’s plans. He realized that the faster he could make Napoleon fail at his plans, the less harm it would cause France. You need to do the same thing at camp. Instead of fighting the making purple issue, make it really easy for one couple to kiss and then get caught. One of the best ways to beat the enemy is to crush what scientists call their “kissing spirit.” OK, I made that phrase up, but the principle stands. Set a trap for two kids, give them a few seconds to kiss and then spring from the woods with your troops. As punishment, make them wear cow bells for the rest of camp. In addition to knowing where they are all times, you’ll show the entire camp that the teenage kyrptonite, embarrassment, awaits anyone caught.
8. Never underestimate the enemy.
It’s tempting to believe in the kindness of humanity. Resist that temptation. I know people that made purple on mission trips. My friend’s parents thought he gained 40 pounds in high school from being a big eater and not drinking beer. My friend’s new car got smashed at church in the parking lot yesterday and the church member hit and run without leaving a note. As the policeman that filed the report said, “even churches have squirrelly people.” Don’t think your kids that love sleeping in won’t set their alarms to sneak out at four in the morning. Don’t think that we won’t use a prayer walk as a chance to go make out. Don’t underestimate what we are capable of.
9. Never show your hand.
When you are sharing the rules at camp, don’t reveal too many of your plans. Don’t say things like “we’ll be watching the lake shore and checking all the cabins at midnight to make sure everyone is in bed.” If you told me that as a teen, what I would have heard is, “Avoid the lake and feel free to leave your cabin three minutes after midnight.” As Sun Tzu advises, “By altering his arrangements and changing plans, the general keeps the enemy without definitive knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.”
10. Use chemical warfare.
Kids at camp should smell bad. That’s part of camp. That’s just what you do at a retreat. You should have a unique musk or potpourri of sweat, sun tan lotion and bootleg cookies. So on day one, use chemical warfare and go around to each dorm and confiscate body sprays, colognes and perfumes.
11. Embrace audio assaults.
You might not need to confiscate Prince’s “Purple Rain” as I imagine today’s teens have
not discovered this fantastic record. But google a few songs before camp starts and make sure you never hear them played in the cabins. Soulja Boy’s “Superman” although not a kiss inducing song, has some gross lyrics and should be removed. Lil’ Wayne’s new song “lollipop” should be eliminated at the gate. And the current number one song, “I kissed a girl,” has obviously got to go. It’s got the “k word” right there in the title. If you want to go old school fundamental, you can light them all on fire in a awesome bonfire of judgment. A bonus benefit is that everyone will smell smoky, which fits idea #10. (By the way, Kanye West’s recent comparison of Soulja Boy to NAS is ridiculous.)
There are certainly other methods that work well when it comes to reducing camp make outs. But it’s Monday and I didn’t want to turn on the SCL firehose too hard and drown folks in words at the start of the week.
Did I miss one? Some technique that will work well? Let me know.