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FALL 2014 Fall 2014 • $8.95

Journal of Children, Youth & Family Ministry


Future of

Outdoor Ministry 1

Master of Divinity Julie Hagen Wilson, ’07, lower right, with a group of youth during her first call at Advent Lutheran Church in New York City. Wilson is now called to Lord of Life in Maple Grove, Minn.

Master of arts

Get your Cyf at Ls! Earn a degree in Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary! There’s never been a better time to earn a degree focused on children, youth and family ministry. A recent curriculum revision at Luther Seminary responds to the needs of an ever-changing church and world. You’ll learn in face-to-face classes, online, during individualized discovery and in active ministries. Luther Seminary’s mission is to educate leaders for Christian communities. As one of those leaders, you’ll get an education that is gospel-centered, flexible, integrated, service-focused and more affordable. We invite you to visit with any of our Luther Seminary staff or faculty at the Extravaganza. Or visit us online at www.luthersem.edu/admissions. We’d love to talk with you about your ministry goals! Online learning options available!



FALL 2014

PUBLICATION INFORMATION Published by: ELCA Youth Ministry Network www.elcaymnet.org

Subscription Information: call 866-ELCANET (352-2638) or visit: www.elcaymnet.org connect@elcaymnet.org

CONTENTS Welcome! Todd Buegler


Leading Our Camps to Survive and Thrive Dave Jarvis


The Untold Story of Outdoor Ministry and Young Adult Faith Formation Rozella White


The Case for Camping Katelyn Emanuelson


How Outdoor Ministry Changed Our Lives - A Facebook “Conversation”


Moving Camping Forward: Innovation For Renewal Paul Hill


Fortune Lake 500: Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp Drives Faith Forward Ruth Warmanen


Why Camping Works Glen Egertson


Turning to Scholarship in Christian Camping 18 Jacob Sorenson

A View from Somewhere Else 21 George Baum Design and Layout: Michael Sladek Impression Media Group www.impressionmediagroup.com

Managing Editor: Erin Gibbons

Connect Editorial Board: Todd Buegler, Tim Coltvet, Nate Frambach, Sue Mendenhall, Dawn Rundman, Clint Schnekloth, Michael Sladek

Camp photos courtesy of Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp Cover design & photo ©2014 Michael Sladek

Calendar of Events 22


Story (Winter ‘15) The Funny Issue (Spring ‘15) The Link Between Youth Ministry and College (Fall ‘15)


Tom Schwolert: Board Member

Sue Megrund: Board Member

Valerie Taylor Samuel: Board Member

Rev. Ben Morris: Board Member

Erik Ullestad: Board Chairperson

Dr. Jeremy Myers, AIM: Board Member

Rev. Todd Buegler: Executive Director

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network exists to strengthen and empower adult youth ministry leaders in service to Christ as a part of God’s mission. 3



Dear friends,


I am a product of outdoor ministry. I spent five summers serving on the staff of two different ELCA Bible camps. They were probably the five best summers of my life. Working at camp introduced me to living as a part of a focused, intentional community; gave me the opportunity to dig in deep in my faith (You can’t teach the same Bible study for 11 weeks without learning something!); exposed me to great leadership opportunities that built my confidence; and allowed me a chance to think seriously about my vocation. I am certain that I would not be where I am today without those five summers. I’m heavily invested in our outdoor ministries. And so I’m concerned. I see our outdoor ministry sites struggling for money and resources. I see them returning to a “survival” mode that makes collaboration and partnership more of a challenge. I see increased competition with other kinds of camps. (How do you compete with hockey, or wrestling camp?) We have to remember that our outdoor ministries are exactly that: our outdoor ministries. And when they struggle, we all struggle. But while I’m concerned, I believe there will be a new future for our camps and retreat centers. It’s going to look different than our history, as it should. But there is a future for those outdoor ministries that can adapt to a changing world.

new Network Board members, Regina Goodrich and Becky Cole, and to Erik Ullestad, who was elected to a second term to the Board. We appreciate your leadership!

A REMINDER: This past summer the Network Global Headquarters relocated. For correspondence purposes, our new headquarters is: 150 Oakwood Lane, Owatonna, Minnesota 55060.

WE WELCOME 3 NEW ORGANIZATIONS TO OUR LISTING OF NETWORK PARTNERS! We’re grateful to Camp Frederick, Upper Missouri Ministries and Wheatridge Foundation for their partnership!

My hope is that you are invested in our camps too. Our system of outdoor ministry sites is one of the best assets the ELCA has. I strongly encourage you to initiate a conversation with your local camp about what the future might look like for you. How might you partner? In this issue, we’re going to explore the question of the future of outdoor ministry. You’ll notice that some of the articles seem to echo each other. Others may seem to contradict. That’s because no one is certain what the future holds. Instead, we trust God, who holds the future. Blessings on your ministry!

THE ELCA HAS ANNOUNCED THE CREATION OF A NEW, PART-TIME STAFF POSITION FOCUSING ON CHILDREN’S MINISTRY. The search process is currently underway. Please keep this process, those involved in the interviews and the candidates in your prayers.

Todd Buegler Executive Director – ELCA Youth Ministry Network Pastor – Trinity Lutheran Church; Owatonna, Minnesota Todd@elcaymnet.org


FALL 2014

LEADING OUR CAMPS TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE by Dave Jarvis I just completed my 26th summer of ministry with Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Colorado. We had an amazing summer with thousands of campers and a faithful staff of close to 70 college-age young adults who served our youth and families with passion and integrity. As I reflect on these 26 years of ministry, I have seen the growth and evolution of camping ministry, as it has adapted to cultural, demographic, congregational and even theological changes within our church and our world. Outdoor ministry has been a strong and vital part of the Lutheran church for close to 75 years, but the number of children and youth in our churches is shrinking, and along with it, the number of campers. So, how does outdoor ministry not only survive but also thrive into the future?

LIFT UP THE MISSION OF OUTDOOR MINISTRY Outdoor ministry is competing with literally hundreds of other activity options for youth, and it can’t be everything to all people. Instead of latching onto the latest fad, outdoor ministries need to focus on promoting what they uniquely offer. What is the core of outdoor ministry? Sharing the gospel, experiencing Christian community at its finest, building superb relationships and equipping people to share the good news of God’s grace for all of our lives. Define and emphasize this goal; don’t dilute it through half-hearted efforts to include something trendy.

CREATE A RECIPROCATING RELATIONSHIP WITH CONGREGATIONS Congregations and camps need to work together. Camper numbers are down across the country, but many congregations are struggling as well. Outdoor ministries need to work with churches by providing experiences that will enhance the ministries of congregations. Provide programming that helps develop youth leaders who can serve in their home churches as Sunday school teachers, speakers or more. Camps also need to take an active role in supporting the missions of the synod, as well as the congregations.

LEAD CONGREGATIONS TO INCLUDE OUTDOOR MINISTRY AS A VITALMINISTRY Outdoor ministry needs to become part of the DNA of our congregations. Links to local outdoor ministries should be on church websites. Outdoor ministry information should be shared with prospective members and in new member classes. The language, “We are a congregation that goes to camp,” needs to become commonplace. Confirmation classes should be attending camp as part of their curriculum. Pastors need to advocate for and go to camp. If the pastor goes to camp, the church will follow. It can be some of the most important work the pastor does the whole year. Dan Bollman, assistant to the Bishop for the Rocky Mountain Synod, stated the importance of camping ministry: “Camp is not a nicety, but a necessity for the faith life of the youth of our congregations.”

Outdoor ministries are an amazing laboratory for campers to experience real life and see grace in action in the context of Christian community. SHOWCASE WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT OUTDOOR MINISTRY Many outdoor ministries assume people already know what they do, so they don’t bother to market the programs they offer. Outdoor ministries need to become better at advertising their unique ministry. The outdoor ministry setting provides an environment for growth that can’t happen in the congregational setting. Immersion learning, where campers learn by doing, allows campers to naturally grow in a fun environment. Most people learn better and faster when they are doing rather than just listening. And when people do things together, they build relationships. When kids 5

and youth have the opportunity to build closer relationships with their pastor, leader or mentor, it helps them know that those adults are a resource back at home.

SHARE GOD’S GRACE Outdoor ministries are an amazing laboratory for campers to experience real life and see grace in action in the context of Christian community. Kids and youth get to experience new, different, healthy ways to solve problems, to practice forgiveness and reconciliation and to share what they’ve learned with others. This alone can transform our world.

BE THE TRAINING CENTER FOR CONGREGATIONS Many churches are struggling to find ways to equip their people with the skills necessary to grow, change and expand their ministries. Cost, time and location are all factors that stretch congregations’ resources. Outdoor ministries can help support congregations by providing training opportunities in one location that will serve multiple congregations. Outdoor ministries should ask congregations, “How can we help you do your ministry better?” then seek out ways to bring that training to the area. It would be incredible if, when a congregation realizes it needs a certain kind of training, the first words out of their mouths were, “I wonder if our outdoor ministry is hosting (or could host) that kind of training?”

FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Outdoor ministry is the ideal training ground for future leaders of the church. This affects the church on three levels—the campers, their congregations and the larger church. Campers are transformed through outdoor ministry experiences and return home enthusiastic about serving God and their church. Congregations see those transformations and discover that camping contributes to a healthy youth and family ministry and helps cultivate people who want to serve. The church at large is provided with leaders who are connected to a broader community. Statistics show that about 60-65 percent of seminarians felt their first sense of call in an outdoor ministry setting. Outdoor ministries can help nourish that feeling of calling by acting as resources and mentors

for campers and especially, young adult staff. Program directors need to spend intentional time with staff, talking about gifts and vocation in the context of the church. The leaders coming out of an outdoor ministry setting are mavericks and agents for change in our larger church. Together, outdoor ministries, congregations and the church live out the calling of Jesus to live in his community and serve as his disciples.

UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media is a fast and efficient way to communicate with a large audience. Set up Facebook, Twitter and Instragram accounts to showcase what’s happening at your outdoor ministry site. Use these services to advertise, connect, ask questions, seek help and more. Show the world what’s happening at your outdoor ministry site(s) at any given time by sharing images, videos and posts. Social media has changed the way the world communicates, and outdoor ministries should embrace it.

PASS YOUR WISDOM ON. A large number of veteran outdoor ministry executives will be retiring in the next 10 years, and with their retirement goes a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience. Retiring directors need to share with incoming directors. There

is an amazing group of retired directors whose knowledge can strengthen our individual organizations or outdoor ministries as a whole. All we need to do is ask!

KEEP YOUNGER DIRECTORS FOR LONGER TENURES. The turnover of program and site directors within their first three years of ministry is astoundingly high. We need to find a way to make full-time outdoor ministry positions sustainable without watering down the key parts that make an outdoor ministry successful.

CREATIVELY INVITE AND INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO ARE DISASSOCIATED WITH FAITH AND THE CHURCH. There is an enormous mission field of people who don’t know Jesus and don’t know how life changing that relationship can be. Outdoor ministries need to find ways to invite them in and to begin to tell the Bible stories. The immersion style of camp allows learning and discovery to happen naturally. There must be a healthy balance of instruction and challenge, serving both the un-churched and those who have a strong, active faith.


CONTINUE TO UPGRADE FACILITIES. I have heard it said, “This isn’t your grandmother’s camp anymore.” The reality is that people will not put up with run-down facilities. Older facilities are fine, but they must be well maintained. There is a desire from our constituencies for higher-comfort facilities for adults. This will be critical for the future. Dan Bollman had it right: Camp is not a nicety, but a necessity for the faith life of the youth of our congregations. I see it as one of four pillars in faith development, along with confirmation, youth group and cross-generational education. Outdoor ministries have helped to strengthen and grow the church ,but to survive into the future, outdoor ministries need to be better partners with congregations—understanding their situations and helping them find solutions as they shape their ministries. Even more so, outdoor ministries need to be the instigators and innovators in these relationships. If that kind of relationship can be nurtured, then outdoor ministries will always serve a real and vital purpose in the life of the church.

Dave Jarvis has been the executive director of Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in southern Colorado for the past 26 years. Dave has been involved in outdoor ministries for over 34 years, is an avid runner and loves to barbeque.

FALL 2014


by Rozella White

Every summer, over 3,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 work at the 135 ELCA-affiliated camps and retreat centers. OVER 3,000 YOUNG ADULTS. There is a pervasive myth in our church that young adults are not engaged and connected to our communal life of faith. This myth leads to a deeply rooted fear that we are dying and places us in survival mode. When we are in survival mode, we overlook the abundance, opportunity and reality that God has laid before us. I believe that outdoor ministry is one of the single most effective (and under utilized and resourced) young adult ministries that exists. I grew up at Augustana Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas and was a camper at Lutherhill Ministries in LaGrange, Texas. As a child, that experience showed me that church was so much bigger than my home congregation. Camp taught me that loving and praising God could happen in many forms. Camp also made this city girl a lover of God’s creation, and this newfound love would stay with me as I got older. My soul longs for the places where I can breathe clean air and take in the beauty of God’s creation, which happens every time I set foot on an outdoor ministry site across our denomination. Camp also showed me that young people could lead. I looked up to my counselors and imagined them as the coolest, most faithful people I knew. Along with my home congregation and faith mentors in my childhood, these young leaders inspired me to consider myself as one who was capable of serving God in profound and energized ways. I was hired to work at Lutherhill the summer of 1999, which I consider the beginning of my public ministry. We don’t use charismatic language in this church, but if I were to think about when I was saved—when I first encountered the Triune God and came to understand whose I was, who I was and why I was created—it was at camp. Camp saved my life and I consider it to be the single most important experience that connected me to a God who lavishes grace, faith and love upon each of us. I remember my interview with the then executive director, Rev. Kathy Haueisen. I convinced her to hire me, despite being a year too young

to work as a counselor, and I promised her that she wouldn’t regret it. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Camp was an opportunity to get out of my parents house the summer before my first semester of college. I didn’t think about how much money I would be making, the impact I would have on the children and youth I was serving or their impact on me. I just thought that I would be able to be “grown” and be on my own. It didn’t hurt that my then boyfriend was also on staff. The summer of 1999 was the first of three summers I served at camp. Looking back, I think about the lessons learned, the friendships made and the conflicts that occurred, and I am in awe of how God used each and every situation and person to form me. Some of my closest friends are people whom I served alongside each summer. When I failed out of college my junior year, camp was the place that became my refuge and the site of my call to the church. My gifts were called out; my failures were covered, and the people of Lutherhill and the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod showed me that regardless of what the world says about me, God’s Word and promise was the only thing that mattered. I audibly heard the voice of God calling me out. Camp literally saved my life, and I thank God EVERY DAY for the opportunity to be in that place. As I reflect back, however, I realize that we as a church do not capitalize on the fact that we are forming young adults for a life of faith every summer. Nor do we recognize that we have revivals that pop up every summer, in places all across the country, that are led by young adults. Not only do we provide sites for young adult faith formation, the young adults provide leadership and support to children, youth and families of the larger church. What would it look like if we took this opportunity seriously? Is it possible for our camps to expand their thinking and recognize their role as developers of disciples who happen to be young adults? Rev. Louise Johnson, vice president for mission advancement at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, was one of the first people to call out my gifts. She was visiting camps during her final year of seminary, my first year on staff. She spent a week at Luther7

hill and listened to my story. Before she left, she told me that God had a call on my life and that I should consider ministry in the church. I was 18 years old when we had this encounter, and I laughed at her. I was planning to be a lawyer and to make money. I had no desire to work for the church. Truth-be-told, until she said what she said, I couldn’t even imagine myself as a servant of this church. I couldn’t imagine myself as a leader who lived out her call as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I thank God for Louise, for her vision and for her time spent with me. Here’s my wish for outdoor ministry in the ELCA: • That we might see outdoor ministry as a place where young adults are formed • That we might resource outdoor ministry to provide chaplains and spiritual directors for camp staff • That we might provide a space for alumni to connect across the country for ongoing growth and development • That we might connect young adults intentionally with partner ministries and organizations of this church • That we might take seriously the need to view camp staff as more than workers—as developing disciples As the program director for young adult ministry for the ELCA, I am beginning conversations with some outdoor ministry sites to pilot intentional formation experiences for camp staff. If you are interested in this conversation, please contact me at rozella.white@elca.org.

Rozella H. White serves as the program director for young adult ministry for the ELCA. She is a graduate of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and is passionate about walking alongside young adults as they deepen in faith, discover their identity, uncover their vocation and develop as leaders. Connect with ELCA Young Adults on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and follow Rozella on Twitter @rozellahw.

THE CASE FOR CAMPING My name is Katelyn Emanuelson. I am a college senior at Appalachian State University (ASU), majoring in recreation management with a focus on camp management. I have worked as a camp counselor at Luther Springs and Lutherock summer camps and recently finished an internship at Camp Mary Atkinson, a Girl Scout camp in Selma, North Carolina. I am a member of Sigma Alpha Omega, a Christian sorority, and the chaplain for Lutheran students at ASU. Each year, more than 11 million children and adults attend camp in the United States. I was one of those children. In fact, every summer, my mom would send my siblings and me to spend a week at Luther Springs, a Lutheran church camp in northern Florida. During those weeks, I often became extremely homesick and would beg my parents to come pick me up. My mom still has the letters I wrote, pleading with her to pick me up from camp. Unfortunately, those letters often arrived after I had already returned home. Although I begged them to let me stay home year after year, my parents knew God had bigger plans for my life. My experiences at summer camp helped me learn to love God and all the nature He created for us to play in, explore and enjoy. Last spring, I had the opportunity to attend the American Camping Association (ACA) national conference in Orlando, Florida. It was a fantastic opportunity that allowed me to meet current professionals in the recreation field. I was also fortunate enough to attend seminars about the exciting events occurring in the camping industry. While attending this conference, I realized the future of camping is in the hands of current college students, future camp counselors and future campers. I firmly believe summer camps are an important part of our future. Currently, children are spending more of their free time inside, when they should be exploring the outdoors. The ACA conducted a survey of more than 5,000 families. The results of this study were very interesting: 92 percent of campers said that camp helped them feel good about themselves; 74 percent said they did things at camp that they were afraid to do at first;

and 94 percent said they made friends with someone different from themselves.

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8 to 10 spend an average of six hours a day watching television, playing video games and using computers. Those six hours a day are spent inside, sitting down, often alone. When these children did engage in outside activities, the activities were always very structured, hindering the children’s ability to be creative and imaginative. This study was conducted during the school year and did not take into account summer vacation, during which children have increased amounts of free time. The secular camping industry is competitive and offers a variety of different programs, so there are summer camps available for every child, no matter what his or her interests may be. However, I feel that attending a Christian summer camp offers an experience unlike any other. As a child at Luther Springs, I learned how to incorporate God and my faith into everyday conversation. The ability to do so is valuable and has proved to be advantageous countless times throughout my life. Christian camps all have a common theme and strive toward the same goal; therefore, it is more important now than ever to encourage collaboration and teamwork between various camp programs. This summer, Camp Mary Atkinson chose to collaborate. The camp staff had a joint training session with two other Girl Scout


by Katelyn Emanuelson camps in the area. In doing so, the tension and competition between the camp programs was lessened, and each program benefited greatly. This is imperative because camp is not about the staff; it is about ensuring that children have the best summer camp experience possible. Many parents lack knowledge about how and where to find summer camps, let alone how to choose the best fit for their children. The ACA makes the search for the perfect summer camp easier by using a set of standards to accredit summer camps. ACA accredited camps are held to a very high standard. In addition, the directors of these camps have access to numerous useful resources. The staff members employed by ACA accredited camps undergo basic training on how to work with children and also participate in special training in certain areas such as archery, kayaking or facilitating the alpine tower. The ACA is the only organization that accredits all types of camps, with up to 290 national standards for health and safety that are recognized by courts of law and government regulators. To compete in the camping world, being ACA accredited gives summer camp programs a clear advantage. I encourage parents who may be considering sending their child to summer camp to talk with other parents about their children’s camp experiences. There are many excellent Christian camps to fit a variety of personality types and interests. In addition to sending their younger children to camp for the summer, parents should also encourage their older children to get involved with these summer camps by working as camp counselors. Camp counseling experience teaches important skills that are transferrable to other jobs. The future of camping is in our hands; let’s make it a good one.

Katelyn Emanuelson is a senior at Appalachian State University, studying recreation management with a concentration in camp management. She has attended summer camp since second grade and has worked at summer camps for three summers. She lives in Clearwater, Florida.

FALL 2014

HOW OUTDOOR MINISTRY CHANGED OUR LIVES We asked the members of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network on Facebook to answer the question, “How did camp/an outdoor ministry change your life?” Here’s what they had to say. Don: Growing up in the city with no connection to church, camping ministry introduced a whole new way of faith-filled living!

Katy: At 11 years old, it was where I learned I could be a Christian and have fun!

Emily: Camp helped me to hear my call to ministry. I also met my husband at camp!

Tara: Camp is the first place that I openly shared about my mom’s struggle with mental illness. It freed me to share our story!

Victoria: My experience also helped me discern my own call. Also, it helped me grow by forcing me to step out of my comfort zone!

Tiger: Sitting under a tree on a Thursday night would forever change my life. Camp gave me the space to hear the gospel as never before.

Marcia: It challenged my sense of self, realized church was beyond those in the pews, pushed me to do more, see faith in a young adult (college student—I was 8 at the time).

Chris: Camp was a safe place where I discovered where I fit in God’s creation. (Identity, vocation, belonging and empowered.)

Mark: Camp helped form me into a compassionate, caring, enthusiastic, joyful, hard working, friendly and patient servant leader. My experiences there have benefited my entire life. Maggie: It taught me the value and importance of “community”—why I need it and why I need to contribute to it! Amanda: You get to meet new people in a unique setting. You are challenged, affirmed and connected. God’s grace is shown in new (and fun) ways.

Mackenzie: Camp was the first place I saw children authentically lead worship. It was a Jewish camp, and I was theatre staff. Jeff: Summer of 1988 (16 years old) at church camp is where I answered the call to enter full-time ministry. Gene: Camp is where Jesus first became real to me. Brooke: Camp helped me to build relationships with all sorts of people and network with leaders in the church.

Andy: Camp turned me into a junkie, a camp junkie. God took away all the excuses I was using, turned my assumed weakness to strengths. Screwed up my life for the better.

Darcy: Camp was a place where I felt God calling me into ministry. It was a place I felt like I belonged. The gospel came alive to me. It was life changing in that I truly experienced who Christ is.

Paula: Outdoor ministry introduced me to my still-favorite method of worship—praising God through fun music, learning to openly love Jesus and discovering a unique definition of community.

Rozella: I experienced the beauty of becoming at camp, of growing into a person who understood their gifts, of understanding others in complex community and of growing in love and awe of God’s creation.

Kate: The first time I truly felt Christ’s presence in my life was at camp. It’s a unique ministry that creates new and lasting friendships because of the way you experience God in that environment together.

Josh: Camp hooked me on ministry. Today, as a pastor, camp helps me form deeper connections with my congregation’s youth.


Joshua: Growing into adulthood at Bear Creek Camp helped me discover an amazing God in nature and friends and moved me closer to the person God calls me to be. Bryan: Camp wrecked and recreated me over and over again as a counselor. Real-life death and resurrection. Jesus in the face of every kid. Janet: Camp was a transformational place where I had time to focus on my faith without the daily distractions. Life changing memories and intense fellowship! Lori: Camp showed me an entirely new way to experience God, completely unlike the brick and mortar environment I grew up in. It was soul changing. Jerry: Camp showed me that God could use someone even like me to be a part of his creative master plan. It showed me a way to live in Christian community that we don’t see in our concrete society. Rich: I met my wife there. Kim: Camp influenced me in almost every aspect of my life—vocationally, deciding on parks and recreation major and eventually, seminary and a career in ministry; relationally, meeting some of my best friends through camp (although not my husband); and most importantly, my relationship with God grew immensely while working at camp. And also, giving me the tools and practices to keep it going in the “real world.” Katie: My life in outdoor ministry surrounded me with positive role models (pastors, campers, counselors) that have all played a part in shaping me to be who I am today.

Gene: Camping gave me a place where I could really connect with the youth of my church. You get 168 hours of contact in a week of camp vs. 52 (or 104, if you’re lucky) in an entire year in the church. Deb: Being a camp counselor just one summer during college put me into a role I didn’t know I was ready for, then learned I loved. Kurt: Without the camp experience as a child, I would have been falsely led to believe that the church is more important than the congregation. Thank God for outdoor ministry! Rick: Camp was one place I could truly be myself as a youth. I dedicated my life to giving back, as camp gave me so much! Callie: Camp was where I learned faith was cool. As a camper, I remember looking up to all of the counselors and wanting to be just like them when I grew up. When I got to college, I became a counselor and spent time in intentional community with adults wanting to impact the world for Christ. Camp is where I felt most at home, where I could be the truest version of myself. These experiences have definitely impacted my decision to be in ministry.

Viviane: Camp was the place where, as youth, we could test our faith wings and lead. I was fortunate to be in a congregation that let us continue that testing back on home turf. Cynthia: I do not think camp should ever be mandatory, but if the program is good, it changes everything! Matthew: Youth camp, I didn’t fit in. Adult camp, I reached out to the misfit. Camp is a full-circle experience. Yvonne: I first heard the call to ministry as a counselor at Camp Beisler. In many ways, it saved my life—from an extremely destructive first year of college. Linda: Outdoor ministry is where I learned that pastors are just regular people too. Marnie: As first a camper, then camp staff and now taking youth to camp, the joy of seeing Jesus come alive in the hearts of God’s people— awesome! What a gift.


Join the Facebook conversation at: facebook.com/groups/elcaymnet/

FALL 2014





MOVING CAMPING FORWARD: INNOVATION FOR RENEWAL by Paul Hill Every year, more than 250,000 children, youth and adults go through one of our ELCA camps. In addition, approximately 3,500 young adults work at these camps, gaining skills in adventuring and leadership, while experiencing personal transformation in Christian community. Camps represent one of the finest ministry designs to help young people discover their vocation and live as disciples. So how do we support camp moving forward? How can we steward this incredible resource? Camps have a huge advantage and disadvantage when it comes to doing ministry because they are ministries AND small businesses. Like all small businesses, they have the ability to innovate, adapt and reinvent themselves fairly quickly. Yet, like all small businesses, they often live on the financial edge in a highly competitive milieu where sports camps, language camps, computer camps, work camps, etc. compete in similar markets. ELCA camps are particularly vulnerable at this time because their congregations, along with the denomination as a whole, are aging and in decline. Yet, camps have demonstrated that they can be catalytic to these aging congregations. For example, Andrea Scofield, executive director of Camp Lutherwood outside of Eugene, Oregon, inspired one of these older, declining congregations to send kids to camp. The congregation was averaging 30 people in worship and had a median age of 70. They said, “We don’t have any kids in our church.” However, they did have an elementary, middle and high school in their community, so the members decided to create a scholarship fund and send three kids from the community to camp. They raised enough money to send 12 kids and three years later, sent 28 kids to Lutherwood. Then something remarkable happened. Not only did the church revitalize around supporting youth in the community, the community thanked the church and learned to see the church with new eyes.

Therein lies the future of camp: Through innovation, camps can be catalysts for renewal and revitalization. Casey Fuerst, marketing director at Carol Joy Hollings Camp in Nebraska, demonstrated how camps are innovative and catalytic. She sold 140 camperships through Groupon at 50 percent off to kids who had never been to the camp. These kids will, for the first time, experience intentional Christian community in a natural setting that celebrates the gifts of Christ and life and teaches the responsibility of good stewardship of these gifts. Ben Fulton, director of Camp Tomah Shinga in Kansas and Air Force master sergeant who has done 12 flying tours, is working with wounded veterans at the Ft. Riley Army base to provide opportunities to assist young men and women with rehabilitation and transitions into civilian life. Camp Tomah Shinga is also working with families whose spouses are deployed through family readiness programs.

These are only a few examples of the innovation and catalytic energy that comes out of camps. Camp directors, staffs and most camp boards are mavericks, tinkerers and change agents. And they are savvy. They know ministry, marketing, financial development, mentoring and program development, and they can fix your toilet. Dr. Rick Foss, former president of Luther Seminary, notes that seminaries relish 12

having camp people as students because they think outside the box and are not afraid of taking risks. When I taught at Luther Seminary, 65 percent of the students had experienced camp, and 42 percent of the 65 percent had discerned their public call at camp. Camps are leadership development factories. Camps can be, and often are, highly effective locations for evangelical outreach. In a recent study, I compared the characteristics most commonly associated with Emergence Christianity with data I gleaned from interviewing 30 camp directors across multiple denominations. There are at least 12 points of common ground that are effective in connecting people across the typical denominational tribes. 1. There is joyful fun (not just | entertainment). 2. Developing deep relationships is encouraged, especially relationships that are widely diverse. Denominations too often operate through “believing, behaving, belonging.” Camps switch things around to “belonging, behaving, believing.” At camp, you belong first. 3. Common faith practices of caring conversation, devotions, service and rituals are exercised. (Orthopraxis—the practices of the faith—trumps orthodoxy— the beliefs of the faith.) 4. Senior leaders are highly entrepreneurial, innovative and adaptive. 5. Cultivating leaders is necessary and encouraged. 6. Providing a place apart to find “holy space” is core. 7. There is strong emphasis on story and narrative, rather than doctrine. (Who wants to fight about that stuff?) 8. Issues of life and death are perceived, engaged and addressed through high adventure immersions. 9. Males prefer camps to congregational settings.

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10. Strong connections are made with those in the first third of life. 11. The approach is very holistic—spiritual, communal, physical and intellectual. 12. Outreach is done well through such things as day camps and offering scholarships to youth who would not otherwise attend. No ELCA camp will turn down a child who wants to come to camp.

influencing future pastoral leaders. In addition, research that demonstrates that value is being cultivated now and when published, will help clergy see the importance of camp.

What are some of the challenges facing these ministries? And what are some solutions that camps and organizations are trying? Neither the challenges identified, nor the solutions offered, are exhaustive, but they do give some direction for moving forward.

Solution: ELCA camps are moving outside of the old structures, connecting ecumenically and creating new ministries. Jerry Fritsch at Lutheran Lakeside in western Iowa has teamed up with Lutheran Social Services of Iowa to send foster children to camp using scholarship funds given by aging congregations in the area. Martin Luther said, “If we want to help Christendom, we most certainly must start with the children.” This is a great example of how to heal kids and invigorate a dying denomination.

Lack of clergy awareness: Many camp directors point out that current clergy are less informed regarding the value of camp. Clergy attendance at camp has been in decline for decades. Solution: Right now, seminary leaders, such as Dr. David Lose, president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, are talking about the value of camp, informing and

Denominational decline: Attendance at denominational churches is shrinking and along with that, so is attendance at camp and funding for camps.

Churchwide priorities have shifted: The ELCA churchwide expression has eliminated all camp support staffing.


Solution: The ELCA recently awarded Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM) a $100,000 grant to hire a new executive director. Competing markets: A wide variety of offerings exist for youth and families, making it difficult for camps to be heard and make their case. Solution: Camps are focusing more and more on effective marketing including the use of social media. Those utilizing technology to tell their story have a better chance of success. Obesity: The increase in obesity in America limits what people are able to do regarding intense activity in nature and adventure settings. This health issue impacts what programming can be provided by camps. Solution: As places of welcoming of all, camps can help everyone reflect and improve upon how we use our feet and our fingers through exercise and eating. Along with environmental stewardship, camps can emphasize taking care of the “self environment”.

Conservative parenting: Camp directors report that parents are more focused on keeping their children safe than on how experiences might help their children grow (through challenge, failure and the development of “grit”). This conservative approach limits camps’ ability to provide diverse programming. Solution: Many camps living above and beyond stringent American Camping Association (ACA) guidelines by increasing communication to worried parents and successfully and consistently providing high-quality growth opportunities for children. High-comfort expectations: Ours is a culture where many people prefer comfort to “roughing it”. Camps struggle to keep up with these expectations, recognizing that as they do, part of the transformative nature of camp may be lost. Solution: Adaptations to camp facilities can still provide excellent ministry. Joy Ranch in South Dakota has created facilities that are fully handicap accessible. As a result, they are able to provide the full camp immersion (including horseback rides) to a segment of the population that will never be able to stay in a tent. Technology: Smart devices seriously impact the sense of “being away” that camps offer. Camps struggle to manage how, when and where it is appropriate to use smart devices. Solution: Camp nature, art and adventure programs present alternative and exciting ways of engaging imaginative play. Some camps are also creatively using technology. At Mt. Carmel Ministries near Alexandria, Minnesota, I was introduced to “iBird,” an app that identifies birds by song, look, environment and habits. Many camps use the app “Night Sky 2” while stargazing. These are two creative uses of technology to learn more about our world and universe.

Changing school schedules: As school schedules dig deeper into the summer months and winter weekends, it becomes difficult for camps to find their niche. Solution: Many camps offer some form of environmental education program to public schools. Bethel Horizons in Wisconsin and Camp Agape in North Carolina reach audiences “through” their schedules, rather than “against” them. Other camps create opportunities that are easy to undertake. I’ve taken my young grandson to grandparent camp for the last two summers. These three-night outings are fantastic and because of their length, we can make them work. Grandparent camps are “low hanging fruit” for camps because of the large number of baby boomers with good health and money who have grandchildren. Changing family structures: The wide variety of family structures make it difficult for camps still operating in the “one size fits all” model. Solution: Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Wisconsin now offers three-night family camps for all types of families. They are addressing the time issues that press on families, creating playful space and openly accepting diversity in family life. Shrinking number of leaders: Executive camp directors are a rare and gifted group, and the current generation is aging and retiring. Solution: There are lots of training programs available. LOM has made leadership development a top priority of the organization, emphasizing training camp leaders and board members. Dr. Rollie Martinson and I developed a Master’s concentration in outdoor ministry leadership through the Children, Youth and Family degree program at Luther Seminary. Organizations such as Gronlund Sayther Brunkow (GSB) have been assisting camps develop leaders for more than 35 years.


More options/money for summer staff: Camp directors sing the praises of the young adults who work at their camps. But they report that many move on to higher salaries or other opportunities such as international travel. Solution: Some Lutheran colleges are offering tuition scholarships to students who work at a summer church camp. This needs to be cloned through the Lutheran college system. Seminaries could also offer tuition reductions for any student who worked at a camp for one summer or more. Increase appeal to multicultural audiences: Our society is increasingly pluralistic and multicultural. All camps, not just religious ones, struggle to connect to diverse audiences. Solution: Novus Way in North Carolina has patiently built up relationships with area multicultural colleges and students, cultivating multicultural leadership over many years. The more campers see people working at camp who look like them, the more likely they will attend camp. Camps are a wonderful environment for faith formation and making disciples and will continue to be in the future. It will not be easy, but within the DNA of our camps resides innovation and catalytic energy. God will use both to serve God’s Kingdom.

Paul Hill is the CEO, secretary and janitor for his company, Paul Hill Outdoor Ministry Services. He is spearheading a new research project on the efficacy of church camps in faith formation and the making of disciples. He consults and trains camp leaders, boards and staffs. Connect with him at paulghill@me.com

FALL 2014


by Ruth Warmanen

a determined band of volunteers erected six buildings, dug a well, wired electricity, improved the road and installed a kitchen and dormitory. At first, the camp was used only to host Bible camps for a couple summer weeks, but soon, upwards of 800 visitors were drawn to the camp to hear well known speakers and celebrate the camp’s closing days. Visitors arrived by auto, some traveling hundreds of miles. The resulting photos would, years later, inspire the Fortune Lake 500.

GROWTH FUELED BY PARTNERSHIPS Miles from the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500, spirits at the Fortune Lake 500 were racing! Speed was not a factor, but giving thanks for Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp (FLLC) near Crystal Falls, Michigan was. Staff and friends of FLLC were on-track to make their way around camp. A shiny, restored Model T Ford set the pace for the leisurely cruise around the camp’s perimeter. A steady stream of newer classic cars steered into line, followed by a couple of antiquated buses, a handful of peddlepowered cyclists and two leather-clad pastors revving up their Harleys. Among the vehicles— nearly 80 in all—bands of guitar- strumming, banner-waving camp staffers marched to the tunes of campfire favorites. Instead of 500 miles, the vehicles took just one lap around the camp, but the number 500 was significant in a different way. Each vehicle was sponsored by a gift of $500 toward the ministry of FLLC. That was a $40,000 lap! Choosing a Model T Ford as the pace car for the first Fortune Lake 500 was no accident. From 1921 to 1951, Henry Ford manufactured wooden automotive body parts at his Kingsford, Michigan plant, located less than 30 miles from the camp.

But the main inspiration for this unique celebration came from photos. Taken at youth conferences in the early 1930s, pictures show hundreds of automobiles parked on the central camp field beside the chapel.

IGNITED BY DETERMINATION Nestled in Michigan’s upper peninsula on the shore of a pristine lake, FLLC has been ministering to campers since 1930, making it one of the ELCA’s oldest outdoor ministries. The beginning of the Great Depression was an unlikely time to fund any venture, but the young adults of the Luther League of the Superior Conference of the Augustana Lutheran Church were not willing to wait. Despite strong opposition from the conference president, the determined Luther Leaguers, along with support from two area pastors, pushed a resolution to buy property to the floor of the annual assembly, and to the surprise of many, the resolution passed. On July 1, 1930, the agreement was finalized to purchase 100 acres of land, including 660 feet of shoreline on Fortune Lake. The price was $2,000—a steal by today’s standards but not so during the Depression. A Bible encampment was scheduled to convene in three weeks. During that brief time, 15

Usage of the new campsite gradually accelerated as Finnish Lutherans, American Baptists, Episcopalians and area 4-H Clubs leased the property. In 1935, the Superior Conference entered into a contract with the U.S. Army to build a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on the camp’s property. Facilities to house and feed 200 boys were built. Not everyone was on board with the conference’s partnership. An issue of “Bible Camp Echoes” worried about “unpleasant complications” that could result from the contract. “Intermingling of the two groups, the CCC boys and our camp delegation, will not be tolerated,” a camp leader warned in the article. Despite warnings, the addition of CCC was well received. An article in 1938 noted a softball game played against the CCC boys, and another stated, “Many CCC boys were present at our evening session. They are always welcome, and we find no distinction at general sessions.” In 1943, the CCC camp was closed, and the buildings were donated to the FLLC. With the addition of these buildings, plus a large auditorium that had been constructed in 1938, the Bible camp facilities more than doubled in size.


In the following years, FLLC traveled a path similar to many outdoor ministries across the ELCA. Church-wide mergers caused shifts in ownership. Although some camps may have benefited, FLLC did not. With limited funds from the synod budget and no on-site management, a bumpy road lay ahead. Summer programs continued, but facilities fell into disrepair. During the winter of 1969, the roof of the old CCC dining hall collapsed under a load of heavy snow. The ministry of FLLC had reached a crossroads—to continue ministry or not. Faith drove the camp forward. For a couple summers, campers experienced “eating out” in a large army tent, until funds became available to build a new dining hall. When another winter of heavy snow brought down a second CCC structure, a new, winterized, log retreat duplex was built with the insurance proceeds, transforming FLLC into a destination for all seasons. Eventually, an association of congregations took ownership of the camp and modified operations, hiring the first resident director in 1982. This vital change has allowed the camp to run successfully for decades.

CAMPING TODAY Today, FLLC serves the 82 congregations of the Northern Great Lakes Synod (Michigan’s upper peninsula and northeast Wisconsin) and several other affiliates. This past summer, 550 campers of all ages visited the camp during nine weeks of on-site programs, and another 400 participated in day camps in member congregations. A variety of retreats are offered during the fall, winter, and spring; quilters and crafters make reservations a year in advance to guarantee their space. Two modest facilities provide a comfortable experience, even after snow banks rise and temperatures fall below zero. As one of the smallest outdoor ministries in the ELCA, FLLC employs only three full-time staff members—camp director, office manager and facility manager. As camp director, Pastor Tracy Polzin’s job description includes both administrative and program responsibilities. She trains and supervises a staff of 25 young adults to implement the summer program. An

active board of directors leads committees that assist with everything from property to development issues.

OVERCOMING ECONOMICAL CHALLENGES Although it may sound like FLLC is now driving on smooth terrain, obstacles still remain. The closest city is 300 miles away. Area schools are facing declining enrollments, and congregations are merging or struggling to keep their doors open. An economy once supported by thriving iron and copper mines is now dependent on logging and recreational hunting and fishing. Unemployment in the UP continues to be higher than both the state and national averages. “Fortune Lake has survived some difficult times by asking difficult questions,” says Amanda Rasner, president of the board of directors. (Amanda met her husband on camp staff 12 years ago; he now serves as pastor of a synod congregation.) “Although we sometimes need to slow down or even change directions, we remain true to our mission and maintain tradition, while working to meet the needs of current and future generations.” Camper fees provide only half of the camp’s annual income. The remainder comes from congregations who are members of the association, two annual fundraisers and gifts from individuals. FLLC has never received extensive funds from bequests or endowments, and although last year only 40 individuals contributed $300 or more, a few generous gifts and hundreds of smaller ones resulted in a balanced budget. When a programmatic or property tune-up is needed, faithful campers get out and push. During this past summer, FLLC conducted a campaign to raise funds to replace the gazebo, one of the first structures built on the site in 1930. The historic gazebo holds a multitude of memories for campers. Over the years, it has been the setting for thousands of staff meetings, Bible studies, evening activities and even a few marriage proposals and weddings.


Staff alumni responded quickly to meet the Gazebo-nanza goal. Names of sponsors will be wood-burned on the pillars and supporting beams of the new gazebo, a tangible testament to the faith and service of these loyal staff alumni.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE So what lies ahead for this little church camp up north? “I think, in the future, a higher percentage of our campers will be unchurched,” says Polzin. “My hope is that we can plant a seed of faith that will send them to local congregations looking for more faith development. With God’s help, FLLC will continue to be a place of grace and transformation for generations to come.” FLLC plans to host a second Fortune Lake 500 event when it celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2015. Donors will once again sponsor classic cars, bikes, motorcycles and buses. A local logging truck has already been recruited to join the parade of vehicles. The symbolism that was inspired by those early photos of autos parked in the camp field runs deep. The Holy Spirit was clearly the driving force behind the faith of the Luther Leaguers who pushed for a Bible camp so many years ago. The same driving force exists among the faithful supporters of outdoor ministry today. Instead of a Model T Ford, perhaps a new Chevy Volt should be chosen as the pace car for the next Fortune Lake 500. FLLC may be one of the oldest and smallest sites for outdoor ministry in the ELCA, but it is fully equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue driving faith forward.

Ruth Warmanen is a

retired high school English teacher, camp volunteer, mother of three grown sons and a grandmother. Her deceased husband, the Rev. Cy Warmanen, was executive director of Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp for 20 years.

FALL 2014

WHY CAMPING WORKS by Glen Egertson I’m Lutheran vanilla. I’m the PK of a PK. My grandfather graduated from Luther Seminary and was sent to Los Angeles to lead a Norwegian congregation in the 1940s. He was a radio evangelist in old Hollywood, back when Lutherans did such things. My dad was a pastor and a bishop and a professor of religion. As for me, after serving several Lutheran congregations in Southern California as a youth minister, I was ordained. I stepped into the pulpit for the first time on the Sunday after 9/11. Four years later, my wife and I moved to the mountains with our family to run the same Lutheran Bible camp I attended as a child. Now, 10 years later, we can’t imagine leaving. That’s not to say that we have not endured our share of struggles. For many years, camp finances dictated many of our decisions. Like most camps, we have observed a slow, but steady decrease in the number of campers our Lutheran congregations send us. The two camps in Southern California that my wife and I oversee were built almost 60 years ago; both camps have decades worth of deferred maintenance. And our biggest challenge is that we work through young women and men who are full of potential, but lack practical experience. (In other words, they have big hearts and occasionally make big mistakes.) In all these ways, we are like most of the 130 camps in the Lutheran outdoor ministry network. So, how is it that we are so optimistic about the future of Lutheran camping?

REASON NUMBER ONE: IMMERSION MINISTRY WORKS. Are you familiar with immersion ministry? This is the “children learn what they live” approach. When a child comes to Bible camp, he/she enters into an intentional Christian community, where every activity and everybody is part of the program. Camp professionals use the phrase, “Everything is program,” for a reason. Every meal, every campfire, every tree, every worship, every conversation, every conflict and every resolution is part of being a child of God within a community that is really trying

to function as the body of Christ. Meanwhile, counselors are pouring themselves out in service to the campers. The beauty of the entire experience is that our counselors often grow more than the campers! Immersion ministry can be intense. Let’s say you want your child to learn a second language. The typical approach is to take a class at school. And for several hours a week, your child will conjugate verbs, memorize dialogues and study vocabulary. Using this approach, most students will achieve a measure of fluency in four to five years. The immersion approach is simple. If you want to learn Spanish, go live with a family in Mexico. Live the language. Breathe the language. Practice the language, and you will learn what you live. As Christians, our desire is to see children learn the language of faith. And if there is a more powerful faithforming experience than Bible camp, I have not had it. My experience is, both as a camper and as a camp leader, that a week of Bible camp is equal to a year of Sunday school.

REASON NUMBER TWO: BIBLE CAMPS ARE IN THE BEST POSITION TO PROVIDE A CRITIQUE TO THE CULTURE AT LARGE. Set apart from the cities and suburbs, church camps offer our guests the opportunity to take a long walk and get a fresh perspective. Time alone in the woods with God is time well spent. Back home, we spend entirely too much time indoors. Sadly, nature deficit disorder is a real thing. For example, there is so much light pollution in the city that some of the kids who visit our camps see the stars for the first time. We feel our souls stirred when we are surrounded by the simple grandeur of the great outdoors, but our camps have an opportunity to provide a sharper cultural critique. Simply put, our lifestyle in the developed world is unsustainable. Our food systems, transportation systems and energy systems are all dangerously dependent upon oil and gas. Water rights may one day be the cause of a major war. Many experts have deter17

mined that there are more people who are overnourished (diet-related diseases) than are undernourished. Meanwhile, the global population is projected to increase steadily. Are we ready to feed, house and provide water for 8 billion people? If the church is going to speak prophetically about any of these systemic issues, certainly our Bible camps have the opportunity to provide leadership, but only if we live authentically. Many of our Lutheran camps are already experimenting with food production and alternative menus, weighing food waste, sorting all their trash, installing geothermal systems and solar panels and integrating all of these disciplines into their camp programs. If we want our children to find the trail toward a more sustainable future, we need to immerse them in new communities, where they can live and learn green practices simultaneously. Our camps are in the best position to embrace new paradigms toward a greener church and world. Of course, I’m only hoping and guessing what the future holds. I wish I had a reliable crystal ball that looked way down the road. My experience is more like St. Paul who spoke of seeing through a dim glass. Truly, we walk by faith, and not by sight, both in the congregation and at camp. Walking together makes both expressions of the church much stronger. And, by the way, I love vanilla.

Glen Egertson and his wife, Lauri, are the executive directors of Lutheran Retreats, Camps and Conferences (LRCC) in Southern California. For more information about Glen and LRCC, visit www.LRCChome.com

TURNING TO SCHOLARSHIP IN CHRISTIAN CAMPING You may have never heard of Tertullian, though chances are, you have heard concerns similar to his about mixing theology with academics. In today’s academic world, summer camp seems particularly off-limits to the crusty old scholars with their starched collars and sweater vests. “What has Princeton to do with Christikon or the academy with camp?” I am not quite ready to trade my faded camp hat for a sweater vest, but I see potential for great value in scholarly attention. The professionalism and respect enjoyed by the field of youth ministry today are the result of tremendous pioneering work of youth ministers and scholars over the past 40 years. Now the field is flooded with conferences, degree programs, books, journals and expert advice on every topic imaginable. You know the names: Exemplary Youth Ministry, National Study of Youth and Religion, Barna Group, Sticky Faith, and the list goes on. In the rapturous acceptance of youth ministry into the scholarly fields, camping ministry has been left behind. There are few degree programs or conferences, and few studies consider camp in even a peripheral way. Camp ministers are often compelled to

enter the more stable fields of professional youth ministry or rostered ministry, thus depriving camps of some of their most faithful and articulate theological voices. There are many camp advocates in the church, but others are skeptical or even wary of camp, sometimes based on negative experiences. One Lutheran pastor cynically characterized camp as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” A few decades ago, youth ministry may have been similarly dismissed, but its recognized status in seminaries and academic circles has changed the conversation. With such a dearth of research, people sometimes latch onto scattered comments and fragments of data that may distort the image of camp. I have heard people place a lot of emphasis on camp’s role in developing professional church leaders, a claim based in large part on anecdotal evidence, together with an unpublished study of one class of incoming students at a single seminary. I would certainly not dispute that many pastors trace their faith story through camp, but camps are not pastor factories. The vast majority of camp staff, and an even greater majority of summer campers, do not become pastors.


by Jacob Sorenson

Overemphasizing this aspect of camp does a disservice to the ministry because camp has much more to offer the church. Better research and scholarship can give a more complete picture of how camping ministry contributes to the ecology of faith formation. The good news is that the tide is turning, and this edition of “Connect Journal” is one sign of increased attention on Christian camping ministry. Other signs include a slow, but steady turn to scholarship and professionalism. Though still rare, some colleges and universities offer courses, and even certifications, in camping ministry. Camp is slowly creeping into professional discussions and publications about youth ministry as something that may need to be considered as a distinct form of ministry. The most significant work on camping over the past decade has been done by the American Camp Association (ACA). Notably, ACA’s 2005 Directions Study (available at acacamps.org) shows that those who attend camp exhibit significant growth in several measurements (one of which is “spirituality”), and the growth is largely maintained for at least six months. ACA represents many types of camps across the country, less than a

FALL 2014 quarter of which are Christian organizations. While the research has tremendous value for Christian camping ministry, it does not address some core questions of concern for practical theologians and the church, such as discipleship and Christian education. The National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) is, arguably, the most influential youth ministry study of our time. Data from this study show that an astonishing 39 percent of American teens have attended religious summer camp (53 percent of mainline Protestant youth). This scrap of data clearly shows that summer camp is a significant part of American religiosity, but the published analysis does not go beyond a brief mention of camp. I recently conducted a secondary analysis of the NSYR data, with particular attention to camp, and some of the findings will appear in this fall’s edition of the “Journal of Youth Ministry.” One key finding is that those who attended religious summer camp as teenagers show significantly higher rates of participation in communal religious practice (such as church attendance and religious small group participation) at least five years later than those who did not attend camp. This intriguing finding suggests that religious camp has significant long-term effects that are most pronounced on communal religious practices. With people leaving the church in droves and turning to individual spirituality (or no religion at all), this finding of camp’s potential effect deserves closer attention and study. Though the data currently available give tantalizing hints of camp’s significance for the church and potential for faith formation, more study is needed. Two studies currently underway promise to be game-changing for the study and practice of Christian camping.

One seeks to construct a grounded theory of camping ministry, and it is designed to be a watershed for future studies aimed at isolating camping ministry’s best practices. The second study is much broader in scope and specific in focus. It is connected to a European study on confirmation, which gives evidence that confirmation training conducted primarily in a camp form shows statistically higher gains in religiosity than other modes of instruction. The data is particularly striking in Sweden and Finland, where the majority of confirmation instruction takes place at camp. The parallel American study, currently underway with an outstanding team of scholars, is known as “The Confirmation Project,” and it “seeks to learn the extent to which confirmation and equivalent practices in five Protestant denominations in North America are effective for strengthening discipleship in youth” (theconfirmationproject.com). The five participating denominations include the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church (USA), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the ELCA. The study features a nationwide survey in two phases (fall 2014 and spring 2015) that will reach thousands of youth, parents and ministry professionals. In addition, the study boasts a rigorous qualitative portion that seeks in-depth portraits of specific congregations and camps. The exciting news for the field of Christian camping ministry is that camp is an important and integral part of this study, essentially making it the first major scholarly study to investigate camp’s role in Christian formation, taking into account a partnership with homes and congregations. Data from this study will give the most comprehensive picture to date of the


nature and significance of Christian camping ministry to the work of the church, and it will open the doors to future scholarship. Increased scholarship is not about proving that camp is worthwhile but rather, about making camp better for the sake of the Gospel, something that scholarship can address in at least four ways: 1. Attention in the scholarly community will improve partnerships between Christian camps and other ministries, which not only ensures that more young people get the opportunity to attend camp, but also facilitates the important transition of campers and staff members into other Christian communities at the conclusion of the camp experience. 2. Increased scholarly attention will improve the quality and theological depth of the Christian camp experiences. 3. Scholarly analysis of the Christian camp communities can better address the specifics of camp’s importance for faith formation and provide valuable insights into whether other ministries can and should incorporate various camp practices or ideologies. 4. A closer analysis of Christian summer camps can provide valuable evidence about the faith of youth and emerging adults who, in the context of Christian camps, are active in ministry in unique ways and are shaping the theological conversations of the church.

Jacob Sorenson is a PhD student at Luther Seminary and camp specialist on the Confirmation Project research team. He has more than 10 years of experience in youth ministry and camping ministry, and he has a deep interest in bringing greater scholarly attention to outdoor ministries. He loves spending time with his amazing wife (a Lutheran pastor) and their two boys. He also enjoys gardening, running, singing around a campfire and most outdoor recreational activities.

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FALL 2014


by George Baum

THE MINISTER WILL SEE YOU NOW So, the Dean of my seminary was kind of a 60s civil rights guy. You know—marched before marching was cool, risked life and limb for what really mattered, took the radical Jesus into the places where Jesus was considered white and quiet and complicit. As such heroes often do, he then projected that struggle onto every perceived injustice, no matter how insensible such projection might be. While any person with a soul can agree that firing water cannons at those you’d secretly prefer to be lynching is completely inhumane, the search for injustice in our current daily life can lead one to apply it to what is not plain to everyone’s eye—soul-bearing or not. Point being, the dean spent many lectures and sermons proclaiming, “Jesus is not nice!” Or he’d say, “Christianity is not about being nice.” Or sometimes, “Jesus doesn’t care whether or not you are nice to people.” It was important to this man to let us all know that Jesus was not some guy in a dress with a sheep over his shoulders. Obviously, in the right time and place, that

is an appropriate message. Like when you’re firing up the faithful to march through the streets of some town where all the “nice” people prefer to look away from Dixieland, while it does what it should not do. But fast forward to the first decade of the 2000s, and the insistence that Christians are not nice, or kind, or welcoming can be, well, completely wrong. Whenever my wife found herself subjected to these tirades-cumsermons, she would walk out of chapel feeling properly dissed, as though she herself were under attack. You see, my wife has the gift of niceness. She exudes kindness. It is what she does, what she is, and she is very good at it. I have never met a kinder, nicer, more caring person in my entire life. The gift God gave to my wife was the Ministry of Nice. And she lives out that ministry every day, in the face of a world that does not expect her to be ministering to it. She even has a magnet on our car that says “Kindness Matters” (which, of course, makes it awkward for me to drive on most days).


There was a time when, yes, it was crucial to be proclaiming that Jesus is not about being nice. That culture, and that church and that situation demanded it! But if you’re willing to come forward 40 or 50 years to look for what the Church might be looking to do as ministry in our current broken world, I’m willing to lay down a fiver on the Ministry of Nice.

George Baum is one half of the band Lost And Found (speedwood.com), and is also a supply priest in the Episcopal Church, the father of two, and the husband of one.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS: www.elcaymnet.org/calendar Start Date

End Date

11/21/14 6:00 PM



Contact Person


11/21/14 7:30 PM Framing in conjunction with Youth Gathering Meeting

St John’s Church

Char Kozlowski


Adult Volunteers

11/21/14 6:00 PM

11/21/14 7:30 PM Framing in conjunction with Youth Gathering Meeting

St John’s Church

Char Kozlowski


Adult Volunteers

12/16/14 1:00 PM

12/16/14 1:30 PM 3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

1/20/15 1:00 PM

1/20/15 1:30 PM

3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

1/29/15 12:00 PM

1/30/15 3:00 PM

Extravaganza 2015 Intensive Care Courses

Marriott, Detroit, Michigan



Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

1/30/15 6:00 PM

2/2/15 11:00 AM

Extravaganza 2015

Marriott, Detroit, Michigan



Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

2/17/15 1:00 PM

2/17/15 1:30 PM

3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

3/17/15 1:00 PM

3/17/15 1:30 PM

3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, A dult Professionals

4/21/15 1:00 PM

4/21/15 1:30 PM

3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

5/19/15 1:00 PM

5/19/15 13:30 PM 3rdTuesday Conversation


Dannica Olsen


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

7/15/15 6:00 PM

7/19/15 11:00 AM ELCA Youth Gathering

Detroit, Michigan

ELCA Gathering Office


Sr High Youth, Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals

2/4/16 3:00 PM

2/5/15 6:00 PM

Intensive Care Courses 2016

Hyatt Regency - Orange County, CA

Todd Buegler


Adult Volunteers, A dult Professionals

2/5/16 9:00 PM

2/8/16 2:00 PM

Extravaganza 2016

Hyatt Regency - Orange County, CA

Todd Buegler


Adult Volunteers, Adult Professionals


FALL 2014

Here’s our belief: There is an amazing amount of talent, expertise and skill within our community.

open source youth ministry

And we have all developed resources for use in our congregations. Many of us are willing to share those resources that we have created. MartinsList is a place to do that. Here, we can share our work with each other...and can create a community of mutual support in our ministry. It’s open source ministry.


It’s MartinsList.

3rd Tuesday Conversations are monthly gatherings of friends. They are great continuing education events. They are opportunities to hear from, and interact with experts in the field. 3TC conversations are free for Network members. Our schedule: Stay tuned at www.elcaymnet.org/3tc for Fall schedule!

Our conversations: We use online webinars. You can log in to a special webinar site and listen to the conversation while watching images on your screen. Or, you can watch on the computer while calling in and listening on your phone. You will have opportunities to ask questions as well.

Times: All 3TC conversations begin at:

2:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Central

12:00 p.m. Mountain, 11:00 a.m. Pacific

Join the conversation! www.elcaymnet.org/3tc 23

ELCA Youth Ministry Network 150 Oakwood Lane Owatonna, Mn 55060


Future of

Outdoor Ministry 24

Profile for ELCA Youth Ministry Network

Connect Journal Fall 2014 - The Future of Outdoor Ministry  

Connect Journal Fall 2014 - The Future of Outdoor Ministry