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Camping Ministry Program

Posted on 29 May 2013 by editor

Since 1978, Grace University students have been challenged spiritually, mentally and physically through the Camping Ministry Program.  This program is designed for students who want to work in a Christian camp or related ministry and have a heart for evangelism and discipleship. In cooperation with Camp Forest Springs located in Westboro, Wisconsin, Grace is able to offer students practical, hands-on training as they spend a year participating in the Leadership Training & Development program at Camp Forest Springs.

Two alumni couples share their stories of how God is using them in a camp environment.

Sam and Tawnya Smith, ‘02

Describe your camping ministry.  Is there something that makes your camp unique?

Camp Forest Springs is a year-round, non-denominational Christian camp serving approximately 16,000 people in northern Wisconsin through youth camps, family camps, seasonal retreats, and wilderness adventure programs. The mission is to provide programs and facilities in a camping environment with a trained, service-oriented staff who use the Word of God to help initiate faith and cultivate maturity in Jesus Christ.

There are several aspects that make CFS unique. One feature is a downhill and cross-country ski program that attracts many guests throughout the winter season. Another unique aspect is the commitment to the training of Christian leaders through the college accredited Leadership Training & Development program (year-long) and the Summer Counselor Training Institute.

Describe your role within the camp.

While I am privileged to be able to serve in a variety of different facets throughout the year, my main responsibility at camp is Building Maintenance. This includes ongoing preventative maintenance, as well as repairs and improvements involving roofing, painting, flooring, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, electric and plumbing.

Tawnya mainly supports me at home by caring for our three children full time. CFS values the involvement of women, and there are several opportunities each year for Tawnya to be directly involved at camp. She works with the other women of CFS in implementing the programs for the fall and spring women’s events. She also is given opportunities to use her talents in leading worship through music on occasion.

How did your time at Grace University prepare you for what you are doing today?

The Bible and doctrinal classes that were offered at Grace were critical in giving me a better understanding of scripture so I could closely examine what it is that I believe and learn to defend my faith. Through the Servant Leadership Training program, I learned to put into practice what I was learning and to not just go through the motions, but to look for every opportunity to share the Gospel. Tawnya and I were both Christian Camping Majors, so we went through the LTD program at CFS for our senior year. This is a program that demanded everything of us for 11 months. While we were still taking classes, there was a rigorous program schedule and other work responsibilities assigned to us outside of the classroom. All of these experiences were crucial preparation for what I am doing today. While my main responsibility is maintenance, we have plenty of opportunities to listen, encourage and interact with youth and family campers, as well as the college students that are summer staff or year-long LTD students. And nothing could have prepared us for the demands of ministry like the intense experience of the LTD program.

Share several things you have learned about ministry in a camp setting.

I’ve learned to trust the work of the Spirit instead of thinking we have to do it all. Many people make decisions for Christ at camp, and those new believers then return to the normal world they came from. In a sense, we have to “let go.” That can be difficult because we sometimes worry that they will forget and backslide into their same old lifestyle. But when the Spirit is at work, it is powerful, and He will continue the work that He began unto completion. We have witnessed this in the lives of campers who have come to know Christ at camp.

When you work at a camp, it means you work where others vacation. Consequently, you have to work many weekends, Sundays, and some holidays.

Something is always being sacrificed. If you are not careful and intentional, you can easily give in to every demand of the camp ministry at the expense of family and local church involvement. We’ve learned to anticipate the seasons when the ministry is a bit more demanding and walk through them with grace and understanding, knowing that the seasons do change.

What are the needs of young people today?

The Millennial Generation wants and senses authenticity. They need someone to be real to them instead of putting on a front. They also need answers to the question “why?” Asking “why” of your elders used to be disrespectful, but for this generation it is normal and acceptable. They simply want to know why things are. They need an authentic person to love them like Christ and to be able to give a reason for the things they believe.

Phil and Jewel Most, ‘92

Describe your camping ministry.  Is there something that makes your camp unique?

San Juan Bible Camp is a small camp tucked in the Southwest part of the San Juan National Forest near Mancos, Colorado. The camp serves 500 campers each year primarily from the Four Corners area. Summer is the busiest season with six week-long youth camps and many rental camps in the spring, summer and fall. The area campers love to be at camp for the food, fun activities, building friendships and study of the Bible. With a camp of only 20 acres, we rely on our proximity to the many things in our area such as rock climbing, horse rides, white water rafting and hot springs. We also have snow skiing, Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners Monument for other year-round activity options.

Describe your role within the camp.

I have been the camp director since November 2001 which, for a small camp, includes every job description. I have done every job there is to do at a camp from cleaning toilets to meeting with donors. My wife Jewel spends most of her time homeschooling and caring for our four children, but she also plans the camp menus, orders food, and writes the camp newsletter.

How did your time at Grace University prepare you for what you are doing today?

The mission of San Juan Bible Camp is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their relationship with Him. Our time at Grace developed in us a greater love for God and His Word and taught us how to handle the Bible accurately. In our Christian Education classes, we also learned how to communicate the truth of God’s Word in creative and relevant ways. My time at Camp Forest Springs as a camping major was vital in training me how to run a camp as both a ministry and business. My classes both at Grace University and Camp Forest Springs helped form my philosophy of ministry based on servant leadership. Camp Forest Springs was an excellent place to see the ministry principles I was learning lived out in real life.

Share several things you have learned about ministry in a camp setting.

The biggest thing that I have learned and am always trying to help our summer staff understand is that ministry rarely happens at the exact time you think it should. Ministry happens all around us as we live our lives for Jesus and pass that wisdom onto other people in everyday circumstances. The reason camp is such an effective tool is that we offer everyday living experiences that provide opportunities to pass on Biblical wisdom from Christians who are ready and looking for those opportunities. Ministry is not running a program. Ministry is about people and programs simply being tools used to interact with people. We as humans need an excuse sometimes to hang around and get to know other people. So at camp, we play games together, staff get to know campers, and there are opportunities as we’re living life together to share wisdom through life experience and God’s Word.

I also have learned the incredible amount of life change that can take place in just one week when campers are removed from the distractions of their normal routine and allowed the opportunity to really hear God speak through His Word, His creation, and His people.

What are the needs of young people today?

Young people are looking for something solid to hold on to. Our society is changing so fast and so often that any one thing doesn’t satisfy for very long. The youth of today need to be introduced to the trustworthy, unchangeable God of the Bible who is FOR them! Every summer I observe God use creative teaching from His Word, Biblical worship, and the teachable moments that counselors share throughout the week to reveal His true character to campers. As caring, well-trained counselors build genuine relationships with them, campers are able to encounter Jesus in a living, active way and begin to grasp the idea of an intimate relationship with the steadfast God of the Universe.

Describe one of the funniest moments you have experienced while ministering in a camp setting.

I have more of an observation that is unique, not necessarily funny. I have noticed that parents of first-time campers can actually be more homesick than their children! Every summer I get at least one call from a “first-time” parent in the middle of the week asking how their child is doing and wondering why they have not heard from him yet.  I’ve even seen parents on a couple occasions show up at camp unannounced to drop off an article of clothing for their child, hoping to have the opportunity to see him or her.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Dr. Greg Carlson Says:

    Hello, Camp Majors! As your former prof, I’d like to say that you make me proud. The Camp Forest Springs training program is one of the best, if not the best, in the country. God’s best to all the graduates. Thanks to former and current staff.

    Gregory C. Carlson, Ph.D.
    Chair and Professor of Christian Ministries
    Trinity International University
    (Former Grace U prof)

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