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Fun times at camps solidify faith

            After a decline in the number of campers during the recession, several area church-related camps experienced increased numbers last year and expect more this summer.

Each camp director/manager said a week at camp is key in strengthening faith understandings in the context of time away from the usual routines of life at home, in school, in church, in the community and in front of “screens.”

Each camp has different approaches to drawing people to their summer camps, as well as to renting space year round for retreats.

Keeping up with maintenance and improving facilities also keeps campers interested in coming to camps.


At Lutherhaven Camp
Campers experience outdoor challenges

Camp unplugs youth from their many media screens, engages them outdoors and surrounds them with young adult Christian mentors, summed up Bob Baker, executive director of Lutherhaven Ministries.

“That drives Christian faith,” he said.  “Camp is not just a force in faith formation, it is the driving force today in faith formation in the lives of children and youth,” he said.

In 2012, Camp Lutherhaven on the western shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Shoshone Mountain Retreat on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River welcomed more than 4,100 campers in the summer and had 12,000 people use the sites year round. 

To build year-round use, Lutherhaven is remodeling its historic Retreat Center to house 75 people in suites with private baths.

“It’s a response to changing demographics, changing society and campers’ changing needs” said Bob, noting that parent surveys say they send their children to Lutherhaven for the quality programs, outdoors experiences and faith formation, and because it’s a safe place.

Although that’s what parents want, a generation of young parents do not know about church camps, because they have no religious affiliation and possibly no camp experience in their own childhoods.

Lutherhaven Ministries seeks to draw a third from congregations, a third from campers’ friends and a third from families with no faith affiliation.

Lutherhaven has expanded opportunities for campers to experience team-building and develop personal and interpersonal skills in trust and team building. 

Itron Corporation of Liberty Lake recently built a new 21-element high-ropes course at Lutherhaven for their own corporate team building, and Lutherhaven campers will use the ropes.  The new challenge course adds variety to the 24 low- and high-elements the camp has had for 25 years, so more camper groups can use the course at the same time, said Bob.

For information, call 866-729-8372 or 208-667-3459 or visit


At N-Sid-Sen
Camp’s sanctity has power to melt stresses


camper at N-Sid-Sen
Camper jumps in at N-Sid-Sen.

Mark Boyd, managing director of N-Sid-Sen, the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ camp and retreat center, said:  “Many people say their stresses fade and they are ready to relax when they enter the parking lot.  The camp has a power and sanctity for all people who come here, because it belongs to everyone.”

Completing his first year at N-Sid-Sen, Mark said he has been intentionally visiting United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations to share about camping.  Coupled with those visits and a new camp video put out by Outdoor Ministries at N-Sid-Sen and Pilgrim Firs, the UCC’s western Washington camp, circulating among the churches, he expects to draw more campers this summer.

He also continued a tradition at N-Sid-Sen of inviting clergy to a retreat to allow them a chance to step away and remind them of the power of camp experiences and the importance of their participation.

Last summer, Mark spent time with camp staff to learn the systems.  This year, he will spend more time with directors, counselors and campers to learn what works and what doesn’t. 

“For years, people asked me when I was going to become a minister,” Mark noted, affirming that God has called him to a ministry of hospitality at camp, “where people come, grow in faith and are transformed.  A good friend pointed out that this is my ministry.”

For information, call 208-689-3489 or visit


Ross Point theme is ‘All Things New’

Ross Point Camp Ropes course
Ross Point camper experiences challenge of high-ropes course.

Ross Point uses the National Council of Churches’ curriculum, “All Things New,” which Marta Walker, administrative assistant, said encourages time to explore new creation, new life, new understandings and new community as campers look outside themselves and think about how God wants them to express love for God, each other and the world.

At the American Baptist camp on the Spokane River near Post Falls, Marta said, camps give children a chance to step away from the busyness of home, TV and computer games to connect with God and discover how others live their Christian faith. 

“Swimming, high ropes, a climbing wall and camp games help campers stretch more than physically. It’s amazing to see how they blossom in faith when they go home,” Marta said

Ross Point draws about 250 youth campers and 200 family campers in a summer season—coming primarily from churches from Central and Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana.

For information, call 208-773-1655 or email or visit


At MiVoden

MiVoden campers
Campers enjoy riding inflatable rocket behind boat on Hayden Lake at Seventh-Day Adventist Camp MiVoden.

Extreme sports camps popular


Relationships built while engaging in outdoor recreation help youth connect concepts to faith, said Denise Kinsey, assistant director at the Seventh-Day Adventist’s Camp MiVoden on Hayden Lake.

Each week they house 12 extreme-sports campers in a new cabin.  Those camps are popular, because teens ride wakeboards, water ski, mountain bike, do an adventure course and go white-water rafting.

MiVoden also has remote-control boats, trucks and planes, and a cowboy camp to learn equestrian skills and caring for horses.

For information, call 208-772-3484 or visit




Camp Cross introduces environmental stewardship

Camp is a place for people to let down their guard and be who they are,” said Colin Hafner, who is in his second year as director at the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane’s Camp Cross on the western shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. 

“That opens us to build a Christian community that is responsible for the people and space around us.  It builds leaders for the diocese and the world, people who are willing to serve others,” he said.

Colin added that Camp Cross emphasizes Christian values about relationships, prayer, discipleship and service.

“We show campers that prayer is around us in many forms, not just part of Sunday worship,” he said.

For Colin, the measure of the effectiveness of camp is that campers take what they learn and translate into their homes, schools, churches, sports and other activities of their daily lives.

“We hope to instill these values in campers so they will take them back to their communities to become disciples for the transformation of the world,” he said.

To emphasize care of the earth, Camp Cross, hired an environmental coordinator to integrate more environmental awareness in camp programs, including introducing campers to composting, raised-bed gardening and care for the camp’s 100-acres of shoreline, forest and rocky terrain. 

Campers will learn how to live sustainably, how to test water for pH levels and clarity.  On nature hikes, they will learn about vegetation and ecosystems, said Colin.

For information, call 624-3191 or visit


Camp Spalding markets beyond church

New features help draw campers to Camp Spalding, the Inland Northwest Presbytery’s camp near Newport, providing return campers with new activities to engage them, said Andy Sonneland, executive director. 

This year the camp plans to build a suspension bridge to a rock island with a grant from Country Homes Kiwanis. 

Camp Spalding is also planning to design some elements and structures to encourage campers to engage with the natural environment.

Andy said that after a record attendance of 1,608 in 2008, there was a drop during the recession, but he expects the camp is “on track to regain most of that decline with an anticipated third summer in a row of increase.”

Camp Spalding’s marketing has shifted in recent years to using billboards, public radio spots and internet to widen appeals beyond its historical constituency of children and youth in Presbyterian churches and their friends.

“Today, about 66 percent of our campers come from families outside of our denomination,” he said.  “At the same time, we still have more Presbyterian campers today than we did during our denomination’s greatest membership in the mid-1960’s.”

For information, call 731-4244 or visit


Twinlow improves facility for hospitality

Traditional camp activities still have a draw, said Gary Simpson, program director at Twinlow, the camping and retreat ministry of the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Conference

In the context of having fun doing traditional camp activities—swimming, fishing, waterboarding, tubing, sailing, playing games, doing arts and crafts, singing around campfires and learning about God’s natural world—campers find they are “in a sanctuary of Christian hospitality and renewal,” he said. “They discover what is meaningful for their lives as they grow as people and as Christians.”

Twinlow, an 85-year-old facility on Lower Twin Lake near Rathdrum had volunteers from two congregations—Kennewick First United Methodist and Coeur d’Alene Community Methodist—help refurbish the interiors of two cabins with tongue-and-groove pine walls and expanding a deck on one.  Improvements also included changing to more energy-efficient lighting.

For information, call 208-253-2671 or visit


Camp Gifford gives campers hope

camp gifford kids
Children build relationships with each other at Camp Gifford.

Few of the campers at the Salvation Army’s Camp Gifford on Loon Lake are from that faith community.  Many are from low-income families.

“We hope to give the campers hope,” said Jeff Potts, camp director.  “Campers coming from difficult circumstances lack vision and purpose in life.  We help them see that they have unlimited potential.”

Nearly 1,000 children and youth come to camp each year and have fun while learning about themselves, the environment and God.  For information, call 233-2511 or visit

Photos provided courtesy of the camps.

Copyright © June 2013 - The Fig Tree