children understand how our faith connects us beyond to our community, to our neighbors and to the world.”

Empowering students to lead At one time, Peggy Hahn also sought to pair needs with available resources. In summer 1992, she was working at Kinsmen Lutheran Church in Houston, which boasted a new, unused gymnasium. Hahn thought of her three kids at home, cooped up and aggravating baby-sitters. “Summer is such a rich time for faith formation,”

Hahn said. “Summer just has a different energy and occupies a different space in our lives. It’s really important that we take advantage of that opportunity.” She sketched the vision for a summer Christian

education model. With other parents, she developed something to focus younger children, engage teens and fill that empty gym. Camp Hope was born ( Unlike the common four- to five-day VBS model,

Camp Hope runs a full day, on a three-week schedule. Along with religious education for children, it provides opportunities for teens to develop in ministry leadership and adults to mentor them. From Kinsmen, Camp Hope branched out to more

Above: A Camp Hope Ministries student (name withheld) in prayer. Camp Hope provides a religious education with a full-day, three- week schedule.

Left: Youth summer camp students explore at Camp Mowana, Mansfield, Ohio. Lutheran Outdoor Ministries offers Bible school curriculum that allows users to adapt it to their circumstances.

past 15 years. They collaborate with nearby Methodist and Roman Catholic congregations to offer VBS to preschoolers through sixth-graders, drawing 60 or more children each summer. In 2002, 125 children attended, said Christine

Schmitt, co-coordinator from St. Paul. After adapting prepared curriculum for years,

Schmitt wrote the 2017 materials for “Pathfinders: Let’s Go Hiking!” Its basis is John 14:6, in which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” “A lot of the VBS materials are about vast unknown

areas like ‘deep under the sea.’ I wanted kids to know they could find God right here,” Schmitt said. “We’re in rural Iowa—a small town, with lots of green spaces.” Supporting the main theme are four daily

emphases, with related Bible stories, crafts and games. Children receive a “token” symbolizing the day’s theme. Specific mission focuses also are included for

Homes for Haiti, the local food pantry and the Ronald McDonald House. “We strive to do something to connect everything we do to an international, regional and local mission emphasis,” she said. “This helps the

than a dozen sites in six synods. “There are 13 congregations that do Camp Hope

as a community. … There is no church too small,” said Hahn, now executive director of LEAD in the Texas- Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. At Greenvine Emmanuel Lutheran Church in

Burton, Texas, weekly worship attendance is between 40 and 60 in the town of 300. But even a small congregation like Greenvine has been able to serve students well through its Camp Hope program for youth of African descent by partnering with area nonprofits. Like Greenvine, each Camp Hope site is

personalized. Four core values provide the common thread, said Neil Christians, Camp Hope director and staff trainer: youth-led, adult-mentored ministry; congregational commitment; biblical literacy; and community connection. “In my experience, high school students know

when they’re helping out and when they’re trusted with ministry, and they rise to the occasion,” he said. “You’ll hear people say students are the future of the church; they lead the church today. So let them lead. Let’s get some adults in there to empower them to lead, mentor them and do some discipleship.”

Karris Golden is a professional writer-editor and a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She writes a weekly faith and values column for The Courier.


Photo: Courtesy of Camp Hope Ministries

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