Why Camp? Camp is a vehicle for developing leaders!
By Peter Fraser

PNW Camps are Petri dishes of leadership. Instead of growing microorganisms, they contain a perfect culture for growing leaders. Leadership development is at the core of our conference foci. The vision of the Camping Board of Stewards is that “Camping and Retreat Ministries in the PNW Conference will be at the forefront of making disciples of Jesus Christ and raising up Christian leaders for the transformation of the world.” While we are a work in progress, there is much happening now to help with this vision.

There is an active growing culture of servant leadership that underlies everything we do. During our summer camping season, staff and volunteers serve in various roles: lifeguards, kitchen workers, waterfront supervisors, cabin leaders, maintenance helpers, music and worship leaders, craft leaders, deans, camp pastors, camp nurses, and challenge course coordinators.

We have a week-long program where applicants between the ages of 15 and 18 are trained to be Leaders In Training (L.I.T). These L.I.T.’s are then paired up with experienced leaders to serve at our four PNW camps as co-cabin leaders, practicing what they have learned. Over and over again, these L.I.T.’s grow into visible leaders at camp and in their local churches.

During camp weeks, leadership is grown when staff and volunteers come together to discuss issues from the day. These are valuable opportunities to make adjustments, gain wisdom, share ideas, pray and encourage one another (and eat Red Vines!).

Some say that a week’s worth of summer camp can be equal to a year’s worth of Sunday school for campers. It’s possible. In a week of camp, numerous times a day, campers experience scripture lessons, messages catered to their age and learning styles, community and skill-building activities, as well as worship, table fellowship, and experiencing God’s creation in nature.

An interesting phenomenon forms. Leaders hear campers say they want to be L.I.T.s or Cabin Leaders or Deans. These campers see the leaders around them working together and they want to emulate that in the future. They want to teach the scripture, and lead a community that cares for one another.

Campers who become camp leaders themselves often become leaders in their churches. Leading in a week-long summer camp is intense. It challenges a person to think quickly, and care for campers uniquely, testing patience and boundaries of love; it is a crucible for servant leadership. Coming to camp each year as a camper and then as a leader is a natural progression, and the opportunities to serve are innumerable.

As with our faith, PNW camps are striving towards perfection. Our four camp sites here in the PNW Conference provide excellent leadership development, and help fulfill our vision of being at the “forefront of making disciples of Jesus Christ and raising up Christian leaders for the transformation of the world.” Our conference is better and more complete because of these sacred spaces where leadership culture is grown.


Peter Fraser serves as the chair for the Camping Board of Stewards in the PNWUMC


  1. Camp does grow leaders. A significant number of the pastors of my generation in my original conference (Central Illinois) started on their road to servant ministry in camping. And this was made possible by those pastors who were willing to give a week or more each summer to camping as counselors. During my early years in Alaska, conference leadership “expected” each pastor to make this contribution to camping. For whatever reason, this focus changed for awhile. Hopefully it is coming back. It will be good for the future of the church. Thanks for the article and the reminder of the importance of “servant leaders”.

    In 2011 I went to Alaska for the 50th anniversary of the founding of Birchwood Camp just north of Anchorage. This 160 acre facility is a gem. In the process of preparing some remarks, I realized that I had been a counselor in the first resident camp held at that facility. What I knew at the time was that Superintendent David Blackburn made it clear that I was “expected” to give one week of my summer to the camp. I ended up giving two weeks. The first week as a counselor and the second week as the Dean. Several years later, actually 4 years later, I became the person in charge of the camp. My title was Camp Superintendent. I didn’t get any pay, so I decided to have a good title. Back then, I didn’t think of calling myself the Camp Servant. Servant leadership. It is a good thing.

  2. Peter, I recall the last time I went to a camp training event I ran into a young man that had been a camper in my cabin during Jr. Camp @ Indianola. He was attending the training as a counselor.

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