Lutherhaven finds new ways to recruit campers
For 26 years, Bob Baker has been executive director of Lutherhaven, which was founded in 1946. Lutherhaven Ministries now includes Camp Lutherhaven on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Shoshone Mountain Retreat and Ranch up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, Idaho Servant Adventures and Lutherhaven Day Camps.
It's the 100th year for Lutheran camping, which started near Pittsburgh, he said.
"Church camps change with changes in the culture, society and churches," Bob said."With mainline churches declining in numbers, fewer campers come from the church pipeline. We have new pipelines and have 120 percent more campers this year than in 2018, when we had a 120 percent increase over 2017. About a third are Lutheran, a third from other churches and a third unchurched."
While many baby boomers went to church camps, generation X and millennials did not, so benefits of camp "are not in their vocabulary," he said.
Another shift is from paper registration to online registration.
"We keep our website up-to-date and have 'real-time' feedback about the registration process," Bob said. "We have hired a social media manager. This is our second summer with no paper brochure."
Another change is that camp once drew more middle and upper middle class youth. With more single parents, last year Lutherhaven Ministries gave $190,000 in write-offs, helping 64 percent of campers, subsidizing 1,000 children and youth. A Tanzanian camper learned about Lutherhaven on the internet. Last year 18 from Shanghai, China, found the camp through connections. This year 24 campers are from Shanghai.
Over a year, about 14,000 use Lutherhaven facilities, and 6,000 in the summer. About 450 come from around the nation to Idaho Servant Adventures—to paint houses, build fences, repair homes, do roofing, clear trails, do weeding and other services.
To keep up with demand, Lutherhaven is building a $800,000 dining hall at Shoshone, now in its 21st year, because the program there expanded to fourth graders through high school.
"The camp teaches that God loves and forgives, and Jesus loves us, because it's easy in the world to be pulled away from that truth," said Bob, adding that camp draws people into churches as campers bring friends.
"Instead of being plugged in to a device eight hours a day, they are out in the beauty of God's creation building relationships with peers, guided by caring young adult mentors," he said.
The 2019 theme is "Adventure Awaits," based on Ephesians 5:1 and 2 on walking the way of love.
Different age groups come at the same time, so parents send all their children one week.
Lutherhaven has also started a camp for 180 seniors—in their 80s and 90s—to come with wheel chairs, walkers and canes.
For information, call 208-667-3459 or visit lutherhaven.com.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2019