Did you know that 90% of parents choose Mt. Gilead for their daughter without ever scheduling a tour, calling the camp director, or coming to an event before-hand? It’s a surprising number, but not unique to Mt. Gilead alone; it is common among most camps for parents to choose a summer program purely through a website visit and/or a referral from a friend. The downside to this is that parents are often only left with the short time they have while dropping and picking up their campers to get to know the summer staff better. At that point, everyone is so busy, you may end up bringing your camper for three summers in a row, and never really get to know the ministry or leadership better than a simple “how was your trip” and “see you next year”. With this in mind, I thought it would be great to spend a little bit of time asking our leadership some questions in order to meet them and get to the core of Mt. Gilead as a ministry.
To get to the heart of Mt. Gilead, I interviewed 5 of our core staff members – Adam, Inca, Kazooie, Chrysa, and Scuttle – and summarized their answers below. Adam has been our executive director for 7 years, Inca is Adam’s wife and leads the CILT program, Kazooie is our summer camp director, Chrysa grew up at Mt. Gilead and is now a board member, and Scuttle is a Mt. Gilead alumna. Everyone’s name (except for Adam’s) is their camp names, not their real names. These 5 have poured their hearts into the ministry of Mt. Gilead Camp and now share some of that heart with you.
What is the purpose of Mt. Gilead?
Adam: We want to offer a non-compromising, Christ-Centered, affordable summer camp for girls. As a Christian non-profit, everything else takes second place to the ministry aspect of Mt. Gilead. We are not a business designed to generate profit – we want all families to be able to come and even offer scholarships for those who are financially unable – we fundraise and rely on God annually to make that happen.
Inca: Making God known to campers by showing them Christ
Kazooie: Teaching girls to live victorious lives by teaching them who they are in God’s eyes and weighing it against what society has to say.
Lois: Our mission statement says that ‘Mt. Gilead exists to glorify God by evangelizing, discipling, and ministering to girls through a biblically-centered camping experience that equips them to impact their families and the world for Christ.’ The purpose is always to glorify God. Nothing else matters if we’re not glorifying God.
Scuttle: Providing a space for campers to get away and experience God for themselves. All their needs are met, and they are in a new environment that can bring out their full personality.
What do we have to offer specifically as an all-girls camp?
Adam: We’re passionate about single-gender camps because it allows for the removal of additional distractions. Real growth happens when we focus on God. We can focus on God by removing distractions. We’re allowing a level of growth to happen that can’t happen at a co-ed camp. Girls have that extra space to form a deeper relationship with God and the people around them at Mt. Gilead. We’ve always been an all-girls camp and we always will be.
Inca: We offer freedom from outside pressures and connection to an intimate family atmosphere. No one needs to worry about the way they look because no one is trying to impress. The leadership is also intentionally trying to be better and is biblically-centered in prayer.
Kazooie: There are no pressures that come from competing in relationships. You have a chance to develop friendships in a safe environment and you can’t help but feel the love of God when you’re here.
Lois: When you remove the distraction of boys, technology, and media, it takes away the pressure of worrying about what people think of you. You’re freer to be yourself. I notice that even on weekends, campers are worried about looking good when they go out. We are very intentional about being all-girls because we can address specific topics related to being a girl today in a healthy way.
Scuttle: We’re able to focus specifically on girls and their needs. We remove the distractions of life today and provide role models in the form of counselors that they can ask questions about growing up and serve as an example for girls to look up to.
What are our core values and how do we teach them at camp?
Adam: We show campers love by setting the tone for them as staff, which creates an atmosphere of acceptance and ultimately growth. Everything starts with the staff, which is why we take so much time in hiring the right people to work here. It’s a blessing to see our staff loving and encouraging each other and the campers. Unfortunately, we don’t see that at every camp in the US. We train our staff to have “meaningful conversations” with campers (we call them MC’s). We want to show campers that people are important and that we love others with our words and actions. We praise and put others up and never put them down. At Mt. Gilead, cliques and bullies aren’t a thing because there is no environment for them to thrive here. Campers follow the examples of counselors, and counselors follow the example of our leadership.
Inca: We want to model what it’s like to have a real relationship with Christ so that campers can notice and want the same thing. We then have the opportunity to have a conversation about values because values flow out of a changed heart.
Kazooie: Making wise choices is a value at Mt. Gilead. When girls grow up through the camp, they learn how to make Christ-centered decisions by seeing what the word of God has to say. A lot of times girls don’t even realize what they’re learning because they’re just having so much fun!
Lois: Pleasing God (Matt 6:33), Biblical Teaching (Deut 6:4-7), Service (Eph 4:11-13), Relationships (Heb 10:34-35), Unity (Col 2:2-3), Strengthening Families (Col 2:6-7), Integrity (Prov 11:3), Safety (Prov 18:10), Fun!
Scuttle: Counselors model values and are an older sister figure to the campers. The campers have someone to look up to someone who is walking with the Lord.
Why are you so committed to Mt. Gilead as a ministry?
Adam: My life changed as a result of the love shown to me at camp when I was in middle school. The counselors showed me a tangible love of Christ that I had never seen before. For the first time I saw it, and it drew me to Christ. Camp fits my personality really well and I understand how powerful a Christian camp can be in a young person’s life. God led us to Mt. Gilead and has affirmed to us every year that this is where we’re supposed to be. We, as a family, have been blessed here, and watching God bless the ministry is the greatest reward! I never would have seen myself working in an all-girls environment with four daughters of my own, but God has a way of changing our hearts and I couldn’t see myself serving anywhere else.
Inca: At first we were just here because we believed God had brought us here and we were walking in his works for us, but after getting here, I fell in love with the place: songs, campers laughing, staff, and getting to know the heart of what God is doing. When campers get here on the first day you can tell that they’re carrying so much weight with them. Then at the end of the week, they go home with a look of freedom because they’ve met Christ or gotten to know him in a new way. I feel honored to be a part of it and I’m honored that God brought us here. Now there’s no place I’d rather be!
Kazooie: I grew up in a church, but nothing about Christianity connected with me until I went to camp and I learned how to actually have a relationship with God. Camp is a time when you’re away from distractions and you can learn from other kids and counselors. I hope every child has a chance to experience it!
Lois: I started as a camper at Mt. Gilead in 5th grade. It was there I realized that the word of God was something for every aspect of life. I went through CILT, became a counselor, Weekend Wacko, and am now on the board. It’s just a part of my life!
Scuttle: I’ve seen the ministry go through a lot of change, but leadership has been consistently faithful to God, which I think reflects the consistency of God. God always brings solid staff to the ministry and I’ve always seen him provide.
I hope you noticed that our heart at Mt. Gilead is to love God, glorify Him, and minister to our campers. So many lives have been changed as a result of Mt. Gilead (including my own) and I know that many more will continue to be changed because that’s where God’s heart is. We’re just along for the ride, wherever he takes us!
You can learn more about what drives Mt. Gilead, as well as our ministry’s history, and even get in contact with these leaders who were interviewed for this article by starting right here on the website: https://www.mtgileadcamp.org/our-focus/