Posts Tagged: Youth

Redwood Summer Staff Highlight: Nathan Higuera

Posted by & filed under General, Stories of Ministry, Youth.

Nathan Higuera Photo

Nathan Higuera (Sharkie) is a valued summer staff counselor who has been a huge blessing to so many kids at Redwood Camp. We wanted to stop and introduce you to Nathan and a brief snippet of how he feels about camp:

What is your past experience at the Herm? How did you hear about us? What inspired you to come and work on staff?

My past experience at Mount Hermon has been being a counselor at Redwood. I heard about Mount Hermon through my best friend and a desire to be around kids and learn more about myself, as well as learn more about God motivated me to work on staff.

  • Nathan Higuera Photo
  • Nathan Higuera Photo

A lot of staffers mention that it’s the “people” that make camp as special as it is. In your experience, what about the people make camp so impactful?  Do you have any short anecdotes about specific campers or staff members you would like to share?

The people totally make camp special! Sure, I have good memories with campers; however, my favorite memories involve my fellow staff members. It is an AMAZING community that is there for you at every high and more importantly every low. You literally don’t have to go through anything alone, the vulnerability is contagious. I had the opportunity to bond with so many amazing people over fun, difficult, and hilarious memories. I had the opportunities to share parts of my life I had never before and learned new things about myself. There is nothing like a camp setting. Being a camp counselor is not always easy, but being surrounded by so many amazing people makes it 110% worth it.

One week during the summer I heavily emphasized the feeling God gives us. My campers didn’t quite understand what I meant by this until the last night. One of my campers told me he was able to feel God in a way he had never experienced before and what I had been talking about all week long now made sense. I still get chills reflecting on that story.

If you could encourage anyone to join our staff, what would you tell them?
Nathan Higuera Photo

COME TO MOUNT HERMON, specifically Redwood (I might be a bit biased). You will literally, and I mean literally, have the best summer of your life, and you will grow in so many different ways. God is present here, and it can be felt. You will feel so loved, and so special. The friendships you develop with your fellow staff members are totally unique, and cannot be put into words; you will just have to experience it all for yourself to fully understand.

Has your time on summer staff provided you with any tools (professionally or personally) that have been applicable post camp life?

Summer staff taught me the importance of vulnerability. It was something that I had always had trouble with, and now I understand why it is so important. The opportunity to be vulnerable with people in my life arises very frequently and without my summer at Mount Hermon I would still shy away from it. Spending a summer at Mount Hermon has taught me how to love people better and what it means to be loved by God.

Apply for Summer Staff

Integrated Theming

Posted by & filed under LOG, Youth.



When I was a student in southern California, and made countless drives up and down highway 5, I was always perplexed when I passed the exits for Disneyland. Seeing the top of the Matterhorn mountain or Hotel Tower of Terror, I’d think if it weren’t for the signage, most people would drive by the “Happiest Place on Earth.” They would miss the experience of being transported to another time and place. The sites, sounds, smells, the people you encounter and the overall experience lead you to believe you have been moved into another world.

It is that experience, the transportation into a world unlike your own, that the youth team at Mount Hermon strives to replicate any time a student or parent walks on these grounds.

Our vision is to lead students one step closer to Jesus

In preparing for any youth program, our vision is to lead students one step closer to Jesus; creating a holistic experience in which everything ties seamlessly together is part of that aim. We never want there to be a distinction between the “spiritual theme” and the “fun theme,” but rather that all components of the program-whether activities, free time, time alone devotions, or skits-point back to creating an experience where students are taking one step closer to Jesus.

From the moment guests step on our grounds, we want to hook them into the theme and experience. The parking lot decorations and playlist are just-as-intentionally planned out as the main lodge areas. As they walk in to camp and cross the threshold, we strive for their senses to be overwhelmed just enough that they feel transported, and yet remain curious enough that they want to learn more. No space or area of camp should be left unturned, but everything is transformed. (Here’s a hint: the sign of a truly integrated theme is when even the bathrooms are decorated!)

Integrated Theming 2

For example, this summer at Ponderosa Lodge, we specifically wanted there to be an intentional separation between the two worlds we were thematically presenting. We created an entrance gate, which on one side was reflective of the dark, lifeless Shadowlands. As soon as guests passed under the archway, they were met with the color and life of the Upside Down world, and greeted by welcoming staff who immediately made them feel at home. A 20-foot clock tower stood in the middle of Ponderosa that students walked through to the cabin areas multiple times a day. As they passed through, the theme’s tagline, “live like you belong to another world,” was stated over the archway, reminding them of the Biblical truth they were studying and being challenged with during the week. It was key pieces like these that tied everything together into one grand experience.

Parents often ask staff as they’re on their way out of camp, “where do I sign up?” That wish of wanting to stay and not leave, is exactly what we’re striving for. They’ve stepped in to a world unlike their own for a brief period of time. It is our vision and prayer that they leave changed and continuing to take one step closer to Jesus.

Kelsey Paterson is the Program Administrator for Youth and Young Adults. She served two years as an intern, and now serves full time, designing programs that make a lasting impression and impact on students. 

A Private Faith is A Deficient Faith

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

In a little over a month, I will head back out to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the second residency of the Doctor of Ministry program where I am studying “Ministry to Emerging Generations.” Recently, we have been studying God and culture and it has been enlightening!

I have always been aware of the powerful influence of culture but I never realized the extent of our culture’s power in shaping our worldviews. Leslie Newbigin, in his book “Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture” opened my eyes to a worldview that many Christians embrace without question–the separation of the public and private faith of Christians. This isn’t about the separation of church and state; this is about the separation of a “private” faith from our public lives.

For the most part, our American culture is OK with those who have faith in Jesus as long as that faith doesn’t stray from our private lives. In this worldview, it is OK for God to be acknowledged behind closed doors, but once we bring Jesus into our public lives, we cross the line of what is acceptable and we are seen as violating the freedom and rights of others. As a result, many of us shrink back in fear and silence and then desperately fight to restrain God to our private lives. The problem is that God will not be restrained.

In this light, it becomes evident that a private faith is a deficient faith. Our faith cannot be limited to our private worlds. It must extend to our public lives if it is to be true faith. In fact, this faith must be extended to the whole of human history because the same Lord of our lives is the King over human history. It is possible for us to live, and speak, publicly as Christians but who also honor the freedom of religion that America grants its’ people.  If the youth of today are going to lead the church, this worldview embracing the division of the public and the private must be cast aside.

CILT :: A Student’s Perspective

Posted by & filed under Alumni, Stories of Ministry, Youth, Youth Pastors.

This is a guest post by Sydney Boral, a senior in high school who has attended numerous youth camps at Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon will always be near and dear to my heart because it is where Christ pursued me to be His disciple. This past summer, I experienced Ponderosa Lodge from an entirely new perspective; I was a CILT.  CILT, or Campers in Leadership Training, is a two week program in which high school students are trained to share the love of God with junior highers. As amazing as being a leader for younger girls was for me, CILT also provided me with the opportunity to dive deeper into my own faith, and to create bonds with other Christians in high school who truly love Jesus. When you’re a CILT, the entire Ponderosa staff pours their love into you constantly. Then, you are blessed with the chance to pour your own love into campers. CILT taught me a lot about what it looks like to not just be a follower, but a disciple. Serving God and others is so fulfilling, and at the same time you’re having so much FUN!

One of the most noticeable characteristics about being in a leadership role is the challenges you face. I’ve been a camper for seven summers now, and have always been terrified of the leap of faith. One day when I was with my campers at the ropes course, one asked me to be her partner for the jump, and without hesitation I accepted. I’m not sure why her request was so easy to answer, but I know that God was working through me. God really gave me countless ways to be a leader during CILT, and every boundary I grew past brought me closer to being a true disciple.

Another challenge brought on by CILT was knocking down your walls. The entire first week of CILT is spent training to be a leader, and bonding with your fellow CILTs because they are your family. We all had to open up about the tough stuff, but being able to admit your struggles brings you so much closer to God and shows you how much your “family” cares about you.

CILT was undoubtedly the best adventure I’ve ever experienced.

5 Lessons I Learned from Recess

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

Two weekends ago, Mount Hermon hosted a weekend gathering for youth workers called “Recess.”  Youth workers came together from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to play, rest, connect and learn.  I love learning and this weekend did not disappoint.  Here are 5 simple lessons I learned from Recess:

  1. Youth workers are some of the most amazing people in the world--Youth workers give up their time, energy & resources to hang out with students who don’t often thank them or even realize the sacrifice that’s being made.  Regardless, youth workers continue to be present with these students while modeling the love and grace of Jesus.  Not only that, but each youth worker who attended Recess gave up a weekend of their free time to learn how to be a more effective minister of the gospel.
  2. We need each other–I have a tendency to think that I can do things on my own.  Sometimes I am even so arrogant to think that I know better than any one else.  The older I get, the more I realize how stupid that kind of thinking is.  I was encouraged by spending the weekend with like-minded people who have similar passions and who are reaching and discipling youth with creativity.
  3. We all need seasoned mentors speaking into our lives and ministries--Our Recess speakers this year were Brian Berry and Duffy Robbins.  For me, it was a blessing just to spend time with men who have been doing youth ministry for years and who have learned from their failures and successes.  I could’ve spent many more hours with both of these guys just asking questions.
  4. You can never have too much training–The longer I am involved in youth ministry, the more I’m tempted to think that I’ve learned everything I need to learn.  Yet, I always learn something new when I read, go to conferences or spend time with mentors and other youth workers.  The old saying, “leaders are learners” is true.  I want to continue to learn as long as I’m alive.
  5. Volunteer youth workers are my heroes–I get paid to do youth ministry; it’s my full-time job and that job pays my bills.  Volunteer youth workers, on the other hand, have full-time jobs (or they are full-time students) yet they spend their precious free time ministering to students because they believe that they can make a difference for Jesus.  That blows my mind!

Because Recess was such an amazing weekend, Mount Hermon will be hosting it again in 2012 on September 28-30.  Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details!


Safety @ Ponderosa Lodge

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

We have received a number of calls from parents asking “How safe is my student at Ponderosa?”  Safety is one of our number one concerns at Mount Hermon.  Here is a look at some of the basic safety precautions we take at Ponderosa Lodge:


  • We get hundreds of applicants each year at Mount Hermon.  Applicants go through a rigorous application and screening process that includes interviewing, reference checks and background checks.  Counselors then go through 11 days of training at the beginning of the summer.  Additionally, each counselor is monitored throughout the summer by our leadership to ensure they are doing their jobs correctly and keeping students safe.  Each counselor also takes part in official evaluations with their supervisor two times during the summer.  Our number 1 concern is camper safety and we go to great lengths to protect the campers parents entrust to us.

    Camp Activities

    • We have so many great activities at Ponderosa–surfing, skating, kayaking, climbing tower, mountain biking, mountain scootering, zipline and swimming are just a few examples.  Our staff are trained extensively to oversee each of these activities.  Additionally, Ponderosa is staffed with 5 lifeguard/health aids and a nurse who are available to help out when needed.  We want students to have fun and be safe while doing it!


    • Ponderosa has a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.  We make this very clear to both staff and campers.  Counselors are specifically trained in how to watch for and respond to students who are bullying other students.  In the event that a student is being bullied, he or she can tell their counselor or a leadership team member and it will be addressed immediately.

    Camp Schedule

    • Every time block that we schedule has a purpose behind it.   We realize that 4 hours of free time a day for junior high school students is both overwhelming and can open the door to unnecessary trouble.  At Ponderosa, junior high school students spend the majority of the afternoons with their cabin groups and their counselors.  The goal of this is to provide structured “free” time.  During this time, students get to choose many of their activities but they are with a small group of students (6-8) and their counselor.  This provides more oversight and therefore more safety. It also gives our counselors intentional time with students to talk about issues of life and faith.  High school camps have an hour or two more of free time each day but even then it is intentional time where counselors are connecting with students at a deeper level.  During any and all free time, we have staff that are patrolling camp to ensure the safety of all students.

    If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.


    Boyz II Men

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    In the past few decades, the time period for adolescence has grown.  In the early 20th century, adolescence generally lasted 18 months and was defined as “being responsible for oneself.”  Mark Ostreicher, in his book “Middle School Ministry,” reports that sociologists and psychologists now believe that adolescence can, and often does, last 15-20 years (from age 11 to age 30).  Additionally, they have boiled it down to three main questions an adolescent must answer to become an adult.

    1. “Who am I?” (identity)
    2. “What power do I have?” (autonomy)
    3. “Where and to whom do I belong?” (affinity)

    When these tasks are “accomplished” and the questions are answered (on one level or another), one has crossed the threshold from adolescence into adulthood.  I believe this is also true when it comes to our faith.

    This summer Mount Hermon is doing a trial run of a program that will help 16-18 year old boys begin crossing the threshold from adolescence into adulthood in both life and faith.  In this two-week program, we will point guys to Scripture to find answers to these questions as they strive to become men who seek after the heart of God.  This program will be much more than a Bible study.  For two weeks, these guys will live together in Biblical community, they will encourage and challenge one another, they will be real with each other, they will grow together and they will leave knowing how to live as men of great character and integrity.  During this camp experience they will begin the process of answering the questions of identity, autonomy and affinity.  Steve Gerali, a veteran youth worker, speaker and author will be coordinating this trial run.  Feel free to check out his new book “The Crest” which is what this camp experience is based on.

    We are accepting ten 16-18 year old guys into our two-week trial run on July 3rd-16th.  The cost has yet to be set, but because it is a trial run it will be lower than our other camps.  If you are interested, please email me by clicking here.  Spaces are limited and they are expected to fill quickly.


    Ready or Not, Here We Go

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Ponderosa's 2010 Derosa Characters

    We are so thankful for what God did in 2010 in our Youth Programs at Mount Hermon.  We witnessed students’ lives change as they encountered Jesus.  We were blessed with new church partnerships.  We continue to hear stories of God moving in students lives and families.  We were blessed with resources to raise our programming to the next level.  We were encouraged by students who committed to read their Bibles after camp in “the 21 Day Challenge.”  It was a great year.

    We are hoping and praying that 2011 will be even greater!  We just finished setting our 2011 goals and we are excited to both share them with you and get your insights, thoughts, wisdom and advice as we move forward into the future God is calling us to.  Here is a quick overview of our 2 primary goals for 2011:

    1. We will increase the number of students we impact :: we have so many great youth programs at Mount Hermon (Ponderosa, Conference Center youth, Amata, Echo, CILT) that we don’t want to be content with our past successes.  This isn’t just about having more students come to quality and effective programs.  That’s only a portion of it.  We also want to set students up to have “more than just a mountain top experience” by helping them plug into the Word of God and the people of God when they leave camp.

    2. We will increase the number of churches we serve while improving our level of service to current churches :: I truly believe that the church is the vehicle through which God is going to bring about His Kingdom.  This means that Mount Hermon youth programs exist to serve the church.  This isn’t just about expecting churches to come to our programs.  This is about us conversing with churches, seeing what the needs are and working to serve them in those needs if it is at all possible.

    This is just a quick overview.  If you have a moment, we would love to hear your thoughts and we would value your prayers.

    Here’s to a God-glorifying, Kingdom-advancing, life-changing 2011!

    Top 10 Programming Lessons Learned at Disneyland (part 2)

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Charlie & Abbie on California Screamin

    In an effort to continue to increase the quality of our programming at our youth camps, the Mount Hermon Youth Team took a trip to Disneyland to learn more about excellent programming.  Many critics poked fun at our “field trip” but it ended up being an amazing experience.  After our day at Disneyland, we spent some time debriefing and we came up with the top 10 lessons we learned from our visit to Disneyland.  This is the second installment of those lessons.

    6. Darkness (and purposeful lighting) allows you to control where people look
    We noticed that almost every ride was inside so that the lighting was under full control.  Disney determines where you look with lighting.  It could be colored lights, spot lights or even black lights but they had full control over the focus of each ride.  The only inside ride we noticed that wasn’t dark was It’s a Small World which is so visually overwhelming that you don’t have time to look at anything else.

    7. Waiting in line is an opportunity to build anticipation
    In many amusement parks, waiting in line is a necessary evil that has to be tolerated.  At Disneyland, waiting in line is part of the experience.  Disney goes to great lengths to build anticipation for the experience to come as you wait in line.  They do this by capitalizing on all 5 human senses.  They are drawing you in and preparing you for the experience as you wait in line.

    8. Getting into the park is 1 transaction
    Disney makes it easy to get into the park.  You may have to wait in line but it only takes 1 main transaction to get into the park.  And once you are in, you are welcomed by bright colors, sounds (in our case it was a marching band) and smells.  You really do feel like you have walked into a different world when you walk through the gates.

    9. Transitions are important
    There are so many transitions at Disneyland and I never really noticed this until I was intentionally looking.  When you transition between lands/regions, you are very aware of it.  You walk through something (like a castle) and enter into a region that is themed differently.  This very clearly communicates that you are leaving one land and entering another.  On rides, movable walls were often used to transition from one section to another.

    10. If you can fool the senses, you can fool the mind
    I didn’t realize the extent to which Disney capitalizes on the 5 human senses.  There were recorded sounds such as jungle noises, fake radio broadcasts and thunder that added to the experience.  Music tone and volume were also used to control the mood.  The textures of the walls waiting in line for Indiana Jones made you feel like you were in a cave.  Lighting, or lack there of it, was used to control mood.  These are just a few of the numerous examples of this.  Disney drew us into each experience by capitalizing on the 5 senses.

    Top 10 Programming Lessons Learned at Disneyland (part 1)

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Shane, Abbie & Jenn in Toontown

    In an effort to continue to increase the quality of our programming at our youth camps, the Mount Hermon Youth Team took a trip to Disneyland to learn more about excellent programming.  Many critics poked fun at our “field trip” but it ended up being an amazing experience.  After our day at Disneyland, we spent some time debriefing and we came up with the top 10 lessons we learned from our visit to Disneyland.  This is the first installment of those lessons.  Even though I put all of this together, this research was a group effort!

    1. Employees are part of the Disney experience
    Employees are  not called employees; they are called “cast members.”  It doesn’t matter what your job is, you are a “cast member.”  Depending on what land/region you work in, your uniform is themed to fit the feel of that land.  On the Tower of Terror at California Adventure, cast members were not only dressed in character, but they acted in character.

    2. Everything is themed
    You would think this would be an exaggeration but it’s not.  Everything from the “cast members” uniforms to exit signs to trash cans are themed at Disneyland; and the theming is different for each land/region.

    3. Shooting things is fun
    This sounds seriously stupid but it’s true!  One of our favorite rides was Toy Story Mania at California Adventure.  On this ride, you aim and shoot at video targets with your shooter as you ride about in a double seated cart from video screen to video screen.  They even keep score.  Interactivity and competition are huge!  Their website says, “everyone’s a winner” but it’s not true.  Shane beat me…by over 50,000 points.

    4. Great scripting can redeem a low budget/outdated ride
    This is something our program consultant Murphy taught us.  The Jungle Cruise is a low-budget and outdated ride.  The tour guides make the experience!  Our tour guide spent the entire “cruise” making us laugh with cheesy puns and jokes that redeemed what would normally be a painfully boring ride.

    5. Branding is everywhere
    Regardless what you and I may think of this, Disney’s branding is everywhere.  And for the most part, it is tasteful.  After many of the rides, there are merch stores just waiting to capitalize on your experience.  After some rides, there are Disney-branded pictures you can by of yourself on that ride.  There is advertising all over the park (and outside of the park) for Disney-related movies, events and merchandise.  Even construction areas are marked off by walls that are tastefully branded so you can’t see the construction.

    Stay tuned for the final 5 program lessons we learned at Disneyland