Outdoor Ministry

Outdoor Ministry of the Penn Central Conference (PCC) has had a rich history for churches and its members for decades. Through a variety of opportunities, events, and programs, people have grown in faith, discovered what it means to be a Christian, and have uniquely felt love and acceptance in the outdoors setting. Being in the woods, fishing in a pond, hiking, sleeping under the sky, climbing a ropes course, catching fireflies, cooking over an open fire, sitting around in a lodge, or singing around a campfire are special heartwarming memories of connecting with others and with God. Without question, outdoor ministry is an integral part of many people’s faith formation and church experience.

PCC has been fortunate to have had Hartman Center – our camp, conference, and retreat center – as the safe and sacred place to go and be filled by the Holy Spirit, feel confident in beliefs, and also respected (and encouraged) to ask questions. After 56 years of faithful outdoor ministry at Hartman Center, in June 2020, the PCC Board of Directors made the decision to sell the property.

So now what? To continue our strong legacy of outdoor ministry and in the spirit of what Hartman Center embodied, the Conference has partnered with Lutheran Camping Corporation (LCC) and the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Lutheran church (ELCA). LCC has three retreat & camp facilities: Camp Nawakwa (near Gettysburg), Camp Kirchenwald (near Mount Gretna), and The Wittel Farm (in Elizabethtown). All three sites offer summer camp, retreats, events, and volunteer opportunities for all ages throughout the year.

In addition to the information provided here on this Penn Central website, more details can be found on the Lutheran Camping Corporation website: www.lutherancamping.org.
Contact Anne Rankin, PCC Outdoor Ministry Liaison (annerankin524@gmail.com), if you are interested in being involved with outdoor ministry or if you have additional questions about Lutheran Camping Corporation.

For a general but comprehensive one-stop overview about Outdoor Ministry within Penn Central Conference, click here.

Upcoming Events


Why Work At Summer Camp?

So, you’re thinking about a job as a summer camp counselor. Wonderful! Kirchenwald is in need of faithful and mature men and women like you to build our Christian community in the woods. The work is challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Look over these pages to learn more about how you can join our outdoor ministry team and help children grow in their faith, build confidence, and share in fellowship and learning with one another. Visit https://www.lutherancamping.org/employment/ for more information.

What’s working at Kirchenwald like?

Counselors work together in the small group model of camping to shape the week’s experiences for their family-style group of campers. Days include a morning watch, evening devotion, Bible study, nature study, and lots of active recreation. Each program has a unique theme that engages campers and staff in a one-of-a-kind adventure, acting as a conduit for the faith education.

What’s the time commitment?

A typical week starts on Sunday afternoon and concludes on Saturday morning. Staff are provided housing and stay on site with campers during the week. The 2021 season starts with staff training on June 6 and lasts for two weeks. The last day of camper program is August 14. Staff are expected to work the entire summer with as few absences as possible.

But I’m not Lutheran.

While Kirchenwald is affiliated with the ELCA (Lutheran) church, our core values are widely accepted by all Christian faiths. In fact, we might even be in a ministry partnership with your denomination right now! You do not have to be Lutheran to work at camp. It is important, however, that you model the love and acceptance of all people that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry, and that you not disparage the Lutheran tradition or otherwise encourage campers to seek out other religions.

What are the benefits of working at Kirchenwald?

  • Job satisfaction: Camp isn’t all fun and games. Working with children can be demanding. But the rewards are great- a camper’s appreciative smile, a parent’s thank you for helping their child grow, the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something that helped someone else, and the chance to serve God in an outdoor ministry setting.
  • Fun: If you love being in the outdoors, being with children, camping, swimming, boating, hiking, rock climbing, arts & crafts, singing, and sports, then you will get paid to have fun this summer.
  • Job experience: Working as a counselor at camp looks great on a resume and gives you valuable skills for almost any career path. You’ll hone your leadership skills and learn how to collaborate with coworkers on a daily basis. Counselors are encouraged to be creative and take initiative. Job recruiters tell us all the time that camp counselors are regularly the most highly rated positions in preparing someone for their future career.
  • Friends: Friendships formed at camp can be some of the deepest and most long-lasting friendships you will ever have. Your fellow staff members will share many of your values, including a commitment to a Christian lifestyle.
  • Training: Camp will provide certification in First Aid, CPR, and Lifeguarding for free. Additionally, you will be trained in team building, behavior management, rock climbing, boating, and much more.

What’s the pay?

Working at camp is not the job to make big bucks fast, but it’s wrong to think compensation is not comparable to other jobs when you include all relevant factors. If you’re thinking, “I won’t make enough money this summer if I work at camp,” consider the table below.

Job type Camp Counselor $10/hour job $7.25/hour (min wage)
Income per week $240 $400 $290
After 15% withholdings $204 $340 $246
Cost to travel to work $0 $25 $25
Food costs at home $0 $20 $20
Going out (1x per week) $0 $20 $20
Weekend purchases $20 $20 $20
Rent (shared w/ roommates) $0 $60 $60
Utilities (shared) $0 $25 $25
Net income at the end of the summer (10 weeks) $1840 $1700 $760

*These calculations are averages and assume a job 5 miles from your home. Even if you’re living at home, and are not responsible for food or rent/utilities, your family is still incurring that cost. Camp is the ONLY example where food and lodging is included!

Volunteer Opportunities

CAMP IS NOT JUST FOR CAMPERS…and it’s not just for young – or “younger” – people!

Similar to how there were opportunities to volunteer at Hartman Center, there are also ways in which you can help at the Lutheran Camping Corporation camp facilities – Nawakwa, Kirchenwald, and Wittel Farm – this summer. As we know, it takes a village to run a camp and it will be wonderful to have volunteers from Penn Central Conference be a part of these new-to-us villages of Lutheran Camping. Please consider offering your skills, abilities, and interests this summer as a way to not only continue in the tradition of what many of us have done at Hartman Center but as a way to forge new relationships within this partnership.

Below are the opportunities and a brief description about each that might help you figure out where or how you would fit best!


Are you clergy, a chaplain, have lay ministerial standing, a seminarian, or an experienced ministry professional serving in some other capacity? Maybe you want to take a week this summer and serve in an outdoor setting as a camp chaplain. You would offer a spiritual life component of camp including things like leading devotions, bible studies, & vespers, offering prayer, or even just being present with, and available to, the campers as they go about their activities throughout the week.

Health Services

This is, essentially, the camp nurse. If you are a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Physician’s Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician, School Nurse, Physician, or work in the healthcare field in some other comparable role, this might be perfect for you! You can volunteer for one week or many.

Food Services

Do you like – or want – to work in a kitchen or with food? Do you have culinary experience? Do you want to help prepare, cook, serve, clean-up meals…or maybe just wash the dishes? You can volunteer to help out with Food Services for a full week of camp or even just a day or 2 or 3 during the week.

Maintenance Services

Calling all mowers, cleaners, handymen & handywomen! Help keep the facilities and grounds looking spiffy and functioning well! Volunteer in this role when you can and do what you are able…a few days, a week, or all summer.

Leadership Staff

Leadership Staff Volunteers are similar to what we knew as Directors at Hartman Center, but also are a bit different. Leadership Staff are volunteers who have an interest or skill in (or knowledge about) the area of a particular program (arts & crafts, fishing, backpacking, sports, nature, adventure, etc.) and who help the counselors by teaching, guiding, and chaperoning. For example, if you were on the Leadership Staff for the week of the kayaking program (“program” = “camp”), you would help instruct the campers on kayaking – things like how to paddle, boat safety, or the proper way to wear a life jacket – and then you would go with the campers and counselors when they would go out on the water. Unlike directing a particular camp or program, the Leadership Staff volunteers do not spend every hour of every day with the campers and are not responsible for planning or overseeing the parts of the day beyond their particular area of leadership.

Gardeners, Tenders, Harvesters, & Distributors

If you like to work in the garden, you are invited to help out at Wittel Farm throughout the summer. You can get your hands in the dirt and/or you can stay clean and help distribute the produce when it is ripe. These volunteer times are pretty flexible – usually a couple or a few days a week…you can help when you are available!

These volunteer opportunities are critical in order to have a smooth running program! Lutheran Camping Corporation is eager to have campers registered for the summer, but they are equally eager to have volunteers come forward to help out!

More information about volunteering can be found at https://www.lutherancamping.org/volunteer/

Consider Being A Cheerleader For Outdoor Ministry!

Do you like to be outdoors?

Do you appreciate fresh air, hiking in the woods, diving into water or watching it glisten in the sun, hearing birds chirp and seeing wildlife scurry around, or watching as the clouds roll in?

Do you value past outdoor ministry experiences?

When you are in nature, do you feel connected to the wonders of God’s creation in a unique and special way?

Do you still keep in touch with – or think about – a person or a group of people, who you met at an event, camp, or a retreat?

Do you just like to get away and escape the hubbub of everyday life?

What memories do you have of being filled with wonderful, uplifting, and life-giving moments while in the woods, on the water, at the mountain top, swinging from ropes, sleeping in a cabin, or singing around the fire pit?

If any of these prompts stir a desire to be in that place or to relive those moments again, I invite you to consider being a representative “cheerleader” from your church for the outdoor ministry partnership between Penn Central Conference & the Lutheran Camping Corporation. Really anyone can do it…even if you don’t want to go to camp or be in the woods! It’s easy…and don’t worry, you’re not really called a cheerleader; the Lutheran Camping Corporation calls someone in this role a “CampPerson.”

Want to know more about what it means to be a CampPerson?

It means you would:

  • Serve as a liaison between your home church, me, and the Lutheran Camping Corporation to help get information out about upcoming events, summer camp, and other opportunities at Nawakwa, Kirchenwald, and the Wittel Farm
  • Provide resources to your church that promote outdoor ministries at the Lutheran Camping Corporation sites

What would you be asked to do?

  • Attend one virtual informational session to learn about things like the facilities, where to find event information & resources, and to meet the contacts at Lutheran Camping Corportation.
  • Encourage (and recruit!) people from your church to attend and participate in events and summer camp
  • Distribute information about summer camp as well as year-round events
  • Help schedule a Camp Sunday at your church to help promote outdoor ministries. Lutheran Camping Corporation staff are more than happy to come to churches for worship services or Sunday School. They are willing to preach, do a children’s sermon, share a temple talk, speak during the Sunday School hour, or anything else! If your church prefers a recorded video to share with members, they can provide that as well.

What would your church and you get out of having a CampPerson?

  • DISCOUNTS — All kids who sign up for camp from a church with a CampPerson will get a discount at registration
  • CONNECTIONS — You will make connections with others through outdoor ministry support and involvement
  • RELATIONSHIPS — You will meet new people, make new friends, and build relationships with others who share an appreciation for time spent outdoors

You can also find more information on the Lutheran Camping Corporation website here and a flyer outlining the role of CampPerson here.