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Northern Light Winter '24

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In This Edition of the Northern Light

A Note from Executive Director: Matt Erickson  |  Facilities Update  |  Welcome New Staff: Barb Nussbaum  |  Stories from HoneyRock: Rachael Botting Receives Ph.D.; Vanguards Experience Vocational Discernment; HoneyRock Faculty Essay in Christian Scholar Review  |  Save the Date! Northwoods Adventure Week  |  The Donor Impact: Campers Say Thank You  |  HoneyRock On The Road: CCCA Gatherings  |  A New Member in the Herd: Meet Granite  |  Rhythms of Faith: Project Update  |  Together We Pray: Prayer Requests from HoneyRock

A Note from the Executive Director

A key focus area for me is fostering healthy team dynamics and culture. An important aspect of this is ensuring that we, as a HoneyRock team, are fully aligned with our mission and motivated by a common vision of the future. I hope for this alignment across the HoneyRock team, including full-time staff, part-time staff, graduate assistants, seasonal staff, volunteers, prayer partners, and donors.

Our Mission: HoneyRock exists to build Christ’s church and benefit society worldwide by fostering the development of whole and effective people through transformational experiences.  

Our Vision: Generations alive in Christ and equipped for the good works He prepared for us to do.   

Our mission statement clarifies our reason for HoneyRock's existence and its role in society worldwide, and it’s encouraging for me to see it used to help us design and optimize our programs.  For example, recently, our Graduate Assistants presented their program plans and new content for summer camp 2024 to Ashley Kiley (Camp Programs Director) and me, building the age-appropriate program content and camp experiences around this common mission.

Our vision statement, on the other hand, describes what we want our society to be like as a result of our work. While we have affirmed our mission statement, the input I received from our staff team is that through this leadership transition, there is an interest and an openness to a new vision for this next phase of HoneyRock.   

So, we took time to pray, dream, and imagine what God could make true through HoneyRock! Through an important time of prayer and meditation, we ended up focusing on Ephesians 2:10 and the following inspiring thoughts: 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Join us in imagining: 

  • Youth and students fully appreciating they are God’s handiwork, created in Christ.
  • The Next Generation prepared for the good works Christ prepared in advance for them.
  • We join God in preparing the person for this future work.
  • We are not just serving the next generation at one point in time.

The work we do supports the work of parents, grandparents, and churches, as well as benefits each generation (well beyond their HoneyRock time) as they grow, build families, and engage in church communities. This is how we came to this new vision, and we will be pushing forward toward it as a broader HoneyRock team! Please join us in praying for each camper, student, staff member, and family we serve, and pray that God would indeed make this vision a reality in our families and those not connected to HoneyRock yet. 

God Bless,  
Matt Erickson, ‘95  
Executive Director 

Matt Erickson - Executive Director

We're Getting Ready for Summer, but...

We are in need of just a few more male cabin leaders for this upcoming summer and we need your help!

Do you know any college-age or recent college-graduate men seeking summer employment and could be working with us at HoneyRock this summer? If so, our team would love to connect with your recommendations or answer any questions a potential applicant may have before they apply. 

Contact RJ Boyle at rj.boyle@wheaton.edu for more info, or apply below!

Site and Facilities Update

The lower level of the Chalet (basement of the Main Office) is in the middle of significant renovation to be completed in late winter. This project will provide a much-improved area for receiving and distributing camper and student mail, and it will create new office meeting space for year-round staff.

In addition, the entire lower level will receive new flooring, paint, and other updates. This is the final stage of a larger project that started late summer on the exterior of the office that improved drainage around the outside of the building, replaced infrastructure to the building (new gas lines), and created a new walkway bridge to the back of the office while improving the landscaping around the building. 

[Scroll to view photos.]

Through the late winter and spring leading up to the summer camp season, we will work on several projects to provide improved housing for summer campers and staff. Work will be undertaken on the housing side of the Staff Cabin in the Village and the Big Foot Bay Cabin and new platform tents will be purchased (along with some other enhancements made to the platform tent area near Timber Hollow). These projects are aimed at helping us increase housing capacity for the upcoming summer and provide quality housing upgrades for summer staff. 

[Check out the Summer '24 Northern Light for photos!]

Barb Nussbaum Headshot

Welcoming “New” Staff: Barb Nussbaum

Barb Nussbaum is not new to Wheaton College but is the newest HoneyRock year-round professional staff member. Barb has worked at Wheaton since 2008, previously in the Student Engagement division, working closely with Passage. Her role on the HoneyRock team on Wheaton’s campus includes managing donor care and supporting the work of Executive Director Matt Erickson. Working with the HoneyRock team is like coming full circle, as Barb spent many summers in the Northwoods as a camper and then serving on summer staff while in college.

Stories from Around HoneyRock

rachael botting

Rachael Botting, B.S. ’14, M.A. ’15, recently successfully defended her dissertation and earned her Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Dr. Botting’s dissertation focuses on the faith formation impacts of multiyear evangelical Christian camp experiences for adolescents.

Dissertation Summary: Christian camps have a strong reputation for their evangelistic impacts - many people make decisions for Christ at camp. But what role does Christian summer camp play beyond that commitment? How does a few summers at camp contribute to lifelong discipleship? Rachael's research suggests that repeat experiences at Christian summer camps offer an important opportunity for adolescents to own their faith, an opportunity they may not get in other youth ministry settings. Additionally, her research found that what makes camp powerful is the liminal nature of the community. Being away from home, led by college-aged counselors, in an immersive faith-focused environment, adolescents have all the tools they need to make their faith their own. 

In recent years, HoneyRock began using the phrase "disciple-making leaders" to describe the intended outcome of our programs. While we recognize that many campers meet Christ for the first time at camp, we also want to ensure that we are intentionally discipling our campers beyond that moment into deeper communion with Jesus. Rachael’s research affirms this discipleship-minded decision. Her research has also reminded us of the potency of high school-aged programs and the importance of having a strong program progression across all of our program offerings. We are beginning to understand the power and importance of high school programming, and we continue working to develop experiences and curriculum that help adolescents solidify a very real sense of ownership and personal faith in Jesus Christ that will remain core to their identity for the rest of their lives.

Meet one of our current Vanguard Gap Year students, Elliot Chan. 

Elliot talked with Wheaton Magazine and explained some of the hands-on learning experiences he has encountered with vocational discernment and work as a part of Vanguard. 

muhia karianjahi teaching in class

Muhia's recent essay in the Christian Scholar Review offers lament as a way to address the underrepresentation of minorities in Christian camp ministries in the United States. He proposes that diversity may be deficient at majority camps when they function as white spaces, a socio-cultural phenomenon that tends to alienate People of Color. To address this, Muhia contextualizes the discipline of lament, a theoretical framework proposed by reconciliation theologians Emanuel Katongole and Chris Rice. Using examples from Christian camping, Christian lament can tackle cultural disparities by unlearning the alienating tendencies of speed, distance, and innocence by learning reconciliatory practices of pilgrimage, relocation, and public confession. 

overhead photo of honeyrock in the fall
Save the Dates Northwoods Adventure 2024

Join us in the Northwoods for our yearly retreat for friends and alumni of Wheaton College and HoneyRock (ages 50+)!

Full Week Option: Monday, September 23 - Saturday, September 28, 2024
New! Half-Week Option: Thursday, September 26 - Saturday, September 28, 2024

To learn more about Northwoods Adventure at HoneyRock, our new half-week offering, or to register for the retreat please click the button below. We hope to see you this fall!

The Far-Reaching Impact of HoneyRock Supporters

HoneyRock benefits from a wide variety of support and long-term investments from many people worldwide. One of our favorite ways of seeing that support come to life is when we receive thank-you notes from our summer campers. Thank you to our current donors and supporters! Interested in partnering with and supporting HoneyRock? Click here to explore your options.

HoneyRock Faculty Train Camp Leaders Across the US at CCCA Conferences

HoneyRock has a long history of learning from, supporting, and working alongside the Christian camping movement worldwide. In fact, Coach Harvey Chrouser, HoneyRock’s founding director, was also one of the founding members of Christian Camping International (CCI), and Dr. Bud Williams played a key role in its development. At that time, CCI offices were headquartered in Wheaton, Illinois, and Wheaton’s Archives are still home to all the founding documents and history of this globally organized camping association. Today, Dr. Rob Ribbe continues to support CCI, and Dr. Muhia Karianjahi serves on the CCI board.

In the United States, our national association is the Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA). This past December (2023), several of our faculty, staff, and Outdoor & Adventure Leadership graduate students attended the national conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While there, Rob Ribbe offered a well-attended session on how to respond to the summer staffing crisis through onboarding, training, and retention strategies. The national conference is always a fun reunion for HoneyRockers who are serving at camps across the country (see photo).

This spring, Rob, Rachael, and Muhia are speaking at seven different sectional conferences, teaching sessions on topics ranging from “Women in Outdoor Ministry” to “Camps and Cultural Diversity” and “Staff Training and Recruitment”. To follow up the conference experiences, they will be offering a series of webinars on key topics pertaining to relevant matters within Christian camping. All are welcome to attend!

Sign Up to Attend a Free Webinar with M.A. in Outdoor & Adventure Leadership Faculty

Meet The Newest Addition to the Herd: Granite

We’re excited to introduce Granite, a gray Thoroughbred Gelding born in 2011. HoneyRock purchased Granite from a barn in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Thus far, Granite has proven to have a sweet demeanor and loves trail rides! We look forward to getting to know him more and teaching him the important role of being a HoneyRock horse over the next few months as we prepare for summer camp. 

Rhythms of Faith Project Update

For many decades, scholars have advocated for the important roles of parents and families in the faith formation of children and youth. Christian camps have worked alongside parents and churches to support their efforts. Still, little work has been done in the scholarly field to understand and strengthen the connection between Christian camps, families, and their church congregations.

The Rhythms of Faith project is led by Rob Ribbe in partnership with Dr. Jake Sorenson from Sacred Playgrounds. This January, the project advisory team, which includes all three of our HoneyRock faculty, gathered in Wheaton to dive deep into the project details, lay the theoretical groundwork, and begin fleshing out the core research questions and study methods. The project is generously funded by the Lilly Endowment.

Over the next couple of months, the team will be working to identify Christian camps across the US that are exemplary in their support of parents and their efforts to help families and churches build on the camp experience. This summer, the team will send site visitors to each of the selected camps to gather data on their programs. In the fall, they’ll begin to synthesize data and look to apply their research and findings at participating camps. The team will do so through training and education of camp staff and teams.

For more information on this project or if you know of an outdoor ministry organization (camp) that would like to be involved, head to the Rhythms of Faith website to learn more.

Partner with us in prayer

Thank you for joining us in bringing these specific prayer requests to the Lord; we're grateful for your partnership, whether it be in mind, body, or spirit. Together we pray... 

  • For those who are in a season of discernment as they consider their next steps:
    • Graduate Students completing the M.A. Outdoor & Adventure Leadership program as they seek employment
    • Vanguards as they decide what school to attend or what career path to begin
    • Fellows as they look for employment and next steps after their year at HoneyRock.
  • For the HoneyRock Summer program team, as they recruit the remaining seasonal staff positions we rely on each summer
  • For the incoming Passage and Summer staff and for our international summer staff to have their visas approved. Opening additional camper spots to get prospective campers who are on the waiting list to being registered for camp is partly dependent on this important work. 
  • For the campers who have registered for camp this summer as they and their families prepare for their experience
  • For the groups and families coming to HoneyRock for winter retreats, we hope they will experience rest and connection with the Lord and with others
  • For our Vanguard Gap Year students as they experience and return from their cross-cultural immersion trip in Costa Rica; and for the Vanguard staff team (graduate assistants, professional staff, and Fellows) as they prepare for the final months within the Vanguard year
  • For the Passage team as they recruit and prepare for Passage in August 2024 and as they communicate with incoming Wheaton freshman and their families. 
  • For the professional staff team at HoneyRock; for continued wisdom, vision, passion, and energy