Upper Columbia Conference Hosts Successful Young Adult Camp Meeting

Many churches across Upper Columbia Conference are noticing their congregations have a hole in attendance in the 20–40 age group. This hole is also seen in many conference events, but especially during camp meeting.

To eliminate this vacancy, the conference tasked five pastors — Jason Worf, Stephen Farr, Jake Wilkinson, Howard Tello and Jefferson Ortiz — to coordinate a young adult camp meeting alongside the 2023 Serve One More camp meeting, specifically targeting that 20-to-40-year-old age group.

Hosted at Heyburn State Park just 50 minutes east of Upper Columbia Academy, young adults gathered for a time of spiritual renewal, lakeside camping activities and friendship-building.

“We were located in a cozy spot in the park close to the water,” shared Worf, Pasco Riverview Adventist Church pastor. “The goal of young adult camp meeting was to create a space for young adults to come together to fellowship, eat good food and spend time in the Word.”

The event began Friday, June 16, with 42 young adults from Upper Columbia Conference. Since the event was new, many did not know what to expect. The pastors decided to have an informal style event focused on conversation and connection.

“The program was created for everyone to be a part,” explained Farr, Pendleton and Pilot Rock district pastor. “Our goal with doing young adult camp meeting this way was to ensure everyone was involved with the process of sharing the gospel and learning from the Word of God.”

As the weekend continued, many of the pastors began to realize the young adults in UCC are very interested in their spiritual life, but don’t like being preached at; rather they prefer having open conversations about the gospel.

“Giving them space to be young adults and ask questions, express opinions and grapple with their spiritual life was extremely helpful,” said Worf. “We provided them a safe space to have time to talk in an environment with like-minded individuals their age.”

Since the young adult camp meeting was held in a campground, there was some concern about being a disturbance; however, the group found they were the opposite.

Each Bible study the group began with music. They quickly found the other campers enjoyed the music, and many began to join in the singing and started making requests. Many of the young adults were moved by their ability to witness to other campers.

“The way this event was structured for young adults was amazing,” said Josh Boram, Walla Walla Eastgate Adventist Church young adults leader.

“I felt this type of camp meeting was more authentic and created an active environment less about listening and more about getting involved," Boram continued. "I was able to lead out and it made me excited about what was being discussed and how personable and meaningful the conversations were.”

Along with the morning and evening Bible studies, attendees had the opportunity to participate in mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and swimming.

“There were a lot of activities everyone was included in,” shared Ashley Olson, attendee. “I appreciated the relaxing environment where we could be out in nature, camping and enjoying time with people our own age talking about spiritual topics.”

As with any event structured around young adults, the food was a highlight, which Rachel Boram brought in a chuckwagon. The menu included food from all over the world and everyone worked together to help prepare and clean up, as well as enjoy the food.

“Those who attended felt like they contributed,” explained Farr. “Our young adults want to be part of a movement and not just sitting in pews. The 20-to-40-year-old age group is not reaching the same life goals older generations were until much later in life, and because of this, many young people feel like a third wheel in the environment of a traditional camp meeting.”

With a new take on camp meeting for a younger generation, there was uncertainty around how it would be received, so organizers sent a survey to participants after the event.

“The feedback was so encouraging!" shared Farr. "There were comments about how refreshing this event was, how they really felt God, how there is a desire for more events like this year-round. The young adult camp meeting showed me that if we dwell among the young adults and show we care and want them to be a part of our church, they will get excited about serving and being involved and on fire for the church.”

If you know a young adult from 20–40 in UCC or wish to be included in the next young adult event, email Jeff Wines, UCC youth and young adult director, at jeffw@uccsda.org to be added to the group text.

Featured in: September/October 2023