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“Truly this man was God’s Son!” —Mark 1:39

Tuesday, October 21

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The Presbytery of Utica

New York

Children who decided to paint themselves instead of paper Photo by James Davis


Children who decided to paint themselves instead of paper


Photo by James Davis


In the past two years, the Vanderkamp Center, a partner of the Presbytery of Utica, has radically rethought youth ministry. After wrestling with the question of why youth leave the church, Vanderkamp has responded by attempting to treat them as equals rather than people to be managed and told what to do.

The Vanderkamp staff has eliminated rules that seem to be in place strictly for the convenience of adults. Inside voices are asked for only when someone is trying to sleep, not because the adults haven’t had their coffee. And children are free to choose what activities they want, when they do them, and with whom—to the degree that it is logistically possible. We aim to provide opportunities for children to grow in confidence while learning how to use freedom wisely. Vanderkamp works to help children love themselves for exactly who God made them to be.

The role of the adult in Vanderkamp’s ministry has become one of an excited partner who intervenes only when campers engage in activities that might be harmful to themselves or others.

The children have responded. In 2012 Vanderkamp had 68 percent more campers than it did the previous year, and 86 percent of campers eligible to return did so. Camille, a 15-year-old summer camper, put it best: “A lot of adults say you shouldn’t tease or bully, but they don’t do anything about it. Vanderkamp is the one place I’ve been in my whole life where I went a whole week without being teased.”

The Presbytery of Utica serves 35 congregations.

James Davis, director of program, Vanderkamp Center

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff

Teaching Elder Victor McKusick, moderator of presbytery
Ruling Elder Barbara Epley-Shuck, moderator of council
Ruling Elder George Whitton, stated clerk
Joanne Bolton, office associate 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Kristena Shaw, BOP
Ellen Sherby, PMA
Alex Sherman, PMA

Let us pray

Lord Jesus, you said, “Let the little children come to me.” May we, in all that we do, open ourselves to children of all ages, respecting their human dignity and helping them to grow into your love. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 54; 146
First Reading Micah 3:1-8
Second Reading Revelation 7:9-17
Gospel Reading Luke 10:1-16
Evening Psalms 28; 99


  • What do the Vanderkamp staff members think eliminated the teasing which Camille was relieved not to experience in her week there? It may be something the rest of the church that could benefit the rest of the church. by Bill Dent on 10/21/2014 at 10:24 a.m.

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