CAMP WESTMINSTER SUMMER PROGRAMS
This year we have drastically simplified our programs. Most of the same great programs are still available; you’ll just get to them a little bit differently.
Ropes & Climbing
Ropes & Climbing
CIT (10-12th grade)
Focus Activities are for campers who want a hefty dose of a particular activity. If you’ve come looking for our traditional sailing, rocks & ropes, or STEM programs, you will find them as focus activities. On most days at camp, campers will have three or four activity periods. Those who choose a focus activity will spend two activity periods a day in their chosen activity. There is no charge for adding a focus activity, and they are entirely optional.
Jump to a Section:
THE SETTING OF CAMP WESTMINSTER
Westminster is a rustic camp with a heavy focus on outdoor activities, especially on the lake. Camp Westminster is located on Higgins Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Northern Michigan. We have hundreds of feet of waterfront, campers and staff are in the lake every day swimming, boating, fishing, and sailing. The rest of camp is heavily wooded which provides plenty of opportunities to discover God’s creation and practice wilderness skills. We have high and low ropes courses, a climbing tower, and a giant swing. We also have lots of opportunities for sports and games of all sorts.
Creating the space for campers to explore their faith is a big part of our program. We do this through activity-driven Bible studies, morning and evening devotions, and training staff to make the most of teachable moments. Camp Westminster is operated by Westminster Church of Detroit, a congregation in the Presbyterian (PCUSA) tradition. Though we are a Christian, specifically Presbyterian, camp, we welcome all who come open to a summer of discovery. No one is alienated for their beliefs as long as they are open to welcoming all.
A day at Camp Westminster takes on a rhythm punctuated by the bell, audible from everywhere on camp. We start the day with devotions, breakfast, and service to our camp community. Then, activity periods that are anchored by Bible study in the morning, lunch mid-day, and free swim in the afternoon. In between are hour-long activity periods where campers can try all that camp has to offer. Those who choose a focus activity will spend more time in that activity than campers who opt for a balanced schedule.
Our Bible studies are based on the InsideOut camp curriculum, a nationally recognized program developed by an ecumenical team of camping professionals and is used by a wide variety of Christian camps.
THREE PROGRAMS – DISCOVERY, ADVENTURE, CHALLENGE
Camp Westminster is the ideal place to discover God, yourself, and your community. We make this happen for each camper by offering challenging experiences set in an environment that welcomes all as they are. Everyone is invited to bring their whole selves to camp but also
expected to take that next step forward. This ends up looking someone different for every camper. By focusing on relationships, we create space for everyone to have the experience God intends for them to have during their time at Camp Westminster.
Every camper needs something a little different, but there are commonalities between age groups. We have found that grade-level groupings provide boundaries and are familiar to most campers. We identify each age group as your camper’s grade starting in the fall; age seven is the youngest we can take as an overnight camper.
Discovery – Elementary
Our elementary-age campers get a pretty activity-driven experience. We keep things moving by using intentional fun as a teaching tool. There is space for downtime as well, but we try to do everything purposefully. Discovery campers will all get the chance to do arts & crafts, sports & games, and our nature program. They will get to choose from some of their activities as well. Counselors will lead a group decision-making process, an excellent opportunity for campers to learn about negotiation and compromise. You can find a partial list of activities here.
Camp will also include an age-appropriate trip. Expeditions are an excellent chance for campers to practice group decision-making and think through preparations they need to make, then see it come to reality. Most elementary campers will pack a lunch one day and canoe down the lake to the state park to have a picnic lunch with their counselors.
Adventure – Middle School
Adventure campers are already in the midst of middle school’s wild adventure. For many, this means they are starting to explore who they are and who they want to become. We use this week to explore what it means to live in community and think about who God has called us to be. This is not a time for answering, but rather engaging, big questions about God and community. For some campers, this is a chance to shed the expectations of their friends back home and try on a new way of being.
Adventure campers also have a full spread of camp activities, but we give them greater choice in determining how they will spend their time at camp. For some, this is a chance to explore an activity more deeply. Archery, climbing, sports, sailing, and more are all possibilities. Starting with Adventure campers, activities also provide a chance for facilitated discussion to take learning beyond simple skills.
Adventure campers will still do a short trip, but a little more substantial than younger campers. Most Adventure campers will make an afternoon river trip either on the AuSable or Manistee rivers. This is a chance for campers to plan their trip and carry it out while safely supervised.
Challenge – High School
Challenge campers often come to us already exploring who they are growing into and with questions about how they fit in the world around them. These campers are ready for a challenge that runs deeper than simple skill-building. We ask high school campers to look at what they want to get out of their time at Camp Westminster and then plan with them to make that happen. For some, this may mean exploring what it means to be a leader. It may mean digging into their faith in a new way for others. Sometimes it may just mean a restoring week at camp where they get a chance to play.
All of our activities are still open to Challenge campers. However, we try to pay extra attention to where we can offer an additional dimension of challenge. Those who choose a focus activity for their week will be encouraged to go as far as we can take them in developing that skill. Those who are well experienced and want a leadership challenge will also earn how to lead debriefing discussions with younger campers.
Challenge campers also make a day trip and have the most leeway in choosing their expedition. Coached at every step, this is a chance for practical decision making and delegation. River trips, hikes, and services projects are possibilities. The same supervision standards apply on these trips as while campers are on camp.
Camp Westminster has always been a “technology-free” camp. This means that campers and staff take a break from phones and other internet-connected devices while they are at camp. In many ways, our devices are magic; they allow us to communicate with people
around the world almost instantaneously and tie together many of the threads of our lives. Yet, they are also associated with diminished mental health and are frequently used as a venue for bullying among children.
Camp is a time to take a break from screens and be present with the camp community. This requires that the device not be in their possession during their time at camp. Even if your child has the self-control to keep their phone turned off and packed during the week, we ask that they not bring them to not tempt those who are not as strong. Summer staff are similarly expected to not have their devices in cabins or use them with campers. Any devices found with campers will be confiscated and returned at the end of their time at camp.
Leadership staff (Executive director, program director, maintenance director, and health officer) are the exceptions to this rule. Unfortunately, we don’t get a device break during the summer.
In sending any device to camp, the family accepts the possibility of accidental loss, damage, or destruction. We will make every attempt to send all of your camper’s possessions home with them. However, Camp Westminster is not responsible for any electronics that campers bring to camp with them.
Families willing to accept the risk of loss or damage may choose to send the following single-purpose electronic devices with their camper. As long as these are used responsibly, they will not be confiscated:
Music player with headphones (no speakers) for individual use
WHERE DO CAMPERS STAY?
Most campers live in rustic bunkhouses that we call Wakeyas. Campers are organized by gender, with boys staying East of the dining hall, girls staying to the West. Wakey’s sleep 8-10 people on adult-sized single bunk beds. Most Wakeyas do not have electricity. Bathhouses (Greenies) are nearby, less than 5 minutes away at the furthest. All of the boys’ Wakeyas have private changing areas in the cabin; girls’ Wakeyas are very close to the bathhouse for those who need a private changing space.
Some campers may stay in Kiva, a small lodge with two bunk-rooms and a shared area in the middle. Kiva has both electricity and a bathroom. Traditionally, this has been the place where our youngest girls stay.
Westminster also has more rustic options in four yurts [link] nestled in the densest part of the forest and several platform tents out at what we simply call Rustic. Rustic is used as the center of our wilderness programs and has a pavilion built to help us teach a variety of wilderness skills.
For much of Camp’s near 100-year history, our program was single gender only, hosting weeks of only boys and only girls. For the past couple of decades, we have been a co-ed camp with the Dining hall acting as the dividing line between boys and girls. Today, as we work to embrace the fullness of human diversity, we recognize that some campers feel most comfortable on a gender spectrum rather than choosing one side or the other.
If your camper does not feel like they would fit in housing with others who share their gender assigned at birth, please reach out to us. We want to provide a place where every camper is invited to bring their whole self. We are open to creative arrangements that create community for everyone.
CAMP ACTIVITIES – WHAT EXACTLY IS THERE TO DO AT CAMP WESTMINSTER?
These are all activities that we offer every summer. Each year, summer staff brings their own unique gifts and are encouraged to share them with the camp community. Each week, everyone will get a chance to spend time on the waterfront and in our challenge course (appropriate to their age). Campers can opt into other activities as scheduling permits. We will make space for group and individual choices.
Swimming (we offer Red Cross-certified swimming lessons during most camp sessions, supervised by a WSI)
Sailing (our fleet includes a variety of boats)
Sports: soccer, basketball, tennis, frisbee, softball, kickball, etc.
Arts and crafts
Making music (bring your instrument, and we’ll use it in vespers or a Talent Show!)
Nature exploration: stream discovery, shoreline hikes, nature trails, peeking under rocks (and putting them back, of course!)
Walk the labyrinth
Hikes; GPS hikes
Walk the Prayer Trail
Outdoor Living Skills
Parachute games (it’s a big one!)
Indoor game room
Checkers on the stump
Churn ice cream (and the best part: taste testing!)
Outdoor cooking including open fire, Dutch Oven cooking, solar oven, and pit ovens
New in 2022, we are offering focus activities for those who want to be sure they spend a lot of time in certain activities. On most days at camp, campers will have three or four activity periods. Those who choose a focus activity will spend two activity periods a day in their chosen activity. For example, campers who select STEAM will spend a couple hours every afternoon exploring our STEAM curriculum (designed for use by a camp alum who works at NASA!). The program schedule will determine exactly how this plays out on any given day.
Focus activities are optional and carry no additional fee.
Waterfront Party – Discovery, Adventure
Spend extra time in the lake each day with this activity focus. Campers will do water games and practices skills like swimming and canoeing.
STEAM – Discovery, Adventure
Experience our unique NASA curriculum, including numerous design challenges.
Wilderness Skills – Discovery, Adventure
Explore nature, learn about surviving in the wilderness and outdoor cooking. Campers who choose this activity may spend a night or two in the platform tents at our Rustic camp.
Ropes & Climbing – Adventure, Challenge
Campers who choose Ropes & Climbing will spend a lot
of time on our challenge course – both high and low
ropes, the giant swing, and the leap of faith. They will also
learn sport climbing skills on our climbing tower. The
climbing tower has three sides that can be reconfigured
based on the needs and abilities of individual campers.
Sailing – Adventure, Challenge
Join our sailing instructors on Higgins Lake every
afternoon! For beginners, learn how to rig a boat, learn and practice some sailing theory, and have a chance to sail the ship on your own! For Intermediate to experienced sailors – fine-tune your sailing skills, dive deeper into theory, and start to get a handle on sailboat maintenance. (Campers must pass a swim test to participate)
Counselor in Training – Challenge (10-12th grade)
Campers who opt for this focus will get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make camp work – both in the parts of camp they don’t usually see and how we create an environment of care for all campers. As they are able, some may lead activities. This focus may also take up more of their time at camp than other activities. This is an excellent focus for those who aspire to be on summer staff one day.