How Our Counselors Are Screened

Counselors are Lake Ann Camp’s front line workers, and key to every camper’s experience. Because of this a very rigorous process is in place to ensure that they meet the very highest standards. The Executive Director, Ken Riley, delegates a lot of assignments to other staff members, but he does not delegate the task of hiring the summer counselors. Ken carries heavily the knowledge that these individuals are going to be responsible for someone else’s children and they need to be capable of caring for those children with the same kind of tenacity that the parents would provide. Lake Ann Camp’s counselor selection process exceeds the standards required by State of Michigan licensing standards, and the accreditation of the American Camping Association. Ken personally travels thousands of miles to interview prospective counselors face to face in their college setting. Interview meetings are not rushed and they focus on the character of the prospect. Questions asked seek to understand the heart of the candidate. Here are just three of those questions:


  • When you get to the end of your life, someone will write an epitaph for your life, what would you want them to say?
  • When people look at you they develop a first impression that is not always accurate- who is the real you that people may overlook?
  • When you were growing up your parents were teaching you life principles to live by – what did they teach that you know is a part of who you are today?


At the end of the interview Ken rates the candidate on three criteria: 1). Heart for God. 2). Heart for People. 3). An ability to influence (as demonstrated by activities candidate is already involved in where they are influencing others for positive outcomes).


Besides the face to face interview, a candidate must also fill out an extensive application. Key questions in the application relate to beliefs, experiences, preferences and even the kinds of movies a candidate chooses to watch. Lake Ann Camp conducts a criminal background check, and even inquires about a prospect’s driving record. Another key area explored relates to how an applicant interacts with his or her own parents and the kind of respect they have for them. In the hiring process, Ken reviews the answers given in the interview with the ones provided on the application to analyze patterns and find marks of consistency.


Once the interview has been conducted, and the application is complete, it is then time to match the findings with references. Questions asked in this process are personal and revealing. These people know the applicant well and they help further clarify if this prospective counselor truly does love God, love people and live their lives intentionally enough to already be making a difference in a others lives. The state of Michigan requires that we follow up with at least three references but Lake Ann Camp requires five. Counselor files are not even reviewed until these references are in hand.


When all three of these processes produce the kind of character Lake Ann is looking for the candidate receives a phone call from Ken to ensure that their desire to be at Lake Ann Camp is truly where their heart is and that they are ready to commit to the level of challenge we offer. It is almost a process of asking if they are truly ready to put their own personal interests on the back burner for the summer. It is the final – are you sure you are up to this challenge?  If the answer is yes, a formal contract is signed. The training process begins with pre-arrival assignments that prepare the counselor to be an impact player for Christ!

What makes a camp experience LIFE-CHANGING

Traveling across the country I consistently hear stories of how God used Lake Ann Camp to change the entire course of people’s lives.  It goes something like this:  Oh, you are from Lake Ann Camp… I was there in 19__ and it changed my life….

What makes Christian camping a place where God shows up so big in camper’s lives?  The answer may surprise you because it is strikingly Biblical.  The first recorded words of God were given to Moses and they came with these words of instruction in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:

Jump Start

  • These words shall be upon your heart  Life-change begins with “Information
  • You shall teach them diligently to your children  Life-change happens in “Relationship
  • You shall talk about them as you walk, lie down, and rise  Life-change comes as we “Experience” life with other people.

Bind them as a sign on your hand… as frontlets between your eyes… on your doorposts… and on your gates Life-change must also involve creating a “Structure” to reinforce the information being taught.

  • Information: The transforming power of God’s word is much more than just words and man-made information.  It forms the foundation of the life-change that happens at camp. 
  • Relationship: Counselors, who are older than our campers, provide a role model inviting campers into a conversation about how God thus giving the camper an opportunity to have the same purpose for life that the counselor has found. 
  • Experience:  The camp environment begs campers to live out what they learned in chapel.  It is such a valuable tool to have a 24 hour day and six of them in a row.  At Lake Ann Camp we work very hard to “program intentionally” which is simply a fancy way to say that our activities are not random- they are designed to dovetail into what is taught in chapel making the teaching and experience work together. 
  • Structure:  As for structure, the schedule of the day is carefully planned to be a balance between function and fun.  All work and no play make Jim a dull boy- as the adage goes.  More than that, God often shows up biggest in our lives when we are quiet enough to hear His voice.  Camp can easily be an earthquake, wind and fire experience leaving no time for reflection.  At Lake Ann Camp we intentionally plan an energy map for each program making sure that campers have up time and down time giving them an opportunity to express themselves in recreation and also times where they can “re-create” who they are and how they think about God and themselves.

Don’t ever be surprised when a camper comers home changed… it is God’s way of blessing what He laid out when His Word was first written.  We praise God for His heart to reach the next generation for His purposes here on earth and the privilege of being a part of all He is doing!

– Ken Riley

Something was Missing

I need to tell you that I don’t even believe that there is a God. That is how the week began in one of our Senior High cabins last summer. A camper came to Lake Ann Camp because she had been told that it was a great camp and it would be fun. It wasn’t that she was antagonistic to God, she just felt she did not need Him or believe that He existed. For her, believing was some sort of crutch that weak people needed to get through the complexities of life.


Morning view on Lake View Lake!
Morning view on Lake View Lake!

Wednesday morning the counselor suggested that the cabin go down to the new waterfront and have their devotions by the lake. On the way back this camper commented to her counselor: It is hard to not believe in God when you see so much beauty all around you. That evening Ken Rudolph felt the Lord leading him to preach about the beauty of Christ and… you guessed it…this camper accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.

What happened? How did this camper experience such a dramatic change in her belief structures in such a short period of time? Let’s talk about what a camp experience is all about. Maybe one of the best ways to answer that is to pick Lake Ann Camp’s mission statement apart:

Lake Ann Camp: We are a camp in Lake Ann, Michigan. Camp is about getting out of the house and into the woods. It also means you change your scenery from what is ordinary, which also opens your heart to other changes.

We exist to challenge campers: A camp can’t change people. People make their own decision to either change or stay the same, but a camp can set the table for reevaluation and offer an opportunity for growth.

We challenge individuals in a group setting: Groups don’t change – people do. Lake Ann Camp works hard to not lump campers into the identity of a group. Rather, we train our staff to see each individual as a valued creation of God, worthy of respect and dignity.

The challenge we offer is to make Biblical life changing decisions: Our belief is that Life at Its Best comes when we see and live our lives by the principles of Scripture. Our intentional programming centers itself on this key concept.

Through unique learning experiences: Think about it, if you can do an activity at home why come all the way to Lake Ann? Our offerings are different from the norm – they are oriented toward connection, getting people in touch with other (and often new) people and their creator God.

Back to the camper: first it has to be said that God was pursuing her all along. Even in her disbelief, God was setting the stage for an encounter with Himself. Leaving her home surroundings heightened her senses to everything that was going on around her. The beauty of God’s creation also made a difference. Romans 1:20 states, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made.”

An other contributing factor included the impact of those in her cabin that were a witness to the reality of God in their lives. Add to this the clear and age-appropriate delivery of God’s Word in chapel, and a week of camp often becomes a moment in a person’s life when everything changes from that point forward.

Transformation occurs at every camp and every retreat here at Lake Ann, and it is a wonderful thing! It is such a privilege to be so “close to the fire” where God is at work. He is always drawing people into a relationship with Himself, giving hope and purpose for each day.


Ken Riley is the Executive Director of Lake Ann Camp. To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our web site, To ask Ken a question directly, email him at

What’s So Special About Lake Ann Camp?

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a waitress at a local restaurant telling her about a youth pastor who drives over 12 hours to make sure his students get to Lake Ann Camp each summer. She said, “Wow! I knew you guys had something special going on over there…I just didn’t realize it was that special!”

People are always amazed to hear where our campers come from. Over the years, we have consistently drawn campers from all over the country, and yes, all over the world. Last year we had campers from over ten different countries and from 26 different states. This year we’ve already had campers travel to LAC from North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and even Germany and Austria!

So what’s so special about Lake Ann Camp that would have campers traveling 17 hours in a school bus (like one of our Virginia groups!), or fly cross country in order to attend one week? I’ve been asking that question to the leaders who drive here each week and here are the top three answers that keep popping up. What do you think? Is this what makes LAC special to you?

1. Intentionality: From the moment your camper arrives on Monday morning, until the moment they leave on Saturday, we’ve tried to fill every day with intentional programming. It’s not that we want every moment filled with activity, but we want every part of their schedule to be intentional. That means we schedule time for rest, for energy-draining play, for thought-provoking challenge, for food, and for team building exercises. Even the afternoon free time is a crucial, intentional, part of the schedule, because the whole week is designed to reach one big goal: to get deep into the heart of campers so that they experience God in every part of camp, not just in our awesome chapels. One of our counselors recently told me, “This is the first camp I’ve ever worked at, where everything is so carefully planned. I mean, the night hike was one of the most spiritual activities we had all week! At other camps I’ve worked at, a hike was just hike, paintball was just paintball and a river walk was just a river walk. Not here.”

2. Training: The leaders that hang out all week also notice how hard we work to train our staff. Each counselor receives almost 200 hours of training before a single camper sets foot on the property. Not only are they trained in how to manage a cabin, but they get specific training on how to facilitate a group, how to work with ADD and ADHD campers, how to challenge campers to step up in leadership and how to lead a group without having to be the dominant person in the room. They learn how discipline appropriately, how to counsel using God’s Word and they know when to escalate a situation to one of their supervisors. And it’s not just our counselors…all of our staff experience extensive training, so that each camper has an opportunity to experience “life at its best” without the distraction of poorly trained staff!


Campers are trained in rope safety, proper harnessing technique and ground-to-climber commands. The smiles are always biggest when everyone comes down safely!
Campers are trained in rope safety, proper harnessing technique and ground-to-climber commands. The smiles are always biggest when everyone comes down safely! There have been LOTS of big smiles this summer!

3. Safety: One youth pastor told me, “My parents worry about our students traveling more than 10 hours to get to camp. I tell them, ‘trust me, they are way safer at Lake Ann Camp then they are at 1/2 of what we do!'” I don’t think this pastor was saying he was particularly unsafe, I think he was complimenting us in how careful we are with each camper that arrives. We know that accidents are inevitable when 3,000 campers converge on our property over an eight week period. However, we train hard to make sure that those accidents don’t happen because of our carelessness or lack of training. We practice safety at the waterfront, in the kitchen, with the farm animals, while riding the Zorbs, flying down the zip line, climbing up a giant 40’ ladder or zipping down our waterside. Nothing can put a damper on the spirits of campers more than a preventable accident that leaves someone injured, so we make safety a big priority — and it shows!

My conversations with youth leaders have been very insightful. These top three reasons come up repeatedly, but so do other notices they’ve made. What about you? What do you like best about LAC? What makes this camp special to you? Leave some comments here, or on our facebook page, and share your thoughts with others!

To learn more about LAC and its programs, visit our web site at

Juniors Camp (4th and 5th grade only!)

Like all of the programs we offer at Lake Ann Camp, our Jr. Program is highly targeted to make it a great age-appropriate experience for the 4th and 5th grade students who attend. With cabins located in the central part of camp easily in view of the Jr. chapel, dining hall, waterfront, Red Canoe and office, Jr. Camp is set up with our youngest campers in mind. Check out what this year’s program directors have in store for your 4th and 5th grade child:

Jr. camp is a safe and awesome adventure for 4th and 5th grade campers!
Jr. camp is a safe and awesome adventure for 4th and 5th grade campers!

What makes being a Junior camper so fun? We have activities that are just for YOU! With your counselor and your cabin mates, you’ll experience everything from snorkeling with the fish to shooting a bow and arrow at archery. Game times include some favorites as well as a few, silly new games that will let you run ALL over camp!

We’ll also spend time together learning about what it means to love God. We believe that loving God and learning about Him is FUN, so whether you’re having “God and I time” with your cabin or worshipping God in chapel, you can expect to stay active and have a great time! We want you to know God better by the end of the week!

Just in case you need one more reason to come to Junior camp, we have a surprise at the waterfront that is ALL NEW and just for YOU this summer! What is it? You’ll have to come to find out! We’re know you’ll love it! How could you not love a … oops! We almost ruined the surprise!

See you at camp!

Senior High Camp…Better than Ever!

Summer is the highlight of a high school student’s year. Their summers are full of special moments with friends and family at the beach, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, or at the ball park watching America’s favorite past time. But there is an event on Friday night at Lake Ann Camp that tops them all. It is an event where tears fall and hearts pound, where hundreds of teenagers make a decision to surrender their lives and hearts to Christ to do whatever He would ask of them. This decision stems from the hours spent by a counselor pouring out his heart; hours of listening, screaming, cheering, asking, loving and encouraging, giving young teenagers the hope attained through Christ alone. And this decision comes at an event called Glory Bowl, which wraps up a week of Senior High Camp at Lake Ann.

The Friday night Glory Bowl fire!
The Friday night Glory Bowl fire!

In one week, Senior High campers will make countless memories. They will scream at the top of their lungs, cheer at Fight Night as if their very existence depends upon it. They will work with their cabin on the Challenge Course and learn to work on being a team member and a unit to accomplish their tasks and goals. They will spend hours in chapel, where the worship team will bring them before the throne of God, and they will sing with all their hearts with the very focus of making God’s name famous. Then, they will listen to messages that will challenge them in their walks with Christ. Undeniably, one of the most memorable times during Senior High is listening to Ken Rudolph preach. He is a man who preaches from his heart, exposes the truth, and inspires his listeners to change.

All this time collected together will involve much sacrifice and great reward. There will be sweat, tears, and hours of exhaustion. What makes it all worth the effort? That moment at Glory Bowl:. the moment where counselors stand waiting in prayer, begging for God to change a young soul’s heart. They close their eyes and might even shed a tear. They put their heads down and in one final plea to the living God they ask, “Touch this heart.” Then, in the one special moment when all hope seemed lost, the camper stands to his feet, and begins to walk to the front of the crowd; he speaks of how, just hours before in chapel, he bowed before the cross and offered his life before the altar and cried out to God, “Here I am, Lord send me.” The sacrifice becomes a distant memory and everything changes.  The sweat, tears, and hours of exhaustion become a minimal price for the reward at hand because, in the moment a teen surrenders his heart, the counselor truly believes he will see his camper again in glory, in heaven with Jesus.  The counselor knows when he sees his campers face again, smiling, the privilege of the sacrifice was worth it.  Not only for the special moment during a week of Senior High camp at Lake Ann, but for the ultimate moment when Christ says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Senior High at Lake Ann Camp — where the sacrifice brings value to the special moments which change a life forever!

It’s time for a Fresh Start [9th graders only!]

Fresh start (1)Fresh Start is a program unlike any other at Lake Ann — or any camp for that matter — in that it is designed exclusively for high school freshmen. Campers experience God’s creation on a three-day rafting and camping trip on the Pine River, located in beautiful Manistee County. While on the river, each cabin mans a raft to take on all the adventures The Pine River’s dozens of twists and turns have to offer. Campers will often find themselves racing their rafts, ambushing one another on the river, and discovering God’s Creation at its best.

While at the riverside campsite, campers have an opportunity to learn outdoor skills such as putting up and taking down tents (tents, sleeping mats, and even portable restrooms are provided). They also learn to prepare and cook meals for themselves with the outdoor cook sets Lake Ann provides. The Pine River location offers many beautiful places for meaningful group worship sessions. Guest pastors provide daily messages, and they even hit the river with the campers.

Once back at Lake Ann for the last part of the week, campers discover, define, and refine their leadership and teamwork skills Fresh start (2)through tasking team oriented objectives. They also get a chance to push themselves to set challenging but achievable goals through Fresh Start’s featured High Adventure activity: Jacob’s ladder. These leadership skills and commitments can be applied to their walks with Christ, their academic careers, and their everyday lives.

The goals of Fresh Start can be found in the program’s theme verse, Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” We at Lake Ann seek to provide campers with a chance to discover a lasting confidence in God and in themselves — a confidence that campers can carry into one of the most emotionally and spiritually challenging school years in a student’s life.  The Fresh Start program even had a life-changing impact on its current program director when he experienced the program as a high school freshman years ago. Fresh Start is a fun and challenging adventure that prepares campers’ hearts and minds for the trials that face them down the road.

Jump Start your life this summer! [for 6th graders only]

I remember my week as a Jump Start camper very vividly. Some people think that’s crazy, because 6th grade was 10 years ago for

The river walk is one of highlights for all Jump Start campers!
The river walk is one of highlights for all Jump Start campers!

me! But the reason it stands out so clearly in my mind is because it was — and still is to this day — one of the most impactful weeks of my entire life. Now, I’m back at Lake Ann Camp preparing for summer to start, and the best part is, I get to be the Jump Start Program Director’s Assistant. For the last two summers, I’ve been a counselor at Lake Ann, and one of the highlights of both years was my two weeks spent as a Jump Start counselor.


I love the curiosity and adventurous spirits of 6th graders. They come to summer camp with tons of questions about life, nature and people.That’s why Jump Start is the perfect program for a child heading into the 6th grade.  Lake Ann designed the program intentionally so that 6th graders can be with other 6th graders instead of being thrown in with older, more intimidating, Junior High campers. They’re put into a comfortable setting where they are invited to have fun, learn and explore.


The dune climb is ok...but the dune run-down-as-fast-as-you-can is AWESOME!
The dune climb is ok…but the dune run-down-as-fast-as-you-can is AWESOME!

We will be taking campers out into nature to show them the creativity of our God and teach them valuable life lessons through hands-on learning experiences. Every day, campers will be participating in different activities that many of them have never had the opportunity to experience before! Throughout the week, they will be going on a tube floats, a river walk, jumping in a bog, fishing off a dock, “Blobbing”, climbing sand dunes, experiencing one of our high adventure activities called “The Flying Squirrel,” and attending daily chapels with great speakers!


The reason Jump Start was so impactful in my life was because it was during that week of camp that I accepted Christ to be my Savior. I’m living proof that a 6th grader is capable of making a life-altering decision, especially after learning so much about the glory of God in the Jump Start program. That’s why I’m so excited to see what God is going to do in the lives of the young people that come to our program this summer.


Emily Anderson

Assistant to Dathan Tenter

Why come to Junior High camp this summer?

Each week of the summer, Lake Ann Camp offers programming for five different age groups. This means churches or families or schools can send all their campers to the same week of camp, knowing each child will be involved in an age-specific program that will meet their particular needs. Obviously, the needs of a fourth grader are vastly different than the needs of a student entering high school.


Over the next few weeks we will be featuring each program, trying to give you the latest news from the program directors who will be running the show! Here’s a note from our awesome Junior High program directors:


We have new Zorbs!!
We have new Zorbs this summer!

The Junior High program this summer is going to be incredible! The program is filled with activities like Scalps, Zorbs, and a completely new activity designed by the program directors to be top notch. One of the major themes of our Junior High program is cooperation. Campers put the idea of teamwork into action while they work together on the Zorbs, organize Lavinrac, and work on a number of other activities. The new night hike is an exciting Junior High activity; campers will be immersed in God’s creation in a whole new way.


The main theme for the Junior High campers is answering the question:Iss God real? Each activity in our fun and exciting program will purposely guide their minds toward answering that question. Our daily devotionals and chapels paint a picture for campers of how God is real in their lives, whilePurity Night and Man Night give Junior High campers an idea of what being a man or woman of God looks like in a practical way in their everyday lives.


This year, Junior High campers will experience the Screaming Eagle — where campers will take in a whole new view of Lake Ann. Soaring over camp from an eagle’s point of view gives campers the opportunity to view God’s creation in an experience unlike anything else. Our goal is to make this week at camp an experience Junior High students can enjoy for a week and remember for a lifetime.

Spring is springing!

As I strolled through camp on my way to the office today, I enjoyed listening to the sounds of Spring. Yes, it’s finally happening…spring is landing at Lake Ann Camp!


The snow piles are getting smaller, grass is appearing all over the place, the ice on the lake is beginning to melt and two days in the 60s indicate that the weather is warming up. But one of my favorite parts of the spring is the sounds that it makes.


As I walked this morning there were a number of noises that echoed throughout the camp, but one of them I could hear repeatedly, from several different sources. It was the sound of the woodpeckers going to town on some of the camp trees.


Woodpeckers are amazing birds with amazing design. Every part of their design is specific to what they do. Look at just a few of the details of these amazing creatures:

  • The have a two and two claw design. Whereas most birds have three front “toes” and one back “toe”, the woodpecker as two in front and two in back, allowing it to easily move up and down, and side-to-side on any tree.
  • While the woodpecker’s tail feathers may look like any other birds, they are vastly different. They are incredibly resilient and “springy” so that as its head pounds into the tree, the tail feathers actually serve as shock absorbers. With its tail and two legs, the woodpecker stands on a nearly perfect tripod making it possible for them to attack a tree from almost any position — even upside down!
  • Not only is the woodpecker’s beak unique among birds, but it has a tongue significantly longer than the average bird. In fact, most birds have a tongue that is as long as their beak, but the woodpecker’s tongue extends well past his beak and is equipped with little barbs with which it can spear insects in the tunnels found in trees. In some woodpeckers, their tongue actually rolls back in their head and surrounds their brain — a trait unique to this bird!


I could go on and on about this one bird, but the point is clear: God designed the woodpecker specifically for its task. In fact, God designed everything in creation with the same specific attention.


One of the reason we love the woods of Northern Michigan is because it gives us such access to see God’s amazing creation. Every camp program uses the wonderful world around us to teach about God’s power, creativity, wisdom and character. So much of who God is and what God is all about is seen in His magnificent creation.

woodpecker tree
One of the camp woodpeckers laid waste to this tree! If you look around Lake Ann Camp, you’ll see many trees that have been beat up by these amazing little birds.


At Lake Ann Camp we try to utilize the world around us to teach our campers valuable lessons. Whether it’s a night hike through the woods, a star-gazing adventure on a clear evening, taking a moment to carefully investigate the home of a porcupine (don’t worry, they don’t actually shoot their quills!), taking a dip in our bog, running down the sand dunes or watching a sunset from Pyramid Point, the opportunities to talk about God are all around us.


Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” God’s creation reveals so much about God. After a week of camp, we are confident our campers will have a new perspective on the world around them and the God who created it.


Joe Castaneda is the Director of Communications at Lake Ann Camp.


To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our website at