Fifty high school students attended University of Findlay’s The Well summer theology camp in July. They represented the largest group in the weeklong institute’s four-year history.
Funded with a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative, and in keeping with UF’s Christian-based values of service, inclusivity, and liberal learning, The Well offers opportunities for students to safely and comprehensively explore vocational options in a nondenominational context. Activities include in-depth group discussions, visits to several religious institutions, and evening worship services, along with local service opportunities; at past camps, students filled sandbags for Findlay residents when the city began to flood, and volunteered at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
Each camp has adopted its own character and focus. Group cohesion distinguished this year’s event, said UF Campus Ministry Director Pastor Matt Ginter.
Instagram comments attest to the meaningful relationships some campers formed with others this year. “Spent the whole week at my future school with these amazing people. The Well was a week to remember and I’m so glad I got to know you guys!” one person posted. “After a week spent on my favorite campus with my new favorite people, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to like it here,” another maintained.
Here are five other takeaways from The Well 2019:
- Twenty incoming UF freshman were participants and quickly became friends. Their theology camp experience also acclimated them to campus, introduced them to well-rounded UF student counselors, and oriented them to the community. Given students’ positive reactions, Ginter said The Well organizers would love to see more incoming freshmen take advantage of future camps.
- The Well’s first open mic night in The Cave was a hit. Campers played instruments, sang, read poems, and offered other performances that were religious and secular in nature.
- A mother and her special needs child were positively impacted by a sunset worship service held at the Findlay Reservoir. The daughter was drawn to the music, Ginter said, and the pair stayed to enjoy the service, which uplifted them amidst a challenging time in their lives.
- Visits were made to several Northwest Ohio churches of differing denominations, including those that support Catholic, Orthodox, and Mormon religions. Experiencing various places of worship is a tradition for The Well, which makes a point to introduce campers to theological beliefs that may be contrary to their own.
- Group discussions that took place were compelling and meaningful. “We try to execute it (camp) in much the same way as the University is set up – with the Christian values that are based on acceptance and inclusivity, and with the goal of challenging and fueling discussion,” said Ginter.