2024 EFCA Central District Leadership Conference

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Superintendent Report - Mike Shields

2024 EFCA Central Superintendent’s Report

“But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at
Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the
gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” I Thess. 2:2 (ESV).

We live in a season of growing contempt around us for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. How much more shall we make the bold proclamation of the gospel our focus. Notice that the boldness Paul writes about in I Thessalonians 2 is a boldness in God, not in his own capacity. There is a humility communicated in this text that allows the author to truly respond to criticism, persecution, and hardship, with boldness in proclaiming the gospel.

EFCA Central Exists to see a Life-Giving Church within driving distance of every person who lives in the four-state region we serve.

Our Life-Giving Church Focus

When I began in this role back in 2020, it was imperative that the time be taken to meet our pastors, lay leaders, and congregants in each of our 135 churches. That led me on a journey through 4 states, countless communities, too many hotel nights, and much reflection and prayer. I met the most amazing Christ followers in each location and noticed that there were some things in common for churches that were or seemed to be flourishing in the gospel. It took some time, but the following four indicators of a life-giving church began to emerge in my observations:

  1. Gospel Clarity: Each church is responsible to guard and protect the accurate teaching of the Word of God. Attention must be given to correctly understanding and proclaiming the gospel message – that God’s heart and plan was and still is to redeem sinful man to Himself and to reclaim His glory in this world through His Son, Jesus (1 John 5:11-12). This message needs to be clear in all that we do and teach. 
  2. Gospel Boldness: Each church is called to proclaim the good news of the gospel with a boldness that causes people to take notice of the deep affection you have for the Lord Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is not a forgotten concept but is still the heartbeat of the LORD (Matthew 28:18-20).
  3. Gospel Compassion: In Matthew 5:13-16, the church is commanded to be both “salt and light” to a world that needs to see both the truth and the grace of our Savior. If our message is right and we are bold in our proclamation but are not compassionate to the vulnerable, we become less than the glory that the Gospel demands.
  4. Gospel Humility: Humble churches seek for people to know Jesus, they glory in Jesus, and are not concerned if they, their pastor, or their church gets the credit. Humble churches consider the needs of others and not just the needs of their church (Philippians 2:1-11). They are willing to be uncomfortable while caring for the needs of the hurting and broken in their community. 

The churches who possessed these four gospel distinctives were the ones who consistently saw a harvest of new believers in Jesus Christ, experienced baptisms, heard testimony of the advancement of the gospel in their communities, and most importantly, brought much glory to our Lord. We are committed to working with our churches in order that we see more life-giving churches in our EFCA Central.

Church Planting Initiative

Taking bold steps in church planting is a critical part of our goals as an EFCA Central team. A life-giving church within driving distance of every person in our Central district is our prayerful goal.
  • Bold partnerships with local churches.
  • Apprenticeships for church planters in training.
  • A long-term plan to fund and build the infrastructure for future planting.
  • Churches working together to effectively plant life-giving churches.
  • Fulfillment of the Great Commission in our little corner of the world.

(Much more to come on this at the EFCA Central Leadership Conference)

Our Strategy – How we will accomplish our mission.
One of the most important ways we serve the local church is that we serve Christ together. You are not alone, and we are willing to come alongside you in a myriad of ways to assist your local church in accomplishing the Mission of being a life-giving church in your community. Here are some of the practical ways we can serve you:

1. Leadership Consulting and Networking
a. Training, coaching, and consulting, for pastors and leadership teams,
including demographic studies for your congregation.
b. Annual Leadership Conference with networking, training, and plenary
c. Cohorts for pastors and leaders to connect with other leaders.
d. Assessment and placement during pastoral transition.

2. Revitalization
a. If your church feels “stuck”, we will help you assess where you are stuck and offer suggestions.

3. Church multiplication
a. Every church can help expand our kingdom by praying, providing resources or planting a church.
b. Assist local churches with training, financial resources, and steps to become a part of the Church Planting Initiative in EFCA Central.

Our Measures – How we will know we are successful.

1. Cultivating healthy relationships with all our churches
a. Regular touch points with all our church leaders.
b. Regular visits to our churches.
c. Preaching in our local churches and getting to know pastors and lay leaders.
d. Caring for pastors and their spouses.

2. Creating Community among our church leaders
a. Creating opportunities for relational connection at retreats, cohorts, and
annual leadership conference.
b. Facilitate relational connections and connecting new leaders to other healthy leaders in their area.
c. Welcoming new leaders to EFCA Central.

3. Investing in Christ honoring leaders
a. Discovering new leaders.
b. Developing existing leaders such through elder board training, Licensing and Ordination, and annual leadership conference.
c. Deploying leaders in new areas through pastoral Placement and church

4. Expanding life-giving community into new areas through
a. Church Multiplication
b. Missional engagement in local communities

May this next season be the most fruitful for the advancement of the gospel in the history of EFCA Central.

It is a joy serving Jesus with you,

Michael J. Shields

EFCA Central Board Chairman - Mike Coffman

District Board Chairman

Welcome to the 2024 EFCA Central Leadership Conference.

I am blessed to serve with 11 other amazing men on the EFCA Central board. Each time we meet we spend time talking about our mission, which is “to have a Life-Giving church in every community we serve.”

In order to accomplish this mission, our vision is “to help our churches become Life-Giving churches.” This challenges those who serve on the board to continually seek the Lord to asses our our own spiritual health, how we are serving in our local churches to help them be a Life-Giving church, and to discern how we can best serve the churches in our district.

Mike Shields has shared that our churches fall into 1 of 3 catagories.

  1. A Life-Giving church.
  2. Working to become a Life-Giving church, but unsure what their next steps are.
  3. Working to become a Life-Giving church, but have internal struggles that seem to be hindering them at present.

I’d like to encourage you to ask the Lord to show you which of these categories your church falls into and what your next step should be. If your church is a Life-Giving church there are ways you can help other churches in our district become Life-Giving as well. Wherever your church is in this process, Mike Shields and his team can come partner with you to help.

Our board is praying for your church to be a Life-Giving church.

In Christ,

Mike Coffman
District Board Chairman

Northern Regional Superintendent/Director of Church Planting - Mark Farran

This year was my second full year on the EFCA Central Staff. It has been a joy to serve our pastors and churches. We have some of the best pastors that we could ask or pray for. It has been a blessing getting to know all of them and serving them in any way I can. Here are some of the main ways I utilized my time over the last year.

1) Church Planting

This year we have been working with Risen Hope Church in Anamosa, IA and First E-Free in Sioux Falls, SD as they begin the church planting process. I work with the church planters having a monthly coaching call. Also, I try to visit in person as often as possible to encourage and be available for the lay leaders in the plant as needed.

The EFCA Central has also been praying and working diligently to try to lay the groundwork for the future of church planting in our district. We desire far more plants to come into existence than have over the last few years. This work involves a lot of prayer, research on what is working across the country, networking, and then some more prayer. Mike has done a great job laying out a vision for us to work towards a life-giving church in every community. Lord willing, we will see this begin to come to fruition in 2024.

2) Church Transitions/ Pastoral Placement/ Church Conflict

One aspect of my role is working with churches in season of transition or conflict. Throughout the year, I walked with a few congregations as they navigated these difficult seasons. It has been so cool to see how God works in these situations. Also, in the area of pastoral placement, God has been blessing us with some amazing pastors who started in their new roles recently.

3) Assist with bylaw and church governance revisions

At the last annual Leadership Conference we were blessed to have the EFCA Central bylaws updated. Since then, over 10% of our churches reached out to me this year to do some work on their bylaws. It has been exciting to see how many of our churches want to grow and want healthy systems in place for the next generation. I had countless visits and calls this year to walk with churches as they navigate these revisions.

4) Pastoral Care

One aspect of my role I really enjoy is getting to just sit down for lunch or coffee with our pastors. I know the role can be isolating and lonely. It can be difficult to not have people to process ministry and life’s hardships with. I am blessed that God allows me to be able to come alongside and care for pastors in the EFCA Central.

Thank you so much for the privilege of serving the EFCA Central. It is a joy to serve the Lord with you all!

In Christ,
Mark Farran

Southern Regional Superintendent/Director of Church Planting - Todd Brooks

2023 Report from Southern Regional Superintendent/ Director of Church Planting

As I wrap up my fourth year on the EFCA Central team, I remain encouraged and thankful for being part of a great team as I watch our Lord at work across our churches.

-Serving the needs of our Churches

For the last couple of years, I have been leading our EFCA credentialing systems with the other members of DBOMS. We have seen a flood of interest among pastors and other ministry leaders to take the steps to obtain an EFCA credential. The high volume of applications would have sunk me without the provision of Jamie Farran to deploy her talents and energy in the skillful management of our credentialing systems, including navigating a new portal system at the national level, which has also been a blessing for managing the many documents the process generates.

Another aspect of my Regional Superintendent role has been becoming familiar with the pastor search process. Mike has trained me to serve our congregations well as they discern their future pastoral leaders. I have really enjoyed serving our churches in this area.

It also became clear this year that it was right to give some emergency interim care and pulpit supply to a couple of our St. Louis area churches. While it was strange not to worship with my church family or my nuclear family for 15 straight weeks, it was a fulfilling experience to remind some congregations and their leadership teams that Jesus loves His church, and we have good reason to expect better days ahead even in the face of significant challenges.

-Establishing New Congregations

We will vote to receive two new member churches into EFCA Central at our business meeting at this year's Leadership Conference. These are:

New City Church, St. Charles, MO. This plant was formerly a campus of Calvary Church. It is ready to become a member congregation focused on meeting the unique needs and reaching the people of the historic “Frenchtown” area of St. Charles. Under Chris Bantz's and his team's leadership, their future is bright. Pray for this church as they continue to engage their neighborhood with the Gospel.

West Hills Church, Town & Country, MO. With a rich heritage of gospel witness in the St. Louis region, this congregation voted in early March to pursue membership in the EFCA (97%). We will be voting to receive this church by adoption. The congregation is led by pastor Wil DuVal. They will bless EFCA Central as they join in a spirit of cooperation to encourage “life-giving churches” around the area.

In addition to this, I want to highlight some new plants that have taken significant steps in the past year:

Columbia Mission Church, Columbia, MO. I am honored to work with this Burmese congregation led by pastor George Tluanga. He has extensive experience with the Free Church in Myanmar and has been making progress in getting the plant ready to become an EFCA Central church in the future. The church has a warm and inviting spirit and is especially effective at reaching the next generation, beginning with the children of Myanmar immigrants.

Risen Hope Church, Anamosa, IA. This group, sent out by Cornerstone EFC of Marion, IA, has called Ken Sidey to lead them as they take steps to become an autonomous congregation. They have started with a soft launch on Sunday evenings and will continue engaging their community with the Gospel as a new church plant.

Second E-free East (working title) Sioux Falls, SD. This new congregation, planted by First Evangelical Free Church, will begin public services after this was written, but before you read it. They are set to launch in Easter 2024. This will be the second EFCA church in the rapidly growing Sioux Falls area. The plant is led by Dan Montgomery, who was previously the youth pastor at First E Free.

Ambasador City Church, St. Louis, MO. Brad Wos has been called to this project from his previous position with EFCA Central. He can focus his gifting and passion for the nations on this new church in the St. Louis area. He is in the process of engaging the immigrant and refugee communities of St. Louis with a multifaceted gospel witness. This plant is working toward the vision of “One Church, Many Locations, Many Ethnicities.”

It is my privilege to lead a church planter’s training cohort this season with three of these planters and the pastor of a sending church. (Our group also includes a plant from New Hampshire, which we are able to serve by extending our resources to a part of the country with less critical mass.)

-Trusting God for a Culture of Multiplication

Our team is energized by the new Church Planting Initiative and the significant investment being made by EFCA Central to see this come to fruition.

A portion of my time and energy continues to be invested in representing EFCA Central as part of ReachNetwork, the church planting ministry of the EFCA. On this team, we collaborate, building the systems and direction for encouraging and empowering multiplication nationwide. These include:

  • Recruit and Develop
  • Assess and Affirm
  • Train and Coach
  • Care and Establish

Two of my specific responsibilities in this sphere are giving leadership to the ReachNetwork grant process, which makes matching grants to EFCA church plants. (The Church Planting Initiative will put our EFCA Central plants in a better position to pursue some of these grants.) Secondly, I serve on a team that designs and refines how we can help congregations gain the capacity and vision to be part of the establishment of new congregations.

It is a blessing to serve in this role, and I look forward to seeing how God blesses our churches in the year ahead!

Grace & Peace,

Todd Brooks

Women in Ministry Leadership - Mary Lou McDowell

As my first year as the director of this new ministry comes to an end, I just want to thank Mike Shields, Jamie Farran, the EFCA Central Equipping Team, and especially the Lord for the year it has been. We have seen God work in some amazing ways, moving swiftly as He has opened doors and guided us as we focus on “equipping Women in Ministry leadership to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, reproducing disciples, growing as leaders, and developing their spiritual gifts.”

We began as an ad hoc committee with a vision and things took off from there. Our first project was to put together a luncheon and break-out session for the 2023 district conference. More than 90 women came to this event, a clear indication that women were looking for community and equipping. On March 1, my tenure as the Director of Women in Ministry Leadership began and our team became the official equipping team. The original team included Jamie Farran, Debi Lydic, Samantha Frykholm, Judie Colyer, Laura Rife, and Andrea Gaston. Jamie left the team in May to focus on Ministry Wives. Kayla Biegler and Sylvia Nock joined the team later in the year. We are a very diverse team including women in several seasons of life, marital status, family make up, and ministry vocations.

Since March, 2023, the following has been done:

  • The creation of a database of women in ministry leadership contacts within the district.
  • The creation of a website, updated monthly. www.efcacentralwomen.org. This includes a resource list of speakers, several of whom have been used in various events within the district.
  • The creation of a Facebook page, updated weekly. Page is EFCA Central Women in Leadership.
  • Held a one-day equipping workshop at Hidden Acres with more than 50 women attending. Focus on disciplemaking and learning to study the Bible.
  • Held a one-day equipping workshop in Springfield, MO on February 24 th focused on disciplemaking and learning to study the Bible.
  • Held Zoom calls with women in various regions of the Central District to connect them with our team as well as with each other.

Goals for 2024:

  • Expand our social media to include Instagram.
  • Gloria Grell, the Director of Prepared, will be our luncheon speaker at the district conference and will also present a break-out on “Theology of Women in the Church.” The equipping team will host a break-out on Tuesday morning concerning doubt/deconstruction/disentanglement.
  • One-day equipping workshop at Hidden Acres on September 13 th focused on evangelism.
  • Quarterly Zoom calls with leaders in Iowa/South Dakota.
  • Expand connection with Missouri/Arkansas churches.
  • Begin connection with women in other EFCA district leadership positions.

In the past ten years, women’s roles in the church have changed dramatically. A new generation of women see more ministry and educational opportunities than in the past when the focus was primarily on women’s and children’s ministry. Programs like Prepared, Pathways, and Simeon Trust are broadening the theological and leadership equipping for women. More EFCA women are receiving their ministry credentials.

We in EFCA Central are very thankful to be part of this movement. These are exciting times and we are watching how God is working in women’s hearts and minds for future ministry. We’re thankful to the national office as well as the district for their support and encouragement and look forward to expansion of EFCA Central Women in Ministry Leadership in the future.

Mary Lou McDowell

Director of Women in Ministry Leadership

Regional Health Coach - Larry Austin

This picture (see photo #1 below) is from a retreat location that for twenty-five years has been a place to commune with Christ. My annual planning retreat is an intentional, extended sabbath to reflect on the work the Lord is doing in, through and around me, as well as, letting him direct my path on the year to come. The retreat is also a time for gratitude. My heart is full of thanksgiving to God, for Christ and the work of the Spirit in and through me. I am also deeply grateful for my teammates with EFCA Central and other ministry partners that faithfully prayed and supported what was a remarkable year of ministry.

Ministry in 2023. As you know, 2023 marked a shift to part-time vocational work with EFCA Central. That transition freed me to focus most of my time on people, specifically encouraging, equipping, and coaching pastors. The best thing I did this year was gather small groups of pastors around a discussion of the book, The Unwavering Pastor by Jonathan Dodson. What a gift this book is to pastors! The subtitle is “leading with grace in divisive times.” I wrote discussion questions for each chapter and invited pastors into a group of peers. Thankfully in each of the three groups (winter, spring, and fall) we moved beyond just a discussion of the book to deep peer care and prayer for one another. It was glorious to witness! An added blessing was having the author drop into the last discussion for a Q & A with the men. Nothing changed about the circumstances these men faced, but they left with a bolstered confidence in Christ and new friends. I also led two other cohorts in the winter and fall of 2023: a Living & Leading Well Cohort that focused on helping pastors live a more God-directed life, and disciple making coaching cohorts where I invested in men seeking to produce more disciples that can make disciples. There were also scores of individual conversations with pastors and church leaders over coffee, a meal or Zoom call. What a privilege! Though part-time, 2023 might have been my favorite year of ministry!

What about ministry in 2024? My annual planning retreat always provides a clear and compelling vision from the Lord for the coming year. 2024 will be my final year in vocational role with EFCA Central. I am excited about the vision the Lord has provided for 2024. There will be more cohorts like I described above. I will continue to invest in the spiritual health of pastors. In partnership with PastorServe, we will be hosting a Soul Care Retreat on August 19-21 at Hidden Acres. This will be an opportunity to receive care from skilled facilitators from PastorServe-- a ministry with a twenty-five-year history of investing in the spiritual health of pastors.

A major initiative for 2024 will be leaving a deposit of training and trainers for the future health of our churches. In 2 Timothy, you clearly see a chain of faithfulness emerge: what Christ entrusted to Paul, he entrusts to Timothy who is charged to entrust to faithful men who will entrust it to others (2 Timothy 1:12, 14; 2:1-2). How do I steward the learning and experience of a lifetime of ministry? How do I leverage the relationships and investments made in pastors for the benefit of others? In 2024, I will be investing heavily in a project called The Equippers Network. It will start by formalizing a network of the best equippers in our movement.

I said at the beginning of my call with EFCA Central that the most underutilized resource in our movement are local church pastors. Together with equipping pastors, we will develop the following resources:

  • A YouTube library of short digital lessons with actionable tools.
  • A cadre of empowered peer coaches in key equipping competencies.
  • A monthly podcast where the best equippers in and outside our district can share learning.
  • A quarterly equipping event on strategic topics for the local church.
  • A 24-7-365 forum where learning and resources are shared, questions asked, and equipping relationships formed.

Does this sound like a big project for a semi-retired leader? Everything I have described above will not be coming online all at once. I will not be doing it alone. Job one is gathering proven equippers. My role will be curating the design and build of this project, depositing some of my own learning and lessons in it. I would covet your prayers as the work unfolds in 2024.

2023 was my first year raising 100% of my ministry support and expenses. It was also my first year without a ministry budget. I finished 2023 with income exceeding expenses. Thanks be to God! I am grateful for the churches and individuals that have and are partnering with me in ministry.

One of the blessings of ministry over the past twenty-four years has been a network of two hundred intercessors. Prayer is so vital to the advance of God’s work among the churches. If you would like to join us in prayer and receive a monthly update, drop me a note at laustin@efcacentral.org.

One final word: I want to give thanks to God for my counterpart Jerry Carlin. Jerry has been a spiritual friend and trusted advisor to our pastors in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. Jerry completed his ministry as a regional coach in December 2023. He will still be active in kingdom work in the Springfield area!

Larry Austin

Picture #1

Larry Austin

Picture #2

Westhaven Community Director - Jordan Wineinger

Westhaven Community "A Ministry of the Evangelical Free Church" strives to be a premier Christ-centered facility with an emphasis on each individual's spiritual care. Westhaven Community is dedicated to providing our residents the highest practicable quality care and services that allows each individual to feel loved and comfortable in a clean, homelike environment. We offer a holistic approach in which each resident will be treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity to his/her individual needs as a whole person. 

Our story began in 1912 with the construction of a small two story building. The Free Church in Boone donated the site, the local chamber of commerce contributed $5,000 and money was gathered from our churches. Today, over 100 years later we are thriving retirement community with a 100 bed nursing facility, an assisted living, and independent living apartments.

Pastor Bryan Latchaw continues to lead our spiritual mission of supporting our residents. We also continue to support other ministries around the World. Some of these include supporting 3 orphans in the Congo, the purchase of Bibles, EFCA Central district, ministries in Liberia and Guinea, etc. In 2022 he completed a missions trip to Liberia and was able to share his experience with our residents. This trip was 100% financed by resident contributions and donations. He plans to go back in the near future to continue this mission.

This past year Westhaven Community received the Telligen BEST in Class recognition and also the Blue Ribbon in COVID-19 Vigilance Award for our handling of COVID throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The nursing home industry faces many challenges such as Medicaid funding shortfalls, staffing shortages, and new mandates from the government and CMS. At Westhaven Community we continue to meet those challenges and succeed at a time where many are struggling. We are blessed to have some of the best and most loyal staff. We also continue to receive an abundance of support from the EFCA Central district, our community, and the families of those we provide care to on a daily basis.

Here at Westhaven Community we take great pride in providing the best quality of care to our residents and their families. We have developed a great reputation for high standards of care, and we look to maintain and improve upon that within our local community. With God guiding us we will continue our mission and vision into the future.

Central District ReachStudent Director - Brent Thomas

Maximizing Leaders to Reach and Disciple the Next Generation

RSCD Leadership and Structure - RSCD operates under the direction of the Central District Board and Mike Shields. Our Chairman, Rob Sanders, is serving as the RSCD representative for the CD Board. Brent Thomas continues to serve as the part-time RSCD Director. Our RSCD Directional Team over this past year included Chad Herman, Joe Budish, Tim Hunter, JD Abel, Rob Sanders, and Brent Thomas.

Middle School Winter Blast Middle School Winter Retreats
“Three students from our group came to me after the Saturday night Gathering at Winter Blast. They wanted to tell me that they asked Christ into their lives tonight!” – a Youth Pastor

Heather Flies was the main stage speaker for the first Winter Blast Retreat weekend in 2024, and Bill Allison delivered the four main Bible messages at the second and third weekends.

Another youth pastor commented, “I’ve brought a group from our church
for the past five years, and this was the best year ever!”

Many thanks to the churches and volunteer leaders who have the vision for God’s Spirit to work in the lives of 6 th -8 th grade students. And thank you to Joe Budish, our Winter Blast Director, and to Jeremy Nelson, Assistant Director! Thank you to our Hidden Acres staff who work so hard to safely house and fully feed over 1,000 Middle Schoolers!!!

Look to www.ReachStudentsCD.com for more information about Winter Blast 2025!!!

High School IMPACT Conference
IMPACT 2024 was Jan. 5-7, 2024, at the Hyatt Regency Conference Center and Hotel in Coralville, IA. 42 churches from across the Central District gathered for a great time of worship, spending time in God’s word, fellowship and lots of fun. We had a recent record number of attendance for IMPACT 2024 of 780 high schoolers and their leaders which is the highest
attendance, at least, since COVID. It’s been really cool to see how the Lord uses weekends like this to build relationships within student ministries between students and also adult leaders and students. God was gracious and held the bad weather off until the next weekend. Thank you for praying for IMPACT and we can’t wait until 2025! – JD Abel, IMPACT Conference Director

Look to www.ReachStudentsCD.com for more information about IMPACT 2025!!!

Regional Youth Worker Networks
“I would have quit as a youth pastor years ago if I didn’t have my Network of fellow Youth Pastors…they have been my lifeline!" – an RSCD Youth Pastor

All of our monthly or bi-monthly networks include supportive prayer, relevant youth ministry training, sharing of best practices in youth work, youth ministry problem-solving, and resources in effective youth disciple-making. There are active networks in Central Iowa (Ames), North-Central Iowa (selected churches), and Northwest Iowa (selected churches). We are praying
toward adding a youth network in Missouri.

RSCD Couples Des Moines Sleepover (April) and RENEWAL Couples Florida Retreat (November)
Youth Pastors and spouses must model healthy marriages. These “power couples” exemplify what Christ-like families can look like. We host and subsidize annual getaways for couples to boost their marriages. About 20 couples took advantage of these marriage refreshers.

A Brief Word from the RSCD Director – Brent Thomas
A majority of youth pastors in the Central District are relatively new to their positions or are simply new to full-time youth ministry. We have contacted, multiple times, each of these new youth leaders to welcome them into RSCD and to orient them to the many resources available to them through the EFCA. So, “TRANSITIONS” has been the defining word for this past year.

I also serve as our district’s connection to Reach Students National of the EFCA and to APEX, the mission’s arm of Reach Students. This past year I served as the Co-Director for Reach Students National and I served on the Reach Students National Search Committee for the new RS National Director, Paul Miller.

We are deeply appreciative of the immense support of Mike Shields and the other CD Staff as we seek to add synergy to all of our efforts. I’m also thankful for my wife, Sue, who volunteers her time to support the wives of youth pastors in the CD. Also, Pete Younker and Rob Sanders have served faithfully in leading our NW and Central Iowa youth pastor networks respectively; thanks,

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact me for any of your church’s youth ministry needs! And, if your church’s youth pastor hasn’t found a youth pastor network, give them a little push! And, if your youth haven’t tried the CHALLENGE Conference, or a summer APEX mission trip, get them on board! Check it all out at www.ReachStudentsCD.com.

Hidden Acres Camp Director - Steve Pinkley

Hello from Hidden Acres! I am so excited that this year’s conference theme is Gospel Boldness. I feel like the ministry of Hidden Acres aligns with this theme in so many awesome ways. You may remember that our Mission Statement is “a place set apart to encounter Jesus” and part of our Vision Statement declares our desire to honor God by “sharing the gospel.” Keep reading to see what is happening at Hidden Acres and how much of what we do at camp leads to the gospel being shared and heard.

Summer Camp

I want to start by celebrating what happened at Hidden Acres last summer. We had 180 high school and college students commit to serving on our summer camp staff. Over seven weeks of camp, we welcomed 3,477 overnight campers. We had another 326 students attend a Hidden Acres-led Day Camp program at one of four EFCA Central churches. Boldly sharing the gospel with all these campers resulted in 275 salvations and 117 rededications. Praise the Lord!

Gospel boldness is central to our summer staff training in late spring and early summer. This training encourages counselors to share the gospel effectively each day and teaches them how to lead a camper to Christ. They also learn to lead devotions and share their testimony. Each week we welcome camp speakers and encourage them to share the gospel in their daily messages.

We are now in the midst of preparing for another exciting summer season at Hidden Acres. Our Summer Camp team has been recruiting for months now. Our goal is to hire 180 to 200 quality summer staff. In order to reach this goal, we need your help! Please continue promoting our summer staff opportunities in your churches and please join us in praying for a safe and awesome summer!

Hidden Acres Chaplain

Jesse and Nichole Evans arrived at Hidden Acres in the spring of 2023. They were searching for their next ministry role and their daughter was preparing to serve on our summer staff team. The family packed into their camper and headed to Hidden Acres as temporary volunteers. They never left.

Last summer, one of Jesse and Nichole’s roles was to provide counseling and prayer for our summer staff. Jesse supported the male summer staff while Nichole did the same for the females. We had never provided this type of counseling in the past, and our summer staff appreciated having someone to confide in.

Over those months, we got to know Jesse and Nichole better. At the same time, God was working in their lives as they discussed their future. I realized I wanted them to stay at Hidden Acres. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Put the right person on the bus; you can find the right seat later?” I saw their heart for counseling and supporting people. I saw the benefits they provided to our summer staff and I wanted to see if they could do the same for our full-time staff. I knew this was not a full-time position, and I was not sure exactly what other tasks aside from counseling would fill their weeks. However, I chose to trust God. I approached Jesse and Nichole about staying on and joining our full-time staff, and they accepted!

What God did next was amazing. Within weeks of hiring Jesse, God created a staffing need in our Higher Education program. Eric Smith developed and ran that program but notified me he had accepted a position at a college. What perfect timing and incredible provision. With Jesse’s heart for young people and discipleship, he was a perfect fit to follow Eric as the leader of the Ministry School and Residency programs. Jesse is also our Camp Chaplain, providing spiritual leadership to full-time staff and teaching Bible studies at weekly staff meetings. Nichole has found her fit by supporting Jesse in his roles and working with our office staff. Isn’t it amazing to see God at work providing our every need? Next time you are at camp, help us by welcoming Jesse & Nichole in their new roles.

Airnasium Update

I hope you are familiar with the term “airnasium” by now. If not, we first heard this term in the south. It refers to an open-air structure with a roof or canopy that provides shade and shelter from the weather. During COVID, we had to move summer camp chapel sessions outside, so we gathered on an outdoor basketball court near the Family Life Center. We fell in love with outdoor worship and hearing the gospel message broadcast throughout camp, and after restrictions lifted, we chose to keep summer camp and other chapels at the outdoor court.

The problem with this plan was exposure to the sun, heat and possible rain. We decided to create our own version of an airnasium at Hidden Acres. As we were designing this building, we realized our needs stretched farther than just summer camp. Many of our retreats and guest groups need a worship center for 500+ people and our current Chapel could not hold that size of group. Our plans of a simple canopy grew into a facility that could be used year round. The Airnasium will have ten large garage doors that can be open during good weather and can be closed during inclement weather. The entire building is insulated and heated, making it usable year-round, too!

Fundraising for this project fell onto our new Camp Advancement Team, Chris and Marj Clark. Their first assignment was huge: raising $850,000 in less than a year. They stepped up and met that challenge through church relations, donor relations, and planning fundraising events. They were central to the creation of our first annual Telethon in November, which raised over $178,000 and our first annual Gala & Auction in February, which raised over $191,000.

Unfortunately, three weeks before the Gala, Chris suffered a heart attack and passed away suddenly. What a huge loss for the family, their community, and Hidden Acres. In his honor, The Airnasium will now be known as the Chris Clark Airnasium. We were very excited to see construction begin on February 12, and it has been a blessing to watch progress each day.

Thank you for all your support through your churches to help us raise such a large sum of money in a short time. We are very close to meeting our fundraising goal and hope to be fully funded by the time we open the building this spring. We are excited for the new Chris Clark Airnasium to draw new groups, allow more people to hear the gospel, and transform lives for the Kingdom.


Thank you again for all your support. Please stop by our booth to get some delicious treats and visit with our staff about the different ministries of Hidden Acres. It’s a joy to serve alongside you.

Steve Pinkley, Executive Director
Hidden Acres Christian Center

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