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Summit Ministries: Culture-Proofing The Next Generation

The data are not encouraging.   

According to recent Pew Research, four in ten Americans between the ages of 23 and 38 now say they are religiously unaffiliated. According to John Stonestreet and Shane Morris in a recent BreakPoint commentary, “This is the biggest drop in religiosity between generations ever recorded. 

They also cite other disturbing statistics.  While part of the hemorrhaging is explained by the forty-year decline in mainline Protestant bodies, evangelicals are not off the hook,” Stonestreet and Morris write.  “We cannot say that conservative theology, in and of itself, is enough to shrink-proof your church. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, America’s largest evangelical denomination, just hit a 30-year membership low.  According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, Millennials who drop out of church often end up staying away permanently.  

That description may be true of many young people today, but they don’t seem to describe the graduates of Summit Ministries, people like Haley Halverson. 

Summit Ministries is a Christian apologetics and worldview camp based in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  It has operated for more than 50 years and tens of thousands of young people have attended its two-week summer sessions. 

Haley is one of Summit’s success stories.  She is the Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.   This 26-year-old dynamo develops and executes national campaigns to change policies and raise awareness related to child exploitation and human trafficking 

A list of her accomplishments would have us here all day, but here are a few:  She is a member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.  In this role she advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on issues related to child welfare and sex trafficking. 

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, and more.  Her articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and many other publications. 

And she’s been quoted or appeared in dozens more media outlets, including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune.  Her message:  the distinctly Christian message that all humans have dignity, even the least among us, and justice demands that we do everything in our power to protect them. 

Where did Haley Halverson learn these ideas, and develop this passion?   

She says that one of the formative experiences in her life was a two-week experience at Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colorado. 

Haley first went to Summit in 2010, just before her senior year in high school. 

The most powerful thing that Summit taught me,” she said, “is that ideas have consequences.”  She said learning that simple phrase was a life-changer for her.   

“It directly correlates to my work combatting all forms of sexual exploitation,” she said. “Because at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation we not only address sex trafficking and sexual violence, but we also address forms of sexual abuse and harm that our culture often fails to acknowledge, such as prostitution, pornography, and even sexual objectification in company advertisements or magazines.  

Haley’s training at Summit allowed her to “connect the dots” between ideas and actions.  She said, “All of these forms of sexual exploitation stem from the ideas that someone can use another person as an object, or that someone is entitled to cross another’s sexual boundaries. Summit taught me to think critically about the core ideas or worldviews that motivate both actions and policies, and that’s a lesson for which I’ll always be grateful. 

I’ve got to admit that I’m not objective about Summit.  I have been a regular speaker at Summit’s summer programs for the past decade.  Other speakers include Christian apologists J. Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell, pro-life activist Scott Klusendorf, and religious liberty advocate Mike Adams.  Because of my association there, I hear stories like Haley Halvorson’s all the time.  Lila Rose, who leads the pro-life ministry Life Action, and is a national figure in the pro-life movement, is a Summit grad.  Federal prosecutor Brian Skaret said his Summit training helped him see God was calling him to be a lawyer who could fight for justice.  He recently led a team of prosecutors that put away dozens of gang members that had terrorized the border town of Juarez, Mexico.   

For more than 50 years, tens of thousands of young people like Haley and Lila and Brian have been through Summit’s two-week worldview training.  Today, they’re making a difference in the world. 

And the process often starts with a grandparent or a grandparent.  Haley said she had never heard of Summit until her parents brought the idea to her.   

Chuck Colson once called Summit the “gold standard” when it comes to training young people in the basics of the Christian Worldview.  It was true then, and it’s still true today. 


Editor’s Note:  To read more about Summit, see the MinistryWatch profile, which you can find here. 

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.