A Spotlight on Summit Ministries
Summit Ministries is a youth-centric organization providing an array of in-depth teaching events and published materials with the goal to cultivate rising generations to resolutely champion a biblical worldview. These events include two-week conferences that explore targeted topics, as well as semester-long programs of study. Ratio Christi is pleased to support the mission and work of Summit Ministries. We recently had the opportunity to interview Scott Northway, Vice President of Programs at Summit. Join us in our interview to learn about the impact, highlights, and upcoming events at Summit Ministries.
Ratio Christi | Summit Ministries has been reaching out to young people for over five decades to help strengthen their understanding of and commitment to Christianity. When did you start doing regular student Summer Conferences?
Scott | We have been conducting student conferences in Biblical worldview training and apologetics since 1962. Summit Ministries is America's oldest Biblical worldview training ministry. Summit prepares culture-shaping leaders who know Christ and desire to make him known in significant channels of cultural influence.
“Learning about different worldviews really helped me as a college freshman!” Christina – Student 2018
Summit Ministries (Summit) started in 1962 by Dr. David Noebel. Summit's immensely successful 12-day courses for young adults have brought together Christian youth and world-class philosophers, apologists and communicators. More than 475,000 students and adults have been trained through these courses, among them top leaders in politics, academia, business, and culture. It is a testament to Summit's enduring legacy that Christian leaders such as James Dobson, Josh McDowell, Michelle Bachmann, Dan Cathy, Bubba Cathy, Bill Armstrong, Matt Staver, and many other have trusted Summit to train their own children and grandchildren to know and live out life through a biblical worldview.
After 50 years of faithful ministry, David Noebel retired and in 2011, was replaced by Dr. Jeff Myers, one of America's most respected authorities on youth leadership development. Dr. Myers and the Summit team have recently completed a strategic plan for the next five years, which involves substantially increasing Summit's training capacity for students and adults. Specifically, Summit desires to increase the number of students trained in its 12-day program from 1,800 annually to 5,000 annually by the year 2021.
RC | How does this differ from what Summit was doing, say, five or ten years ago?
Scott | For the past 10+ years, our student conferences have been 12 days in length and we call these sessions. We now offer these conferences in three locations: CO at Summit HQ in Manitou Springs, TN at Union University, and PA at Lancaster Bible College. In 2019 we will offer 10 sessions and in 2020 we will offer 12. We will add a minimum of 1 new location in 2020. Our overall faculty ranges from 70 to 80, with an average of 21 faculty represented, covering a minimum of 30 topics focused on Biblical worldview, apologetics, and culture. All of this is included in each 12-day session. Our site has a list of the session topics, which include studies in worldviews, college prep, current social issues, philosophy, and approaches in evangelism.
“I love the small groups because you get to know the other girls in a way that allows for trust and vulnerability even in such a short amount of time. Because we build that trust over the two weeks we are willing to listen to what each other have to say. We get a better picture of why people have certain interpretations of the Bible and be able to come to better conclusions on what the context of certain passages have to say.” Elena – Student 2018
RC | Of the students who enroll with you in today's culture, would you say they arrive with less heartfelt faith than the ones in the past, or more conviction to increase their beliefs and witnessing tools?
Scott | The short answer is that students develop a greater conviction to own their faith by knowing what and why they believe concerning the validity of God, Christianity, the scriptures, etc., and that they develop a greater sense of ownership in sharing and defending their Christian faith. Students discover how to approach questions about faith and doubts in an ever-changing culture. We help them to resolutely champion a Christian worldview. For today’s young generations, hard conversations about faith are inevitable. Preparation for these hard conversations is optional.
“A lot of Christian conferences are just Bible-thumping, but this one is different. [Summit] shows you how all the different worldviews and religions come into play and they encourage you to actually think about it. Summit doesn’t just tell you what to think, they present the information to you and ask you to come to your own conclusion based on the information.” Matt – Student 2018
RC | Do you ever get any non-believers, skeptics, atheists, or students of other religions?
Scott | Yes, and we welcome these students. It is not uncommon for non-believers, skeptics, or atheist students to attend Summit, as they have questions and doubts about what they believe, or they may not fully understand what Christianity, God, and the Bible are about. Some of our students did not grow up in a Christian, church-attending home, while others have been involved in church and youth group attendance, as well as Bible studies, service projects, missions, and more! We have quite a variety of backgrounds among our students.
“I have traditionally defended my side on abortion by just using the Bible but the speakers showed me a new way of thinking using secular science. Using science and logic was a whole new way of thinking that I had never even viewed as a good way to conversate with other people effectively.” Nathan – Student 2018
Depending upon the location (CO, TN, or PA), our student demographics break down to 1/3 to ½ being home school students, and then 1/3 from private Christian school and 1/3 from public school. Most of our students are high school students, with the majority of these students being Juniors or Seniors in high school. About 10-20% of our students are college students, again depending up on the location of the Summit Student Conference.
RC | We've written often about the pressure Christian students face on campus today to abandon their faith. Can you tell a story or two that students have brought to your conferences?
Scott | You bet! Let’s hear from Joyce and Katherine.
“To date, 7/12 of my children, nieces and nephews attended Summit Ministries (and the youngest is still only 16 years old) for a 2-week comprehensive overview and equipping of a Christian worldview before all attending CHRISTIAN colleges. All four sets of parents would agree with their children that their time spent at Summit Ministries was well-spent and an investment into lives committed to living for Jesus and His kingdom! From Wheaton College to Grove City College and many Christian colleges in between, Summit Ministries lays the necessary groundwork and foundation for a positive, productive and challenging college experience!” Joyce – Parent / Grandparent of students
“Summit has changed my life and prepared me to deal with the challenges of college life. It has provided me with resources that have continually served to help me throughout my entire college career, has given me life-long friendships, and is my home away from home. I could go on and on about Summit, so suffice it to say that my time there as both a student and a staffer has given me some of the most treasured experiences in my life to date. Had I not had this experience, my college experience might not have been so positive.” Katherine – Student 2018
RC | What can students expect to come away with when they're finished?
Scott | As students enter life beyond high school, Summit prepares them to engage in hard conversations. Millennial Christians are leaving the church in droves as they enter the workforce and Summit’s faculty is equipped to train and challenge them! As students find their own identity, the Summit Student Conference experience complements the foundation of faith that has been laid by parents and youth leaders. Summit equips students to form deep relationships where truth is spoken in love and Christian convictions.
RC | How would you say Ratio Christi is doing, as a comparatively fledgling organization of ten years, in teaching apologetics to college and (since 2015) high school students?
Scott | Summit Ministries believes that partnering with a like-hearted, like-minded organization such as Ratio Christi is a strong, strategic move to expand God’s kingdom. Together, we desire to equip students to live out a Biblical worldview in their culture and beyond.
RC | Thanks, Scott, for helping us better understand the mission and work of Summit. We know that 2019 will be fruitful and transformational in many young lives because of Summit Ministries. We are deeply grateful for the work that you do, and are glad to partner with you.
To learn more about the upcoming 12-day session, see the Summit Ministries site. And remember, early-bird pricing is available before April 1st.
Content in blogs does not necessarily represent Ratio Christi’s views. Details