The Dakota Conference has a longstanding and strong history of supporting its young people. Even before the North and South Dakota conferences combined, each of these conferences fervently supported their youth through Pathfinder ministry, summer camp at Flag Mountain and Northern Lights, and many conference and church activities and events that were  important strongholds for growing young people for the kingdom.

I was recently talking with Elder Bill Wood, the final youth director for the South Dakota Conference and the first one for the combined Dakota Conference. He shared a wonderful story that illustrates the commitment our members have to our youth. Wood said that on the night before a scheduled camporee, unseasonal weather began and threatened to cancel this important Pathfinder event for our kids. A dedicated member from the local church in the area quickly contacted their National Guard Armory, apprised them of the situation, and asked them if they would be willing to open up their facility and have the Pathfinders set up their tents inside the armory so the camporee could still go on. They agreed, and our Pathfinders were able to have their camporee inside the armory. It is amazing to see what God will do when we set our focus on enriching His children.

After the North and South Dakota conferences combined, the constituency committed to continue to run both camps, providing two unique settings for summer camp ministry. For those who may not know, our camps are 10 hours apart. Flag Mountain Camp is located deep in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, while Northern Lights is nestled on Lake Metigoshe on the border of Canada. Despite challenges over the years, the members of our conference have sacrificially given each year to ensure our youth can come to camp. A week doesn’t go by when I don’t hear a story about one of our camps, like how tents were brought into Flag Mountain for campers to sleep in, how several of the mothers came in and cooked in a large cook tent, or how lay people came together and ran Northern Lights for several years so that kids wouldn’t miss out on the camp experience.

It’s stories like these that showcase the beautiful hearts of our Dakota members. This past summer, churches provided camper scholarships to more than 50 young people! What an impact they made on the lives of these kids! We are blessed to have such committed members who support our young people.

Past, present, future

One of the many things I love about my job as youth director is going to the local churches and seeing their Pathfinder or Adventurer Club. Club ministry is a great way for our local churches to provide for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of our children. It’s inspiring to hear both the innovative and time-tested ways clubs are reaching their communities. Our clubs are going to care facilities, connecting with groups on the reservations, taking active parts in weekly church worship, and so many other things. These activities are having life-changing influences on our young people.

Our children have so many gifts God has given them. It is vital that we provide places and opportunities for them to use those gifts within the church, rather than having to go outside the church to use and grow their abilities. I really appreciate how our churches are committing to consistently provide these growth opportunities for our youth. And with the challenges we recently have faced during COVID, it is great to see our club ministries continuing to grow and spread throughout our conference.

However, it isn’t just in camp or club ministries that our churches faithfully provide for our young people. I have witnessed great Sabbath school programs, Sabbath afternoon activities, socials, outreaches, children’s choirs and bell ensembles. We also have churches reaching out to our young adults on our public college campuses, providing spiritual and social activities. These various activities all over our conference help our young people realize their place in the church now—not some future date; they are a vital part of our continuing church ministries.

With all that is going on throughout our territory, the future of youth ministries is bright. These ministries build on the great tradition set for us by committed members and leaders who saw the importance of their young people and decided to deliberately invest in the kingdom of heaven. Thank you to all who have gone before and led, those who are continuing to lead, and those who commit to give for the health and spiritual growth of our young people.


Ted Struntz is the Dakota Conference youth and young adults director.