Several years ago, just before our two middle daughters, Rachel and Rebekah, started college, we sent them to a two-week-long Summit Student Conference. They loved it so much that one of them applied (and was hired!) to work there once she’d graduated from nursing school.
We sent her younger brother Daniel to Summit last summer while Rebekah was serving on staff as a camp nurse. And were we both ever happy to see her after she’d been away from home for a couple of months!
I’ve fielded lots of questions in the past from parents who know we sent our teens to Summit and are interested in enrolling theirs. So I’m dedicating this blog post (at Summit’s request) to answering those FAQs here, all in one place. Curious to know what Summit Student Conferences are all about? Read on for our family’s perspective.
Why Summit Student Conferences?
In an age where 70% of professing Christians abandon their faith during the college years and only 4% of teens and young adults hold a biblical worldview, it is more important than ever for our kids to be firmly grounded before we send them out into the world.
Summit can help.
Summit Student Conferences give kids the tools they’ll need to defend their faith in a culture that has grown increasingly hostile to Christianity. At Summit, students learn how to articulate their beliefs boldly, but with humility and grace.
One of the things my husband and I appreciate most about the curriculum at Summit is that it reinforces many of the same lessons we’ve tried to instill in our kids from the beginning: An unwavering commitment to the truth of God’s Word, a thirst for wisdom and understanding, a compassionate concern for unbelievers, a willingness to discuss difficult topics in a respectful and biblically-informed way, and a deep desire to reflect the character of Christ in thought, word, and deed.
What do students do at Summit?
We’ve known of some summer learning programs that are light on learning and heavy on fun. Not so with Summit Student Conferences — they emphasize learning, but in a fun and engaging way! The professors who make up Summit’s faculty are incredibly gifted and compelling communicators, so spending a large portion of the day in the classroom never seems like drudgery.
Classroom instruction includes an overview of competing worldviews and a discussion of what each teaches about God, faith, purpose, and meaning. The instructors welcome and encourage questions from students and do not shy away from complex topics. Rather they teach kids what it means to think biblically about such hot button issues as abortion, evolution, gender identity, God’s existence, homosexuality, marriage and family, pornography, reliability of scripture, and much more.
Students have the option of earning college credit for their time at Summit, but doing so means writing essays and research papers when they aren’t in class and turning them in for a grade. Although my kids might have benefited academically had we taken that tack, I don’t think they would have enjoyed their two weeks in Manitou Springs nearly as much had they not been able to use their free time to forge friendships, participate in organized sports and group outings, explore the town, and go on some of the challenging excursions Summit offers such as rock climbing, zip lining, and white water rafting.
[So I simply waited until my kids got back home to assign any supplementary reading, then gave them a semester’s Worldview credit on their high school transcript.]
Where is Summit held?
Summit’s primary campus is nestled between Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs in Colorado. The location provides a breathtaking backdrop for an unforgettable two weeks. Students stay in a renovated hotel that is packed with character and charm.
From the moment students step through the door, they are welcomed by enthusiastic staff members, many of whom — like my daughter Rebekah — are Summit alumni themselves. After signing in at the front desk, students are shown to their rooms where they can park their luggage and pick their bunks.
I didn’t see any of the rooms on the girls’ floor, but I took a peek at Daniel’s room on the boys’ floor when I dropped him off. The room slept six: Daniel and his friend Ezra (who’d both put in a request to room together that Summit was happy to honor), plus four others guys they didn’t meet until they got there.
[Update: To view even more pictures from Summit and to read Ezra’s take on the two weeks, follow this link. Daniel and Ezra also discussed their experience at Summit during an Instagram Live in March along with my dear friend — and Ezra’s mom — Abbie Halberstadt of M is for Mama fame.]
In addition to its Colorado location, Summit also offers a student conference in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, on the campus of Covenant College.
Although we’ve never sent any of our kids to a summer session at that location, my daughter Rebekah did staff in Georgia last summer and sent home lots of pictures of the beautiful views she enjoyed and the good friends she made there.
What’s the best way to get to Summit?
If you live fairly close to campus, you may choose to drive your student to Summit (or let them drive themselves). Otherwise, you can fly them in with full confidence they will be well cared for upon their arrival. Summit staffers will meet them at the airport and deliver them to campus via a big yellow school bus.
With the exception of Rebekah, who drove herself to Summit while staffing last summer, all our kids have flown. My Daniel was a little nervous about this part of the trip and asked that I tag along, which I did. (That’s how I got all these great pictures of the Manitou Springs campus.)
Whether you drive or fly, Summit encourages parents to come out and take a look around. They even stage a graduation ceremony on the final night of conference which lots of students’ families attend.
Thankfully, whatever reservations my son felt flying to Colorado had worked themselves out when it came time to fly home. Again, Summit staffers were up bright and early to ensure students made it to the airport in plenty of time for early-morning departures. See how much more confident and relaxed my son looks below while waiting for his return flight? No white knuckles that time around!
Is Summit Student Conference worth the investment?
For our kids, the answer is a resounding yes. It has been gratifying to watch the boldness and poise with which they’ve tackled challenging topics after attending Summit. I love seeing them use the skills gained during those two wonderful weeks to draw unbelievers into deep discussions about what they believe and why, and how it differs from the Christian worldview our family espouses.
Summit Student Conferences served to deepen my children’s beliefs and boost their confidence in sharing their faith with others. Summit put all sorts of new tools in their wheelhouse that have better equipped them to stand strong in their faith, both in college classrooms and private conversations alike.
What’s more, Summit also provides tools for parents (like me) who long for deeply meaningful conversations with their teens and young adults. While your student is attending student conference, you’ll receive email updates from Summit filled with specific prayer requests as well as a full list of suggested discussion prompts aimed at helping kids continue to process and articulate the things they learned during their time away, even after they return home. Summit also provides some fantastic “Basecamp Training” that parents, teachers, and youth leaders can take for FREE. (To find out more about Summit Basecamp, select “programs” in their website menu and scroll to the bottom of the page)
UPDATE: Are you interested in sending your teen or young adult (ages 16-22) to a Summit Student Conference? You can save $200 off your 2024 registration with the code SUMMITFAMILY. Registration is already open, so apply now!