By: Christa Meland
Deaconess Leslie Hobson, who for years has been heavily involved with Camp Minnesota, will soon become the interim director of Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids.
Hobson, who will assume her role May 9, succeeds Todd Foster, who became director in late October and resigned at the end of April for personal reasons.
“I have found in my years working in the camping ministry that it is such a powerful experience for the campers as well as staff and volunteers,” said Hobson. “The ways you can see God working and moving, and the way the Holy Spirit moves through those weeks and worship services—I want to be part of making that happen.”
Hobson has spent the past 19 years serving as youth and family ministries director at Park United Methodist Church in Brainerd. There, she especially loved helping young people find spiritual practices to deepen their relationship with God. Hobson said she’s immensely grateful for her time at Park and the way the congregation has nurtured her and given her opportunities to grow, but she also feels God is calling her to something new.
In her new role, Hobson will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the camp, including programming, staff, hospitality, financial management, capital improvements, and faith-building opportunities. The position will be interim through August—and at the end of the summer, there’s a potential for it to become permanent.
Hobson has served the camping ministry in numerous ways over the past two decades. She’s been a member of the Camp and Retreat Board, helped lead a camping capital campaign, and took a leadership role with a wide variety of past conference youth events—including UMYs, JUMYs, Campfire, and Youth Outreach.
She currently serves as the conference’s integration specialist coordinator. Integration specialists work alongside campers with disabilities to ensure they are able to fully participate in the summer camping programs at Northern Pines and Koronis Ministries in Paynesville.
Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, said Hobson has a heart for youth ministry and will make a strong addition to Northern Pines.
“Leslie is a huge advocate for camping, and she’s well known and well respected by people throughout Minnesota,” he said. “Her passion for camping and youth and her deep desire to help young people grow in their faith will be huge assets to Northern Pines and our whole camping ministry.”
Northern Pines began in 1922 and hosted nearly 3,500 campers and retreat guests in 2015.
“My goal and my desire is for Northern Pines to be that place where people experience radical hospitality and experience Christ in a way they haven’t before,” said Hobson. She’s also excited about working with the young adults who will serve as camp counselors and helping them realize their gifts and graces.
The camping ministry has undergone some changes within the past few months. In early 2016, the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences’ camp and retreat ministries came together and formed an area-wide council. This arrangement expands the camping-related offerings for each conference and allows the conferences to share best practices to create the strongest possible area camp and retreat ministry.
Hobson’s love for the camping ministry dates back to 1976, when her high school youth group had a retreat at Northern Pines.
“The experience I had there of being with God and being by myself in that setting was incredibly powerful to me,” she said.
Hobson looks forward to facilitating opportunities for others to have that same powerful experience, and to sharing Christ with youth from across Minnesota and beyond.
“A week at camp is a chance to be in what I imagine the kingdom of God is supposed to look like,” she said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church