New Northern Pines director has experience with camps, youth, Disney

September 23, 2015

By: Christa Meland

Todd Foster—who has overseen programming for camps and Disney Cruise Line—has been selected as the next director of Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids.

Foster, who will begin his position on Oct. 19, succeeds Rev. Bob Ford, who will retire next month after having led Northern Pines for almost 16 years. After a nationwide search for Ford’s replacement and interviews with top candidates, Foster was selected by a Minnesota Conference team that included both clergy and laity involved in its camping ministry.

Foster, who’s from St. Cloud, has spent the past two years serving as director of youth activities for Disney Cruise Line. Up to 2,000 children have been on the ships he’s worked on—and his position included training and leading crew members from 55 countries. Prior to that, he spent two years as director at Camp Tanadoona and Camp Bluewater, both of which are in Minnesota. Foster has served in a wide range of other camp positions as well, including counselor, aquatics director, shooting sports director, health lodge director, assistant camp director.

In his new role, he will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the camp, including programming, staff, hospitality, financial management, capital improvements, and faith-building opportunities. Northern Pines has welcomed tens of thousands of people since it began in 1922. The camp hosted about 4,000 campers and retreat guests in 2014.

“Todd’s understanding of and experience with mission-based leadership are really impressive,” said Keith Shew, the Minnesota Conference’s director of camping and retreat ministries. “He’s able to articulate the mission of the annual conference and the camping ministry and use them as the lens for everything we do. Whether it’s developing programs or hiring staff, creating new opportunities for leadership development or facilities design, Todd knows that we always begin with our mission.”

Shew said Foster also has a solid track record of successful program development and leadership, strong administrative skills, excellent marketing experience, and a genuine love for the outdoors. 

Foster, especially enjoys canoeing and hiking, has spent more than 700 nights in a tent. Since becoming a camp counselor at age 16, camp has been a central part of his life.

“Camp has always been a place for me to connect with family, friends, nature, and God,” said Foster. “Helping lead Northern Pines into the future and [helping it fulfill its potential for] what a Christian camp can be is exciting and thrilling.”

Foster has a business management degree from the College of St. Scholastica in St. Cloud and is about halfway done with a master’s degree in project management from the same school. Both degrees, he said, have prepared him to provide solid oversight of the business side of the camp in addition to ensuring high-quality programming.

Foster said his primary goal in his new role is to make sure that Northern Pines fulfills Camp Minnesota’s mission—to provide quality camp, retreat, and conference experiences in which Christ is offered to as many as possible to raise up faithful disciples so that the world is transformed—with each and every camper.

“Everything we do, every activity we offer should fulfill the mission even in some small way,” he said. “I want that to become the legacy of Northern Pines.”

Something else Foster wants to pursue is connecting younger generations of campers with older camp alumni.

Foster looks forward to starting his new role and helping people of all ages and life circumstances connect with God.

“I want to share with others that in this digital age, it can be comforting to unplug and make connections with others and with Christ—that you don't need an iPhone or iPad to have fun,” he said. “I want to make Northern Pines the summer destination for all kids and families…and make them sad at the end of the week because they want to stay.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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