Hidden Acres Camp Director

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Better Before Bigger

As a Christian organization, it is important for Hidden Acres to understand the seasons in which God places us.  When I returned to Hidden Acres as the new executive director six years ago, I had incredible plans to continue building like Earl Taylor, the director before me.  But after listening closely to God, the staff, our board members, district pastors, and guests, it became clear that we needed to start down a new path of restoring old buildings, refreshing the grounds, updating program options, and building relationships.

And so the work began: painting, restoring roads, repairing building foundations, fixing windows and doors, upgrading geothermal units, and more.  This has been our path since about 2018. Along the way, a new phrase popped up among the staff – “Better before Bigger.” We like the phrase because it explains our intentions in this season. We are striving to take what we already have and make it better than before.  God deserves our best, and our district churches and other guests deserve the best camp experience when they visit Hidden Acres.

This does not mean we will never build another building; it just means our current mindset has changed.  If we focus on getting better, I believe getting bigger will come naturally, in God’s timing.  One perfect example of this is the Danielson House.  We were not pursuing a beautiful farmhouse to add to our grounds, but we were praying about the need for housing for our growing educational programs.  Then, as we focused on fixing other things, a farmhouse outside of Dayton, IA was listed online for free!  We moved the house here and renovated it, and we now have the perfect location to house students in our growing Ministry School and Residency programs.

We were not looking to add another hiking trail around camp, but God had other plans with a memorial gift.  We now have Ben’s Trail, a beautiful state park-style trail that takes hikers from Lechler Lake to the Prayer Tree.  We are in the midst of Phase Two of that trail, which will extend it to the north hayfield where the horses graze at times.  The views on this trail are incredible and give you a way to see the more undeveloped portions of Hidden Acres.

God has been so good to us through this restoration season.  Please pray for Hidden Acres and the staff here as we continue to seek God’s wisdom and direction for what changes and improvements are next.  In the near future, you will probably hear about the Lagoon Project.  It is not a very fun project to highlight, but the camp badly needs a new sewer and lagoon system in order to have the proper infrastructure to serve our guests.  We will also be replacing the Hickory Grove cabins a few at a time, with the first three scheduled for completion by summer 2023.  I cannot wait for you to see these!

Mission & Vision

We have had a lot of fun this fall working through our mission and vision statements with Mike Shields.  The old mission statement is wonderful, but it was too long to memorize or share. Here is our new plan:

Mission Statement: A place set apart to encounter Jesus

Vision Statement: Honoring God by providing camp experiences, sharing the gospel, and equipping Christ-followers

I love what we have written because even an old camp director like me can remember them and share them with others.  They will also give our staff clarity as we make plans for the future of Hidden Acres.  Please pray for our leadership team as we finish the last step of the process – coming up with a list of core values.

2022 Blessings

We served many guests in 2022.  Guest Group business continues to increase.  God transformed lives for the Kingdom at Hidden Acres as churches, youth groups, and families attended weekend retreats.  Public events like Family Camp, Men’s Retreat, and Women’s Retreat were strong too.  Most of these events have seen consistent attendance increases over the past two years.  It’s so good to see old friends and make new ones at events like these, and it’s a pleasure to watch families grow together and be strengthened, see men and women grow in their faith, and watch people of all ages relax and have fun at camp.

Summer Camp was a huge blessing too!  We had 3,564 overnight campers and 313 day campers, for a total of 3,877 summer campers.  Over the course of seven weeks, we had 215 children accept Christ into their hearts for the first time, and another 111 rededicated their lives.  These are just the decisions reported to us from our summer staff, and there may have been more decisions made during or just after summer camp.  Our summer staff team numbered just over 160 students, and many are in the process of reapplying for the summer of 2023.

Another wonderful part of Hidden Acres is our Educational Ministries.  This school year we have nine Ministry School students and four Residency students. The Ministry School students are in the midst of their spring semester and are working away in departments like programming, office, kitchen, and maintenance. Their time in these departments will teach them about camping ministry and give them real-world work experience.  During the week, they take college classes online through Emmaus Bible College.  When they leave Hidden Acres, they will have college credit they can use in the near future.

Our four Residency students will leave the program with a Master’s Degree from Anchor Christian University or Clarks Summit University.  They each spend the entire year in a department or ministry placement.  Two of the students serve at Hidden Acres, one in our Summer Camp department and the other in our Guest Group department.  The other two students serve in ministries at local EFCA churches – Ankeny EFC and Madrid EFC. Their work will support these churches all year long. This program is a great way that Hidden Acres can provide future church staff (youth leaders, worship leaders, children’s ministry leaders, etc.) to EFCA Central!


Thank you for the many ways you support Hidden Acres – by coming to a public event, by planning your own retreat, by sending summer campers and staff, or by being a financial donor.

Please stop by our booth to get some yummy treats and visit with our staff about the different ministries of Hidden Acres.

It’s a pleasure to serve alongside you!

Steve Pinkley
Executive Director
Hidden Acres Christian Center


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