With an eye toward the future

Shetek Lutheran Ministries occupies 28 acres and over 3,000 feet on shoreline on Lake Shetek’s Keeley Island.

Shetek Lutheran camp maps future vision with $5M plan; new facilities could replace old barracks

By Seth Schmidt

Some of the cabins at Shetek Lutheran Ministries date from the 1930s, when the site was established as a Works Progress Administration camp. The men at the camp worked on various public work projects in the area.

Expanded four-season facilities, and an enhanced ministry are on the horizon for Shetek Lutheran Ministries, if a new master plan moves forward.
As many as eight of the camp’s barracks-style cabins would be removed to make way for a new 14-room retreat center, five duplex cabins, and a new lodge. A new welcome center, additional staff housing, and added garage space—plus improvements to the camp chapel and dining hall—are also envisioned.
The upgrades have an estimated $5 million price tag.
Camp Director Marv Nysetvold explains that the changes are designed to accommodate growing demand for year-around accommodations, and adapt to changing times.
“A lot has changed since the camp opened 70 years ago,” Nysetvold says.
More cold-weather lodging and meeting space, Nysetvold feels, will allow Shetek Lutheran Ministries to better serve the public.
When first established in the late 1940s, Shetek Lutheran Bible Camp offered only a summer ministry. Teenagers comprised the bulk of its campers, with pastors often leading programs. Few adult-centered retreats were offered, with no winter programs.
Today, Shetek Lutheran Ministries is used throughout the year, with summer campers representing less than 25% of users.
“It’s more than a summer camp,” Nysetvold explains. “Times have changed.”

Not just summer
Summer camp attendance has been on a downward trend since the 1970s.
“There are fewer kids in the summer because the population is smaller than it once was,” Nysetvold explains.
Summer Bible camp also has more competition.
“Today’s kids have a lot more options. There are all kinds of summer programs available for kids, from sports camps to community education,” the director notes. At some churches, out-of-state mission trips for youth groups have taken the place of a week of Bible Camp.
Shetek Lutheran Ministries responded to this change, by expanding summer offerings for younger children, and offering cross-generational camps, shorter retreats, and family camps. Camping programs extend through the fall, winter, and spring.
The Lakota Retreat Center opened in 1990, and was so popular, more rooms were added. A multi-purpose indoor activity center, with room for group sports, opened in 2002. Two cabins were winterized with heating, but don’t have attached bathrooms.
But SLM still faces a shortage of year-around lodging space, Nysetvold says, and many of its older barracks-style buildings have out-moded.
“People’s expectations have changed.  Bunk beds are okay for a summer youth program.  But for families, most people want something better.”
Most adults attending retreats at the camp, he adds, want private bathrooms, rather than a communal bathhouse.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.