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Meet Jake

director & lead researcher

Jacob Sorenson, PhD

Jake Sorenson is the founder and director of Sacred Playgrounds, a ministry offering research and training to camps and congregations. He has a PhD in practical theology from Luther Seminary, an Mdiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and more than twenty years of experience in camping ministry and congregational youth ministry. He has authored numerous articles on camping ministry, has taught in colleges and seminaries, has presented at camps and conferences across the country, and is the author of the book Sacred Playgrounds. He has participated in and directed numerous research projects, including the Effective Camp Project. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his wife Anna (a Lutheran pastor) and their two boys, Elijah and Nathanael.

About Jake

Jake first heard the call to ministry as a high school camper at Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Wisconsin. Since then, he has followed his passion for youth and family ministry, young adult ministry, and especially outdoor ministry. He served on summer camp staff for five summers at Sugar Creek and Sky Ranch in Colorado, where he met his wife Anna.

Major Research Projects

Published Book

published scholarly articles

camps researched

They attended Princeton Theological Seminary together, where they both received the Master of Divinity degree in 2005. She continued pursuing her call to ordained ministry, while Jake served as a full-time camp minister and youth minister at Crossroads Outdoor Ministries in New Jersey (director), Good Shephered Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania (Youth Minister), and one more time at Sugar Creek in Wisconsin (Program Director). He returned to academia at Luther Seminary in 2012, determined to expand the research and deepen theological thinking in camping ministry. He received his PhD in Practical Theology in 2016. During and following his studies, he has participated in numerous research projects, including the Confirmation Project, the Effective Camp Research Project, the Lutheran Campus Ministry Research Project, and the Camp2Congregation Project. He continues his work on scholarly research, education, and consulting. He has published numerous articles on camping ministry and ministry with young adults, and he is a contributing author to the book Cultivating Teen Faith. His newest book is Sacred Playgrounds: Christian Summer Camp in Theological Perspective. He has trained summer camp staff, presented to full-time camp ministers, and consulted with camp boards at more than thirty camps in a dozen states and many denominations. He resides in western Wisconsin with his wife Anna, who serves as pastor of an ELCA congregation, and their two boys, Elijah and Nathanael. In addition to spending time with his wonderful family, Jake enjoys running, gardening, and most outdoor recreational activities.

Sacred Playgrounds

Christian Summer Camp in Theological Perspective

This quick, impactful read lays foundation for effective ministry. Sacred Playgrounds explores the wisdom of camping ministry for Christian education and faith formation, examining its rich history and fundamental characteristics with compelling stories, groundbreaking research, and theological grounding. This is the culmination and summation of much of the work done at Sacred Playgrounds, incorporating data from the Effective Camp Project and the Confirmation Project, alongside stories from camps in multiple Christian traditions. The insight and evidence presented in this book demonstrate that the contributions of camping ministry must be taken seriously among scholars, Christian educators, and ministry professionals.

“There is no doubt that camping ministry has played a major role in the faith formation of Protestant churches over the last hundred years. And yet there has been little to no rich theoretical and theological reflection on camping ministry. That is, until now. Jacob Sorenson in Sacred Playgrounds offers us all a gift. With whimsical writing, rigorous research, and penetrating theological reflection, Sorenson provides a practical theology of camping ministry. This book is essential for anyone concerned with faith formation who seeks to understand and sharpen the ministry of camps.”

DR. ANDREW ROOT

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From summer staff to executive and board members, keeping leaders equipped and well-trained for what’s ahead.

Short-form Bio

Jake Sorenson is the founder and director of Sacred Playgrounds, a ministry offering research and training to camps and connected communities. He has a PhD in Practical Theology from Luther Seminary, an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and more than twenty years of experience in camping ministry and congregational youth ministry. He has authored numerous articles on camping ministry, has taught in colleges and seminaries, has presented at camps and conferences across the country, and is the author of the book Sacred Playgrounds. He has participated in and directed numerous research projects, including the Effective Camp Project. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his wife Anna (a Lutheran pastor) and their two boys, Elijah and Nathanael.

Academic Articles & Major Projects

Current and Recent Research Projects

Rythms of Faitha project seeking to develop effective, replicable systems for camps to partner with congregations to empower families in developing spiritual practices (2023-present)

Camp and Church Leadership Projecta study of the impacts of working on Christian summer camp staff on faith formation and leadership in the church (2020-2022)

Camp2Congregation Project: a study of the impacts of Christian traveling day camp ministries (2019-2021)

Effective Camp Project: a study on the impacts of the one-week Christian summer camp experience (2015-present)

Lutheran Campus Ministry Research Project: a study of the characteristics and practices of faithful, effective, and sustainable young adult and campus ministries (2016-2018)

The Confirmation Project: a study on confirmation and equivalent practices in 5 denominations (2014-2018)

Other Articles and Writings

"Applying Research at Your Camp: The Power of Numbers in Telling Your Story" (InSite Magazine, March/April 2023)

"Using Data to Empower" (InSite Magazine, Feb/March 2020)

"Assessing the Power of Camp" (InSite Magazine, Feb/March 2019)

"Ministry at the Crossroads: Lutheran Campus Ministry's Power and Peril," with Rollie Martinson (Word and World, Fall 2018)

"Finding Space and Time Through Confirmation Retreats" (APCE Advocate, 2018)

"Rethinking the Classroom: The Logic of Camp in Educational Ministries" (Word and World, Winter 2018)

"Christian Summer Camp has Lasting Impacts" (Episcopal Teacher, 2017)

"Turning to Scholarship in Christian Camping" (Connect Journal, 2014)

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Jake is such an engaging presenter, bringing data to life and helping camp leaders like me apply it.

– camp director

Projects

Effective Camp

Our research on camp effectiveness

Holy Ground

Summer staff guide and devotion

Rhythms of Faith

Camp as catalyst for family faith

Camp Builds

The lasting impact of working at camp

Camp & Church Leadership

Camp staff and church leader research

Camp 2 Congregation

Impactful travelling day camp research

How We Help Camp Thrive

Research & Insights

Turning numbers into stories

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Aligned, equipped, energized leaders

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