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.
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 scholarly articles
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.
Workshop & Presentation Assets
Speaking & Workshops
Live or video-based speaking, workshops, training, and breakout sessions on topics that matter to ministry.
Research & Insights
Generalized or personalized research projects for your ministry organization and its leaders.
Training & Leader Support
From summer staff to executive and board members, keeping leaders equipped and well-trained for what’s ahead.
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.
Jake's Major Articles & Projects
The Unexpected Positive Outcomes for Summer Camps in the time of COVID-19 (Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 2023)
Similarities and Differences in Summer Camps (Children and Youth Services Review, 2021)
The Logic of Camp in Christian Education (Theology Today, 2019)
The Fundamental Characteristics and Unique Outcomes of Christian Summer Camp Experiences (Journal of Youth Development, Spring 2018)
A Theological Playground: Christian Summer Camp in Theological Perspective (PhD Thesis, 2016)
Transforming the Spiritual Storehouse: A Portrait of Confirmation Camp in Finland (Journal of Youth and Theology, Fall 2015)
The Summer Camp Experience and Faith Formation of Emerging Adults (Journal of Youth MInistry, Fall 2014)
Current and Recent Research Projects
Rythms of Faith: a 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 Project: a 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)
Jake is such an engaging presenter, bringing data to life and helping camp leaders like me apply it.