It only takes a spark: Michael Unruh

Published: March 10, 2016

Annette Brill Bergstresser

Camping staff members follow call to seminary

This year, 10 of the 33 first-year students at AMBS share a common background as staff members at Mennonite camps and retreat centers. Meet one of the 10: Michael Unruh of Newton, Kansas

Home congregation
Tabor Mennonite Church, rural Goessel, KS

Education and program of study
I studied biology and youth ministry at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. At AMBS, I’m in the Master of Divinity program with an emphasis on Christian faith formation.

How did your camp staff experience play a role in bringing you to seminary?
I was a naturalist and maintenance worker at Camp Mennoscah in Murdock, Kansas, for four summers while I was in college. After college, I did a year of Mennonite Voluntary Service at Mennoscah. Later, through my role as an admissions counselor at Bethel, I counseled at Swan Lake Christian Camp in Viborg, South Dakota, and Camp Keola near Fresno, California.

My camp staff experience at Mennoscah helped me recognize that I have some gifts for leadership in ministry. Initially, I was thinking more specifically youth ministry, but since then, those options have grown to include pastoral ministry and also just camping ministry in general.

Are there any specific stories you could share?
It was actually an experience at Camp Keola on the theme of God’s upside-down kingdom and on doing things to further God’s kingdom that reignited my interest in ministry, so after that I started looking at seminary. I thought that going to graduate school for biology would probably be great, but I could be more effective if I started looking more seriously at ministry. It seemed to be a clearer path as well because I had close friends who had gone to seminary.

What are your thoughts about the future?
I hope to do one of my supervised ministry experiences at a camp. I’d like to learn more about how the system works and how I can use my gifts and interest in biological processes in that kind of setting — helping people recognize God’s creation as an important part of our spiritual lives. No matter what happens in my future with ministry, I’ll always be involved at camp somewhere.

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