Ryan Dobson, the son of the well-known radio personality Dr. James Dobson, grew up in the white-hot spotlight of Christian celebrity culture. By his own admission, Ryan pushed the limits of his parents’ boundaries, in part to see if they would practice what they preached. They did, but Ryan still rebelled. As a teenager, Ryan’s life revolved around skateboarding and meeting girls.
Then, he went to a Summit Ministries student conference.
Ryan says the two weeks he spent at Summit Ministries literally changed the trajectory of his life. Today, Ryan leads his own ministry, Rebel Parenting, with his wife Laura. He’s written best-selling books and travels the country speaking and teaching — including regular teaching stints at Summit, where he was once a student.
Ryan Dobson is not alone. Sean McDowell said, “Summit was one of the most formative faith experiences of my life.” That’s saying a lot when you know that Sean is the son of world-renown Christian apologist Josh McDowell and has had learned from some of the best Christian teachers on the planet – including his own father.
Today, Dr. Sean McDowell is a professor at Biola University and teaches around the world. He, too, is a regular Summit faculty member.
Ryan Dobson and Sean McDowell are just two of more than 25,000 people who have attended Summit’s two-week summer program over the past half-century. Founded by Dr. David Noebel in the 1960s, and today led by Dr. Jeff Myers, Summit has become what Chuck Colson said was the “gold standard” for Christian worldview training for young people.
What’s the secret to Summit? Colson said the secret is: “They treat students like adults and raise expectations about what they need to learn. A lot of youth camps focus on fun and games, but at Summit they focus on student learning – especially preparing them for the many challenges that will assault their faith in college and from the culture.”
Take a more recent graduate of Summit, Haley Halverson.
Haley is the Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. This 25-year-old dynamo develops and executes national campaigns to change policies and raise awareness related to child exploitation and human trafficking. She is a member of the Washington D. C., Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. In this role she advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on issues related to child welfare and sex trafficking.
Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, and more. Her articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and many other publications. Her message: the distinctly Christian message that all humans have dignity, even the least among us, and justice demands that we do everything in our power to protect them.
Haley Halverson learned these ideas at Summit. Haley first went to Summit in 2010, just before her senior year in high school. “The most powerful thing that Summit taught me,” she said, “is that ideas have consequences.” She said learning that simple phrase was a life-changer for her.
“It directly correlates to my work combatting all forms of sexual exploitation,” she said. “Because at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation we not only address sex trafficking and sexual violence, but we also address forms of sexual abuse and harm that our culture often fails to acknowledge, such as prostitution, pornography, and even sexual objectification in company advertisements or magazines.”
Haley’s training at Summit allowed her to “connect the dots” between ideas and actions. Haley said, “All of these forms of sexual exploitation stem from the ideas that someone can use another person as an object, or that someone is entitled to cross another’s sexual boundaries. Summit taught me to think critically about the core ideas or worldviews that motivate both actions and policies, and that’s a lesson for which I’ll always be grateful.”
For more than 50 years, tens of thousands of young people like Ryan Dobson, Haley Halverson, and Sean McDowell have been through Summit’s two-week worldview training. Today, they’re making a difference in the world.
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Editor’s Note: Summit is for students ages 16 and up. Summit conferences this summer are being held in Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Learn more at Summit.org.
Image: Sean McDowell, speaking at Summit, YouTube