Last updated: October 1, 2019
A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) is not your usual summer job. Founded in 1951, ACMNP works with emerging leaders to provide Christian community to people living, working and visiting in the national parks.
“You have God’s creation on steroids and in the midst of that context, you live life in Christ,” Spencer Lundgaard, Director of ACMNP since 2008, said.
As students live out their faith, they reflect the missional heartbeat of God. Just as Jesus leveraged creation to point out spiritual truths, so these young leaders walk a journey of discovery with co-workers and visitors.
“We’re joining what God is already doing in the parks,” Spencer, who also participated in ACMNP during college, said. “We point out what God is up to. We don’t just see a waterfall. We point out who breathed it into existence.”
Students accepted into ACMNP join a team of others and work 40 hours per week in the park, but find unique, practical ways to blend their work with their love for Christ.
“You don’t have to be anything but yourself,” Spencer said. “You’re a Christian and because of that, you’re going to share your life with people.”
Even as Spencer’s time in Rocky Mountain National Park helped him grow in his faith, so ACMNP is providing similar experiences for young adults today.
Megan Byers, current M.Div. student, worked at Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park for a summer. While there, she also led a team of nine undergraduate students, coordinating 10 worship services every Sunday for visitors and park employees. As team leader, she called out the best in her teammates, encouraging them to use their skills to start Bible studies or lead worship services.
“I felt like a church planter for a summer,” Megan said. “You go out, invite people and start the services.”
Many of the employees live transient lifestyles, working in a park during the summer and a ski lodge in the winter.
“They don’t get a whole lot of chances to connect with stable representations of the body of Christ,” Megan said. “If we didn’t do services in the parks, a lot of them wouldn’t experience what it was like to be part of the body.”
One employee changed her opinion of Christians thanks to Megan and her team. Although by her own admission, they didn’t share similar beliefs, she attended all of the ACMNP services. She admitted that she’d had a negative view of Christians, but that her encounter with them had changed that for her because they didn’t just invite her to church. They befriended her.
“From what I know of Jesus, he’d be really proud of you,” she said of Megan and her team.
Each summer, more than 230 college and seminary students blend their academics, work and theology at one of 30 national parks from the Virgin Islands to Alaska. Collectively, they lead more than 1,650 interdenominational worship services as they embody and extend the ministry of Jesus Christ through worship, witness and leadership development.
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