Upward Challenge

Upward Challenge is a week-long event that focuses on introducing youth to the person of the Holy Spirit, encourages them to seek a deeper walk with Jesus Christ and nurtures a growing relationship with God the Father.

Upward Challenge is a unique event that places PRMI’s Dunamis Project teaching in a camp setting where youth learn by hands-on interaction and activity.

During the week, youth participate in interactive teaching sessions, small group discussions, personal solo times, one-on-one prayer ministry, powerful times of worship, group games, a challenging field trip, and times of wonderful fellowship and service.

Elizabeth Long Schultz, The Founder of Upward Challenge

One of my favorite parts of Upward Challenge is watching the transformation take place in the youth from one of dull teenage apathy to incredible awe and excitement at truly encountering the Living God.

I love the look on kids faces when they come back from their Solo Time or from the Prayer Shed and say with breathlessness, “He showed up! He’s REAL! He TALKED to me!!”

Elizabeth Shultz

Who is Upward Challenge for?

Youth at a camp about to play capture the flag

This event is designed for youth (8th-12th grade) who have a desire to be deepened in their faith and are actively seeking to grow.

It is recommended that the youth who attend already have a basic knowledge of Scripture and a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Upward Challenge takes place at the Community of the Cross in Black Mountain, NC. Here, the nations are impacted by the prayers of God’s people and many have been equipped for the work Christ calls us to do.

The Community of the Cross is a place of encountering God’s healing and empowering presence.

Upward Challenge is a growing community and service oriented event.

Meals will be prepared and served by the attending students and each individual is expected to contribute to the community through clean-up, set-up, participation, and the expression of their individual gifts.

Upward Challenge #1: All Terrain Human

Upward Challenge 1 focuses on our worldview and how we, like Jesus can be connected to the Holy Spirit.

During the event, participants sought the answers to questions like:

  • How is your life “tinted” by your worldview?
  • What needs to happen in your life to turn you from being a “Saul” to a “Paul”?
  • How do we interact with the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God?

With the teaching comes application. During Upward Challenge participants will be equipped, empowered, and sent out to practically apply what has been taught during the week.

Come join us as we dive into the adventure of being a part of God’s mission on earth.

Where teens are gathered, fun and excitement are sure to appear. In addition to incredible times of worship and challenging teaching sessions, youth will find themselves playing games, sharing tents, gathered around a campfire, participating in a service project, interacting with each other in small groups, floating down a river, and playing in God’s wonderful creation.

There is no registration fee to attend Upward Challenge.

PRMI is a non-profit organization that is supported by the gifts and prayers of regular supporters and the offerings of those who attend events.

The Rev. Paul Stokes and The Rev. Catey Morrison, both pastors in the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom, tell what is distinctive about Upward Challenge

Whit and Ed Trumbull tell why they keep sending their children to Upward Challenge and how this has had an amazing impact on their family.

Upward Challenge students give a report on the impact of the experience on them.  This is so cool to hear from the students themselves!

The Rev. Dr. Brad Long – whose daughter Elizabeth founded Upward Challenge – tells how this unique approach is actually working to pass on to future generations our faith in Jesus and the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

UCNC 2015 morning prayer at 6 am!

Are you up for a challenge?

Upward Challenge is a Christian youth camp in the UK and the USA that gives you the chance to:-

  • Become part of a great community of Christ-followers.
  • Learn exciting stuff about how God works in people’s lives today.
  • Encounter God’s power and presence through the Holy Spirit.
  • Have a load of fun in games, serving and worship.
  • Get some quiet space and time alone for prayer and reflection.

Upward Challenge is truly ‘Trinitarian’. That might sound a bit heavy, but really what it means is that we help people get to know God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sometimes in church life it is the Holy Spirit who gets left out of the picture, but the Bible says this:

“Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” (Ephesians 2:18)

The Holy Spirit is a vital part of getting to know God! At Upward Challenge we aim to turn this into experienced reality, help young people to see with spiritual eyes and live with spiritual power.

Are you 14-20 (ish) ?

Upward Challenge is designed to help you grow in your discipleship – and that’s something we all need to keep doing. In fact, this year’s Student Leaders range from 17 to 22 years old. Why not join us and invest in growing your faith?

Student Leadership

A major component of Upward Challenge is developing young leaders. We invest significant time and energy into helping them to learn how to be spiritual leaders, including mentoring and also involving them in some of the leadership roles. Upward Challenge is designed for a double-impact.

  • Everybody gets to have a great time and learn more about being an alien on earth. Yes, that’s right! The Bible says we are more than just mere humans – we are God’s special agents here. So we need to get to grips with looking at the world through spiritual eyes, and making a difference through spiritual power.
  • For some young people the impact goes even deeper. Upward Challenge is a leadership development program, and a handful of people are mentored as student leaders. They have the privilege of receiving extra support, with hands-on learning about how to be a leader in the Kingdom of God.

Challenge & Reward

Being a Student Leader is a challenge. But it is also fantastically rewarding, so do watch some of the video interviews on this page to see what previous Leaders think about it. As Student Leaders they…

  • Are included within the Leadership Team’s daily discernment process – so they play a real part in working out what God is saying to us and what we should do about it.
  • Lead the discussions and provide pastoral care for their own small groups – so they have a real responsibility for making sure that Upward Challenge is beneficial for all the young people.
  • Meet for one-on-one mentoring and prayer with a designated Mentor – so they have the chance to debrief about how things are going, and be encouraged and helped to grow in their role during the week.

Being a Student Leader is not right for everyone. Jesus has all kinds of different roles for people to play in his Kingdom, and leadership is just one of those roles. But for some young people this is the next step in their growth as Jesus’ disciples. What if it is you…? Well, you have to apply in advance to become Student Leaders, and decisions about these applications are made by the Upward Challenge Director. We can only have about 5 to 7 Student Leaders at any camp, but don’t let that put you off! Even the process of applying can help make things more clear in your own mind. Contact PRMI if you are interested in applying as a Student Leader.

Upward Challenge Campers gather on back porch with Mary Ellen Conners, Chase Brouthers, and Marie Ferrie
Upward Challenge Campers gather on back porch

What goes on at Upward Challenge? The daily schedule:

  • Breakfast This one hardly needs much explanation. You wake up, get dressed, and have breakfast. Simple!
  • Solo Time We start the day’s program with personal time and space for meeting with God. After a five minute intro and prayer, it is over to you to find a quiet place and use the Student Handbook as a guide for prayer, reflection and reading the Bible. Everybody is different, so the experiences will be unique, but we think it is vital for Christians to learn to spend time alone with God and learn to listen to what he has to say.
  • Worship and Teaching Our musicians (with a Student Worship Leader) help us draw near to God with our praises, mostly with modern music because God is up to date and not locked in the past (though He inspired some good stuff then, too!). And then we plug our brains into learning stuff about the Holy Spirit and Jesus, and how the Spirit can work in people’s lives today. We think it is really important to have a good Bible-based foundation for our faith.
  • Small Groups This is where the Student Leaders play a vital role. It is up to them to help their small group have a useful time together discussing stuff that came up in the teaching; tackling any questions that people have about Jesus, the Spirit and the Father; and praying together as a small group. Sometimes everything seems really straightforward. At other times there’s all sorts of things to talk about. Every day – and every group – is different.
  • Lunch and cleanup Food. We stop and eat it. And one of the small groups will take their turn to help get it sorted out and cleaned away afterwards. It helps build friendships when you just have to muck in together to sort out the tasks, and ‘service’ is an important part of Upward Challenge.
  • Siesta This is for real – sixty minutes of doing nothing (or even having a quick nap). Upward Challenge can be physically tiring, and we’ve found that having a siesta can really help with the stamina to be alert and engaged right through the day. (And anyway, the leaders need a break even if nobody else does!)
  • Afternoon Activity This one varies from day to day. One day we’ll have an outdoor team game (probably Sock Wars) even if it is tipping down with rain! We’ll also have a service project one afternoon, doing something practical to help with Barnes Close, and other days will likely include a walk or a trip. For the final afternoon we will seek specific guidance from the Holy Spirit, trying to make sure that we keep in step with His plans.
  • Tea time & free time How’s about that, eh? A cup of tea, and the chance to chill out, play games, chat, read, get away from the crowd, make music, or whatever floats your boat.
  • Supper Pretty much the same as for lunch time. Food again, with setup and cleanup responsibilities to go with it.
  • Worship & Ministry For the evening session we get back together for worship and the leadership team have the awesome task of helping us all follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the work He wants to do in our midst. We might have a bit more teaching, or spend the whole evening in worship, or get caught up in prayer ministry for one another. The important thing is that together we encounter the living God and let Him have the freedom to work among us
  • Relax Grab a cup of cocoa, unwind for a while, quiet down, and then…
  • Lights out Yes, we really do expect people to go to sleep. It makes life much easier the next day!
A group of youth on a screened in porch
UCNC 2016 Bilingual huddle

The bonus bits …

  • Prayer Shed We have a prayer shed available throughout the camp, and encourage everybody to reserve at least one hour-long slot for prayer in the shed. It can be an amazing personal time with God!
  • Leaders’ extras! There’s extra stuff for the leaders to do, because they also have to find time for Student Leader mentoring appointments, and have a discernment meeting for guidance ahead of the evening Worship & Ministry session.

Elizabeth Long Shultz, says

“As the summer approaches, I am getting more and more excited about Upward Challenge! Not only am I looking forward to seeing old friends and making new friends, I am excited about what God will do in and among us. Every year He blesses us with his presence and power. Every year I have the honor of watching God transform the lives of young adults and empowering them for service and ministry.

“These encounters with God produce a lasting change in the youth who attend Upward Challenge. Many come back year after year with stories of how God is using them in their own schools, families, and communities to powerfully advance the Kingdom of God.

This youth generation is a generation under incredible assault.

The demise of stable families, the all consuming media, and post-modern secularism threaten the lives and souls of our children. Youth, possibly more than even before, desperately need genuine encounters with Jesus Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and the influence of a strong Christ-centered community.

Upward Challenge is not only a context where youth can find solace from a culture that threatens to consume them, but also a place where they can be empowered to be culture-shapers, Kingdom advancers, and truth bearers. God has a mighty plan for the youth of our country. He has not forgotten them! And I believe that God is using Upward Challenge as one of the ways to transform this generation. I see it happening every summer and I can’t wait to see it happen again.”