Scenic view of trees at camp

How Do You Find These Amazing Staff? The Ministry of Recruiting

by Elizabeth Moore


If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Self, where do these incredible Pine Cove counselors come from?” you’re not alone! For decades, Pine Cove has been committed to hiring high-quality staff, and are often asked, “How do you do it?” Well, like everything else at Pine Cove, recruiting and hiring are seen as opportunities for ministry, where staff experience life change just as much as campers. 

For years, full-time staff have spent the fall months traveling to college campuses, setting up booths in cafeterias and on quads, visiting campus ministries, and organizing events in order to find eager, qualified staff members. But what sets a good hire apart from a great hire? Marshall “Swole City” Wallace, the director of Crier Creek, says, “Of course, we’re looking for people who are fun, high-energy, and socially aware, but more importantly, we want people who have a hunger for God and a desire to grow.” He continues, “I’m hoping to find guys who are humble and eager to serve.”

The primary way that Pine Cove finds and selects excellent staff is through an in-depth interview process. Each interview lasts about forty-five minutes, and is a highly intentional one-on-one conversation with a college applicant and a full-time staff member. “By nature of some of the questions we ask in the interview,” Marshall says, “we’re trying to get them to think critically about some hard issues in culture and in their relationship with the Lord.” 


“We see interviews as ministry opportunities,” Marshall continues. “We pray before. We pray during. We pray after.” Typically, there is space at the end of the interview to encourage interviewees, and our full-time staff pray for discernment to know how to best minister to this person at this point in their lives. It’s also common to encounter students who may have grown up in church but who don’t know what the Gospel of Jesus is. In those instances, Marshall says, “I’ll take a moment to ask, ‘Hey would you mind if I just stop and explain to you what I understand the Gospel to be?’” Thus, even staff interviews become an opportunity to share the Gospel. The goal of traveling, recruiting, and conducting interviews is not only to hire qualified staff, but it’s also to spread the aroma of Christ to college campuses and beyond. 

In recent years, Pine Cove has upped their recruiting game by leaning more into the relational side of recruiting and ministry. Austin “Homestar” Langemeier, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, says, “We care [for] and disciple our staff in the summer… and we continue to pursue and care for those staff in a personal and spiritual way beyond just summer.” Practically, this looks like visiting staff at their campuses, checking in with calls or texts throughout the semester, asking “Hey, what’s the Lord been teaching you?” Or, “How has your time in God’s Word been?” Staff experience profound life change and discipleship during the summer, and our hope is that this discipleship continues throughout the school year. “It’s rewarding to see God continue to move outside of the camp context,” Austin says. “And [it’s rewarding] to see a person who came into camp on the bubble with Christ walk away on fire, and then go start leading on their campus.” 

Pine Cove’s recruiting strategy also includes encouraging summer staff to bring their friends along with them! “The hope is that if our staff have had an impactful summer,” Marshall says, “they will want their friends to join them in that experience next summer.” The ability for camp teams to dive in relationally with their staff has also helped retention rates, which in turn helps camp teams build and establish their own culture and dynamic. “People want to be a part of excellent things,” Austin says. “Talented people want to be in places where their talent can be used and given opportunities.” 


As Pine Cove continues to grow, making room for more campers and simultaneously more staffers, they have partnered with iCampPro to create their own staffing software module. “We hit the ground running and were able to model something off of the way that Pine Cove recruits,” Ellie “Bluefish” Graziadei, Innovation Project Manager, says. “iCampPro has allowed us to take where we are in recruiting and match our software to that.” It’s no secret that excellence is one of Pine Cove’s cultural values, and this includes the process improvements and technological innovations that happen within the organization. “If you aren’t assessing things with the basis of how technology can support it,” Ellie says, “you’re going to fall behind it.” 

As the recruiting process becomes more intentional, both relationally and technologically, Pine Cove sees this as a greater opportunity for ministry, not only during the summer but throughout the year. “It is crazy how when you’re just faithful with what’s in front of you, God blesses it,” Austin says. For Pine Cove, recruiting and discipleship go hand in hand, prioritizing not only who we hire but how we train who we hire. Equipping highly qualified college staff to continually grow as followers of Jesus is the special sauce of what we do. 

“Yes we’re trying to fill our rosters,” says Marshall, “but more than that we’re trying to be faithful disciples. We’re asking ourselves, ‘How do we continually have His praise on our lips and how do we cultivate that with our staff?’” There have been huge changes in the intentionality of the recruiting process in recent years, but the priority is still the same: to hire college students who are hungry for God and passionate about sharing His love with others. And when our staff are devoted to serving Jesus, loving campers, and living fully alive and changed by the Gospel, that type of environment recruits for itself. 


Posted May 21, 2024

Elizabeth Moore

Former Staff

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