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Mountaintop Experience

by Brian Beise


When junior-high-school students and counselors come to the EDGE, cofounder and director Todd Erickson ’87 believes that week on the mountaintop is meant as preparation for the rest of the year. “This week with us sets up the relationship with the students and their church leaders,” says Todd. “The motto of the EDGE is ‘the centrality of Christ and the clarity of the gospel.’ So we work hard to make sure everything is Christ-centered.”


Every summer since 1997, the EDGE conference fills Covenant’s campus with junior-high students and counselors for a week of activities, sports tournaments, worship, and gospel-centered teaching. The EDGE is defined by its Reformed theology and its focus on facilitating relationships between students and counselors from their home churches.


In the early nineties, after working as a youth pastor and planner for another youth camp, Todd and four other Presbyterian youth ministers agreed to work together to create a small conference to serve their churches. “We weren’t trying to start a mega-camp,” says Todd. “We just wanted to create something that would serve our constituencies.”


They started the EDGE in 1996. “We couldn’t get here the first year, but it worked out the next year and we’ve been here ever since,” says Todd. The College’s residence halls allowed communities to form between groups of students and their home church counselors, and Covenant felt like a refuge. “Even if a kid has never been to Covenant College, coming to Lookout Mountain just sounds really cool. If everything goes right and the Lord does his thing,” says Todd, “for a lot of kids this is one of the greatest experiences in their lives up to this point.”


Dozens of PCA churches have sent students and counselors, and many Covenant alumni first encountered the College through the conference. “We estimate that 10,000 junior-high or highschool students (they come here as a work crew sometimes) were introduced to Covenant’s campus through the EDGE, and we’re now over the two-million-dollar mark in revenue generated for Covenant,” says Todd, who currently plans the conference along with two fellow alumni, Greg Marshall ’92 and Kevin McQuillen ’00. Chris Polski ’90, Matt Christian ’93, and Gus Diamondidis ’86 served on the planning committee in past years, and many other Covenant alumni serve the conference in other ways.


Among the Covenant alumni who attended the EDGE is Jonathan Wilson ’06, who recently received a Fulbright-Fogarty fellowship to conduct HIV/AIDS research in South Africa. He first attended the camp when he was in seventh grade. “We had an absolutely incredible time,” he recalls. “I saw twenty-five of my non-believing friends come to know the Lord. It was so rich. We were surrounded with fun, godly people who loved us and the Lord with great passion.


“The EDGE is such a great tradition for the PCA,” Jonathan continues. “It introduced so many of us to the College and gave us such fond memories. Many of my leaders were Covenant grads, men I wanted to be like. After attending as a camper, I served on work crews, and later was a counselor while in college. Many of my best buddies in college I met at these camps. My mom served as the camp nurse and my dad ran tournaments. It was our family’s favorite event each summer, a true mountaintop experience.”


That mountaintop experience is, in Todd’s view, an extension of the experience Covenant students find on the same campus. At Covenant, Todd learned to apply practical theology principles to youth ministry and youth culture. “We have to minister to junior-high students in a different way than with high-school students,” he says. “This is about engaging and redeeming culture, and our professors at Covenant taught us how.”