International Camp Counselor Program

For over three decades the ELCA International Camp Counselor Program has been inviting young adults from around the world to work as camp counselors at ELCA-affiliated summer camps in the United States. This program gives ELCA campers and staff the opportunity to experience the gifts of the global church, and it provides transformative leadership development experiences to young adults from the ELCA’s global companion churches. Together we are bringing global perspective to outdoor ministry and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges that have a lasting impact.

For interested applicants

The ELCA invites global companion churches to nominate applicants to the International Camp Counselor Program every year. Only individuals nominated in this way are eligible to apply. A successful applicant to this program will be:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 30.
  • Available to travel to the United States from mid-May to mid-August (U.S. summer months).
  • Experienced as a youth worker, student or teacher, or specially skilled at working with children and youth.
  • Highly responsible, dependable and trustworthy — especially in settings with children and youth.
  • Flexible, resilient, open to new experiences.
  • Demonstrably proficient in the English language.
  • Able and willing to work in an outdoor environment that may be rural and/or far from city areas. Camp counselors spend most of their days working outdoors in wilderness environments. Indoor lodging is provided but is usually in shared quarters with other staff and campers of the same gender identity. Internet and phone access will usually be very limited.
  • Able and willing to experience the challenges of summer camp work. Counselors will be asked to share their gifts in Bible study, worship, music and recreation, and any specific skills they might bring. They will be asked to share their faith and their culture with those who attend the summer camps. They will spend most of their time working with children and youth and must have a track record of responsible engagement with children. Participants should understand that this work is physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding.
  • Committed to returning to the home country after the summer of service.

Applications for this program are distributed through the head offices of church bodies with a formal relationship to the ELCA. Application forms are typically made available in November or December, and applications are typically due in January or February.

Accepted participants will receive:

  • Sponsorship to apply for a United States J-1 visa in the camp counselor category (if approved, this visa allows residence in the U.S. only during the summer program).
  • Airfare to and from the United States (May to August).
  • In-person orientation in Chicago in May.
  • Domestic transportation from Chicago to the summer camp.
  • In-person staff training at the summer camp.
  • Lodging and meals throughout the summer.
  • Basic bedding for use at camp.
  • A cash stipend to support miscellaneous expenses while traveling and while in the U.S.
  • U.S. health insurance for the full summer.

If you are affiliated with a church body or institution that has a formal relationship with the ELCA, we encourage you to contact the head office of that church/institution to learn more about the internal nomination process for this program. If you are unsure whether your church body or institution has a formal relationship with the ELCA, you may contact us at

For interested summer camps:

This program is an excellent opportunity for you to enhance the international character of your ministry and bring critical expertise and perspective to your staff team.

All ELCA-affiliated summer camps are invited to express interest in hosting an international counselor. Every winter, Lutheran Outdoor Ministry (LOM) member organizations receive an email with instructions on how to submit an interest form.

The International Camp Counselor Program provides the following services to participating camps and counselors:

  • Recruitment and screening of applicants from select global companion churches around the world.
  • Sponsorship of the J-1 visa needed for entry into the United States, including most associated paperwork, fees and advising.
  • International and domestic air travel arrangements.
  • Health insurance as required by U.S. visa regulations.
  • Administration of the stipend provided to participants.
  • In-person orientation in Chicago at the beginning of the summer.
  • Ongoing advising and program support for participants and hosting camps.

Participating camps agree to provide the following:

  • Enthusiastic hospitality and interpersonal support for participants.
  • Training and supervision alongside other summer staff.
  • Lodging for participants if there is any gap between the Chicago orientation and the camp’s summer staff training.
  • Ground transportation from and to a nearby airport.
  • Opportunities for participants to engage in meaningful cross-cultural experiences throughout the summer.
  • Program fee paid to the churchwide organization, which covers a portion of the total cost of facilitating a participant in the program.
  • New bedding and towels for the counselor to use throughout the summer.

For more information about the ELCA International Camp Counselor Program, contact us at