bethany camp history

Bethany Camp was established in 1952, and was originally located on ten acres of land that bordered Chautauqua Lake. Many lives were changed through the ministry that took place through the years there. In the 1970s, it became apparent that the property and facilities were not going to be sufficient for the long term.  


In 1974, the health department made the determination that the septic system would have to be replaced or the camp must be closed. This and several other factors caused the leadership to purchase 170 acres of land at the present site just east of Sinclairville, NY to begin building a new camp.


In 1976, the last year that Bethany operated at the old site, the music camp (attended by about 80 campers) did a floating concert, both choral and instrumental, on the Chautauqua Belle while getting off to entertain people at various locations.


From 1975 through 1977, several buildings were constructed, including, Applewood Lodge, the director's home, and several cabins. These buildings were dedicated on July 23, 1977 and the camp began operation at the present location that summer. Throughout the process of moving to the new location, the camp incurred a debt of around $300,000. It was a significant event in the history of the camp when the mortgage was burned in 1997. 


Warren Lewis was the first full-time director of Bethany Camp. He began his service in 1972 before the move from Chautauqua Lake and continued until 1986. Mike Nelson served as the director from 1987 until 1990. He was followed by David Lewis from 1991 through 1999. Dick Warshuis served as the director from 1999 until 2003. The current director, Greg Frank, began his ministry in 2004. 


Since the original buildings in the late 1970s there have been many improvements made to the facilities. In the 1980s, Spruce Lane was built and the current swimming pond was created to replace the lakefront. In addition, the craft shop/snack shack was built and the "tabins" were retired. In the 1990s, Walnut Grove was built, and the old bathhouse was turned into the speakers cabin. 40 additional acres were purchased and donated to the camp.  


In recent years, many programming attractions have been added and major remodeling of bathrooms and cabins has taken place as well as adding a maintenance building. The current facilities will accommodate about 220 people at one time, and the camp now owns 213 acres.


Throughout the years, much has changed about the ministry of Bethany Camp. New properties, facilities and staff have come and gone. One thing does remain and that is the steadfastness to serving the Lord. Currently, we have three full time staff families here at camp and our summer staff has up to 40 paid staff positions each week. 


We strive to complete our mission “to create an environment that encourages and allows for spiritual growth and change”, in everything we do. We trust that God will use us and this incredible place that belongs to Him for many years to come.