The New Shelterwood Chapel

Located in Independence, Missouri, our campus sits on 200 acres of beautiful forest and rolling hills. State arborists have said “the property contains the most beautiful stand of old growth timber in the four county area.” Once used as a YMCA camp, Shelterwood Academy is a new, state-of-the-art facility for teen residential care. Our picturesque campus features outdoor sports courts, wilderness trails, a swimming pool, gymnasium, weight room, soccer field, a school building, dormitories, including the newly opened Richard Beach Lodge, gardens and staff offices.  We are pleased to announce the newest addition to our campus, the Shelterwood Chapel.

“We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen how we serve our teens and their families, both with improvements in our programs and in our facilities,” says Jim Subers, CEO. The last missing piece, from a facilities standpoint, was a chapel. “Three years of planning and prayers went into this building,” Subers says. “And we couldn’t have done it without the commitment of many of our Shelterwood family alumni. The chapel was funded exclusively by former Shelterwood families, and there are hundreds of written prayers and blessings on the walls. As the building neared completion, alumni families and current Shelterwood parents were invited to write prayers of blessing and scripture all over the walls of the chapel prior to the drywall installation and painting.”

IMG 8989 The New Shelterwood Chapel

“In the past, seating large groups was only possible in our school gymnasium or in the common areas at the boys’ and girls’ lodges. The new chapel has provided us with a dedicated space for gatherings, and we can now seat 200 people comfortably, which more than doubles our capacity to host groups,” Subers says.  In addition to the chapel, there are two smaller, fireside meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 20 people These rooms can be used for parent groups and periodic mini-retreats that we call Family Intensives.. The new building also houses some administrative offices, which had been located in the boys’ lodge, freeing up additional residential space for our new Transitions program. Finally, the chapel basement has a lounge specifically designed for our young adult mentors. This dedicated lounge area is equipped with sofas, TVs, a pool table and small kitchen. “ an area dedicated exclusively for our young adult staff to refresh, recoup and recharge. It’s been a real highlight.”

A signature feature to the chapel’s design is the huge wood trusses, hewn from Oregon  Douglas Fir . Below these trusses, large picture windows overlook our scenic valley. The sound system, designed for Shelterwood’s growing performance arts and music program, is also state-of-the-art.

While the building is ideal for our larger group events, like Parent Weekends and graduations, we use it weekly for chapel services. Chapel is a highlight in our week at Shelterwood. These gatherings give us a time to celebrate individual student’s accomplishments, which helps unify our community and inspire our teens.

The typical chapel service starts with a welcome from a Big Brother or Big Sister, and then continues with our weekly awards — Student of the Week, the Bounceback of the Week and the Shelter Star of the Week. Next we celebrate with a time of worship, sometimes led by one of the Bigs and sometimes led by willing teens.  The service closes with a different speaker each week. The speaker is often a special guest or local pastor to offer inspiration and encouragement. “We try to expose the kids to a wide cross-section of voices who can speak truth and encouragement into their hearts. We find speakers who are particularly gifted in communicating to teens,” Subers says.  Previous guests have included Joe White and Shay Robbins of Kanakuk Kamps, missionary and popular speaker, Gracia Burnham, and authors Todd Burpo, “Heaven is for Real,”  Rod Handley, “Character that Counts, “ Annie Lobert, “Fallen” and Dr. Ken Canfield, “The Heart of a Father.”

“Ultimately, this Chapel gives us yet another tool in our toolbox to use to go after the hearts of these teens. We have already seen our chapel used for healing and transformation in the lives of our students, and that makes it pretty special.”