Starting at a new school can be intimidating. We work hard to make your school transition smooth and comfortable at Hillcrest.

Nearly half of our student body is new each year. Our Danielsen program, a partnership with the Danielsen School in Bergen, Norway, brings a new 25+ students each year. In addition to that, Hillcrest enrolls 60 to 70 new students each year. That means you aren’t the only one who is new.

To help students assimilate and make friends we organize a Welcome Week. The week is devoted to orientation. There are athletic practices, school orientation meetings, and faith-forming services and teachings that help students gain a perspective of what school is like at Hillcrest.

Every student, new or returning, walks through Welcome Week together. This starts the entire student body together as we start the school year. The culture at Hillcrest is warm and inviting, with returning students excited to meet and befriend new students. The teachers are renowned for their connection with students, and we conduct surveys of our student body to ensure that our students feel cared for and encouraged in their classes. The student life and classrooms at Hillcrest are fun, and you’ll find it easy to learn and grow in your academic knowledge, relationship with Jesus Christ, and connection with your fellow students inside our program.

Below we’ll outline some of the programs we run to guide you in meeting new friends and engaging life outside the school day. Our philosophy drives us to help you make friends and build strong mentorship connections. We believe that if you feel cared for you will be more open to the maturing and growing opportunities that await you at Hillcrest.





Building Faith Forming Habits in the School Day


Loves are built every day for us. Many students build a love for achievement or popularity based on their school culture. Positive feedback drives a majority of students in a specific direction. At Hillcrest we care deeply what habits are being formed for students in the school day.

Hillcrest builds rhythms for students to engage in spiritual exercise. Hillcrest’s chapel program is one of the most powerful forces on campus that drives students to positive spiritual formation and growth.

A staff member unpacks a God-oriented perspective in chapel.

Chapel is a thirty minute school assembly Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Hillcrest operates a worship program that teaches students how to lead music worship in churches and small group settings. Hillcrest currently operates six worship teams, four focused on the chapel services, and two focused on other spiritual formation events at Hillcrest.

Inside the Chapel period Hillcrest fleshes out a school theme that is decided on by the faculty, staff, and student leadership. Past themes include FreeDone and Practice Makes Purpose. The design of these themes is to unpack salvation, found in Christ alone through faith alone in God alone. The themes help students understand the interplay of the free gift of salvation while also understanding their engagement in faith-formation and good works.

Hillcrest staff often speak on various topics, in addition to local pastors, ministry leaders, and friends of the school. These adults bring perspectives and life experiences into Hillcrest’s chapel program. The most powerful lessons are often delivered on Fridays. Friday holds Hillcrest’s student led testimony times. A senior will stand in front of his friends and share what the Lord is doing in his or her life. The worship teams will work with the message of the student to align worship songs to guide students to consider the way God is real in the speaking student’s life. They also find songs that lead the student body in praise and adoration of God’s work in the life of the student body.

Inside Hillcrest’s Chapel program are faith forming activities. Students gather in huddle groups each month as part of the program. These groups are led by Senior students who are equipped to take the student body through a small group Bible study. The Bible study prepares students for the upcoming Prayer Day.

Prayer Day at Hillcrest is a 100 year old tradition that started in a revival at Hillcrest. Each semester we cancel classes for a couple afternoons or for an entire day to prayer for our school, nation, and world. These days help students understand prayer and form habits of faith formation.

In addition to the Chapel program, many students will engage in small group Bible studies or prayer groups that occur before the school day. Clubs also drive students to have rhythms in their life of faith-formation.

Senior leaders take students through a Bible study packet that leads up to the Hillcrest Prayer Day.

Senior leaders take students through a Bible study packet that leads up to the Hillcrest Prayer Day.

Hillcrest also encourages students to engage in the local church. Hillcrest sees itself as a support for parents and ministry of the local church. We do not replace parents nor the local church. That said, many Hillcrest students attend weekly youth group meetings on Wednesday night where they have additional mentors in the local church. Hillcrest also expects students to attend weekly church services on Sunday mornings, directing students to the worship times as a mandatory aspect of the Hillcrest program. Students begin to develop habits of attending church on their own with their friends, habits we believe will remain as they embark on college and university study.

All of these programs run on the back of Hillcrest’s culture of mentorship. Hillcrest has an expectation that students remain engaged not only in their faith formation but also in the community of faith. Hillcrest assesses the student body each semester to ensure students are finding adult mentors. The benchmark for Hillcrest is to guide each student to have a minimum of three adult mentors. These assessments drive follow-up contact with students, forging habits of faith formation that will linger beyond Hillcrest.

Hillcrest staff stay after school to connect with students and mentor groups to deeper faith-formation.


Prayer Day

Hillcrest has a 100+ year tradition called Prayer Day. Prayer Day started in 1907 after a group of young men were praying for a friend. In the midst of their prayer the boys were overcome with passion to reach those who didn’t know of Christ, called to confess their own misgivings first. Revival took over the campus the next day, with classes canceled as students and staff were overwhelmed with a passion to seek the Lord.

The revival sparked a Hillcrest tradition of taking one day each semester to devote to prayer and thanksgiving. sof a revival the broke out on campus near the turn of the century.

Prayer Day Highlight

Formations Week

Prayer Day often occurs within Formations Week. During Spiritual Formations Week students take a pause from classes to hear special messages delivered on themes relevant for the student body.

Spiritual Formations Session 1

Spiritual Formations Session 2

Spiritual Formations Session 3

Spiritual Formations Session 4


2018 ACT Scores

Percent of Graduation Class Entering PostSecondary Training After Grad

Hillcrest Chapel Videos

A missionary shares on virtue in one of HIllcrest’s chapel services

A Hillcrest Senior shares a testimony of God in a Friday chapel


Hillcrest staff explain the Huddle Group lesson for Chapel, the small group student led Bible study.

Student led worship service during a Worship Wednesday part of the Chapel program


October Student Survey Results


Say students are
warm, polite, and welcoming


say school is challenging
and manageable



Say they have at least 3 teachers, staff members, or coaches who give help, support or encouragement


Say their teachers are interested in them and supportive






Chapel occurs three days per week at Hillcrest. In this time students unpack the school theme. Monday and Wednesday chapel traditionally unpacks the theme through teaching. Friends of Hillcrest from around the community bring special messages that help explain and unpack the theme for the year.

2018-19 School Theme Explained

As students continue through the year there is a tendency to get caught up in the rhythm of Hillcrest. Homework, tests, sports practices, friend gatherings, and laundry are a few things that become a droning rhythm that can distract students from their desired growth pattern. Hillcrest is conscious of the routines that are impacting the lives of students. We say that we are a small ship and can divert the course of our school culture to address with various topics that might arise throughout the year. It is common for us to pause after the first few weeks of Chapel to unpack some things that students are facing.

Overview of Chapel Activity to Orient Students

Chapel holds a syncopated rhythm, where special speakers address the theme and the rhythm of speakers is broken up by all school spiritual formations events. Hillcrest utilizes chapel time to add in special small group Bible studies led by the senior leadership of the school. The senior leaders organize the studies with the guidance of Hillcrest staff, and then execute the studies in small groups. The program operates under the direction of our chapel coordinators.

Hillcrest Huddle Group Session Explained

As students understand and unpack the school theme there are moments where students will respond. Sometimes these times of response are in huddle groups, where students share ideas, thoughts, and opinions. More often students will respond in worship. Hillcrest frequently holds a worship Wednesday, where the Wednesday schedule for teaching is replaced with the worship team leading the school in song and reflection.

Worship Wednesday Chapel

Friday chapels are a highlight for students at Hillcrest. Junior and Senior students share how they’re growing in their relationship with the Lord. The chapel time is organized by Hillcrest’s student chaplain, who organizes the student testimonies and works with the faculty chapel coordinator to organize the chapel service.

Student Testimony Chapels


Hillcrest Chapel Videos

A missionary shares on virtue in one of HIllcrest’s chapel services

A Hillcrest Senior shares a testimony of God in a Friday chapel


Hillcrest staff explain the Huddle Group lesson for Chapel, the small group student led Bible study.

Student led worship service during a Worship Wednesday part of the Chapel program


October Student Survey Results


Say students are
warm, polite, and welcoming


say school is challenging
and manageable



Say they have at least 3 teachers, staff members, or coaches who give help, support or encouragement


Say their teachers are interested in them and supportive




Worship Arts Brings Music Ministry Into Backyards

Hillcrest's worship arts program has sent students around the world to lead their churches in worship. Through Friday worship chapels students gain experience organizing a worship service every week, working to direct attention to Jesus Christ through music. Throughout the year students experience opportunities to lead worship in area churches, extending the ministry and training outside of Hillcrest's halls. These experiences push students to consider other avenues to lead worship, which has included hosting a community wide worship night and outdoor worship events. 

Hillcrest's Perspective on Worship

Students at Hillcrest are trained in leading worship services. These services equip them to serve and participate in their local church and community in leading them in the proclamation of God's Word through music.

Hillcrest believes that worship includes the proclamation of the Word, stirring hearts, minds, and souls in music acclamation, giving opportunities to respond to the truth of God's word as it is encountered in their daily lives.

Hillcrest meets three times per week for chapel, having a worship time at least once per week. In this full school assembly students lead a time of singing and acclamation of God through shared testimonies, scripture reading, and prayer that join in with the music leading in worship. 

It is Hillcrest's belief that the study of God's Word is a transformational process. As God's Word is studied in every class at Hillcrest, the Chapel time offers students one of many avenues of response in adoration, thanksgiving, and praise. 


The Hillcrest Worship Program

We value every God-given gift in our school  and desire to see our students serving in a capacity that fits best for them

The Vision

Hillcrest Worship exists to provide a place for students to use their talents to the glory of God while bringing worship in varied forms to the Hillcrest community, the local Fergus Falls community and to wherever the worship team members may be called beyond Fergus Falls. 

Additionally, the Hillcrest worship program desires to be used by God to draw all people into His presence, to worship God for who He is and what He has done - expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live. Our heart is to worship God regardless of our surroundings and pray that others will engage in true worship and encounter God through our servant leadership.

We desire to equip and raise up young musicians and leaders to fulfill the call on the Church to be a sending community. We believe that well-rounded leaders will always be more effective than well-equipped musicians, which is why we stress that our identity must be in Jesus Christ and not in our instrument or performance. As worship leaders, we are called to lead people – not to simply play an instrument or sing.

Hillcrest Worship Musicians 

Theologian Paul Tripp notes, “Human beings were created by God to be worshipers. You can’t divide people into two groups, as if there are some who worship and others who don’t. Every person, regardless of religious profession, has worshiped their way through every day of their existence. ...Everything you say and everything you do is an act of worship.” Thus, for the Hillcrest worship team, music is simply one of the expressions of worship.

Hillcrest Worship Team musicians seek to holistically honor God: in private or in public, in school or out of school. Team members will abide by the Hillcrest Worship Code of Conduct and seek to be an example through whom others will see Christ.

Hillcrest junior high and senior high students are invited to apply and then selected to participate in the worship program. This philosophy comes from a desire to grow and disciple student leaders through their time at Hillcrest, giving them ample opportunities to improve skills and develop new skills.

Additional documentation: see Hillcrest Worship Code of Conduct & Hillcrest Handbook

Application & Tryout Process

Each student will apply for the worship team through the application process. This process includes the completion of a two-page document obtaining information about the applying student’s relationship with Jesus and their musical abilities and aspirations. The student will then work with the program’s leadership to hold an interview and instrument or vocal tryout, at which time the program leader will consider next steps for that individual, including placement on a team or direction for further practice.

Worship Mentors 

In order to provide the Worship Team members with guidance and opportunities for feedback, a Worship Mentor role has been created. Included in the Worship Mentor’s responsibilities are opening the chapel, setting up the necessary technology and providing feedback to individual members of the worship team or to the group as a whole.

Additional documentation: see Worship Team Mentors document


Practices are scheduled out at least one week in advance. Because of the sports schedule and curfew hours for dorm students, practices happen Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 6-9pm.

  • Wednesday practices are rare as youth group attendance is encouraged. 

  • Friday practices are rare due to other student activities. 

  • Saturday practices are rare because of student activities, but will occur occasionally.

  • Sunday practices are nearly non-existent due to the program’s desire to honor and allow for sabbath. Occasionally a practice will be arranged for a Sunday in preparation for an event.

The desire is that these practices are arranged to allow for the majority of the team’s members to participate. However, due to the current schedule, primarily due to sports practices and games, an individual may not be able to attend their practice. If this is the case, the worship team member should follow up with the program leader.

Worship practices before an event are held in the chapel unless otherwise noted or due to a special event. If a practice prior to a chapel or similar event is missed for whatever reason, the student missing the practice will sit out that event, not for disciplinary reasons, but for continuity with the rest of the team.

Practices are assisted by the Worship Music Mentors who help open the chapel, guide and instruct during the practice session.

Practice behavior is noted in the Code of Conduct document that all worship team members must sign before participating on a worship team.

Additional documentation: see Hillcrest Worship Code of Conduct & Worship Team Mentors


Songs for the school year are chosen primarily by the worship program’s leadership team, which includes the student body chaplain and interns. A “Top 40” will be selected at the beginning of the year based primarily on the theme for the school year with songs occasionally added throughout the year.

Songs are chosen based on the following criteria:

  • For the theology set forth in the song

  • For the complementary relationship to the school year theme

  • For the application to a speaker’s message

This master song list for that school year is to serve as the backbone upon which to build the chapel experiences for that school year. In facilitating worship, the program desire is for (1) the student body to become familiar with the majority of the songs so that the students are singing the truths from these songs over themselves and for (2) the musicians to build familiarity and confidence beyond just knowing the songs, but to become so familiar with the music and words as to fully enter into the worship experience without the distractions of remembering song structures or chord progressions.

A worship team/intern is allowed 2 “divergents” (songs that are not in the predetermined top 40) per semester. These divergents are subject to the approval of the worship program leadership.

Songs will be selected three weeks in advance of a team’s scheduled performance in order that the team members have time to practice the songs ahead of time. This ensures that practices are a time to bring the song together and not a time to necessarily learn the song, thus making practices productive.

If and when the students are asked to lead outside of the Hillcrest student body, songs outside of the top 40 will be chosen as appropriate for the occasion. 

Additional documentation: see Spotify playlist, see Planning Center

Worship Arts Class 

Hillcrest Lutheran Academy recognizes that having a sound theological understanding of worship is vital to participating in and inviting others into musical worship. At this time, the Hillcrest worship program offers ad hoc opportunities for learning. Future structured and formal classroom experiences may be available.

Additional documentation: See Worship Arts Class (in development)

Leading Worship 

The role of leading and facilitating worship is for the purpose of encouraging the congregation in worship, not to worship “at” them. Thus, students should seek to find ways to invite the congregation into the worship experience - to help the congregation prepare to hear from the Lord. These simple acts of invitation include smiling, making eye contact and wholly engaging in seeking God while leading.

God is the standard of beauty and excellence—our worship should seek after biblical excellence and objective beauty, goodness, and truth. We will seek to improve individually and as a team how we utilize our instruments and lead our congregation, regardless of who or where it may be.

Generally, students are preparing to lead their fellow students in worship in chapel and during prayer day gatherings. Because these opportunities are internal student body events, these bands are created utilizing students of all ages and skill levels. 

In all cases, the students that are a part of the worship team must abide by the Hillcrest Student Handbook. Additionally, students should consider the Hillcrest Worship Code of Conduct contract that they signed after trying out for the worship program and, while acknowledging we are all sinners, remember that we are seeking to live in Biblical integrity. Students should seek to (1) live spiritually disciplined lives, (2) communicate with the worship program leader or worship intern about potential absences, (3) commit to living like and for Christ in all facets of life, and (4) commit the appropriate amount of time to both practicing their particular instrument(s) and to full band practices. 

Occasionally, the Hillcrest worship team will play for a special event or a church congregation. At all times, students should wear appropriate dress. We value modesty and we never want to be a distraction to the people we are serving. However, especially when playing outside of the Hillcrest student body, additional dress requirements may be dictated.

Dress Guidelines

Additional documentation: See Hillcrest Worship Code of Conduct document

Additionally addressed on an as needed basis.

Worship Tour 

As previously stated, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy desires to equip and raise up young musicians and leaders to fulfill the call on the Church to be a sending community. One way of accomplishing this goal is through sending a small group of worship members. In the future, Hillcrest hopes and plans to send a select group of students on a short tour to encourage and support local churches.

See Hillcrest Academy Worship Team Tour Amendment document

Worship Intern Position

The Hillcrest Worship Program looks to foster proficient worship leaders during their time at Hillcrest and for leadership in future venues God has for them. The worship intern position was created to provide opportunities for students to lead from the front and organizationally. The worship interns are expected to model Christian behavior, maintain trustful relationships, and ensure timely execution of work.

See Hillcrest Academy Worship Intern Application document


Upon the student completion of the school year, each student will be asked to take a short exit survey to assess the overall worship program in order to make incremental improvements.

Students should also consider adding worship leadership to their resume.

Chapel Training

Documentation forthcoming 

Additional documentation: See Chapel Room Training document


Documentation forthcoming

Additional documentation: See Chapel & Worship Needs Priority List


To prepare for your audition, please come prepared to work through the following song(s)*

  • Male Vox: 

    • “Living Hope” Phil Wickham

    • “Lord, I Need You” by Hillsong United

    • “Cornerstone” by Hillsong

  • Female Vox: 

    • “Our Father” by Jenn Johnson, Bethel Music

    • “Mercy” by Amanda Cook

    • “Grace to Grace” by Hillsong Worship

  • Drums

    • “I Am Set Free” by All Sons & Daughter

    • “Only King Forever” by Elevation Worship

    • “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship

  • Acoustic Guitar

    • “Where You Are” by Leeland

    • “Holy Spirit” by Bryan & Katie Torwalt

  • Electric Guitar

    • “Even So Come - Live” by Passion

    • “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin (studio version)

  • Bass

    • “I Am Set Free” by All Sons & Daughter

    • “Mercy” by Amanda Cook (Bethel Music)

  • Keys

    • “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman [Passion: White Flag (Live)]

    • “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters

    • “Jesus I Come” by Elevation Worship

    • “How Can It Be” by Lauren Daigle

Worship Highlights

Hillcrest Worship Collective at Over The River Festival

worship night outdoor team backs_.jpg

Students Lead Outdoor Worship Event

The musicians are not alone but joined by dozens of teenagers. They join all creation to praise the Creator in this perfect setting to begin the Lord’s Day. READ MORE>>

Worship Night at Hillcrest



Hillcrest’s Student Life Program Unites Many Nations


Student Life Highlight Videos

Move-in Highlight

Opening Picnic Highlight


The residence halls at Hillcrest Academy is more than just a housing complex. Students experience mentor groups, one-on-one support from their Resident Assistant care-takers, and a number of activities to unite the student body and enhance their experience at Hillcrest.

Students gather in small groups during the Welcome Week

Resident Directors are mentors who ensure a safe and comfortable living environment for the students. Resident Assistants are typically college-aged mentors who monitor the resident halls and enhance residence hall life by providing quality activities, one-on-one mentorship, and small group devotionals.

Residence hall life is a highlight for many students with activities planned nearly every weekend. Students have the chance to attend amusement park outings, shopping trips to the Mall of America, and various intramural activities.

A resident hall family group bakes pies at the home of their mentor mom as part of the Family Group program

Shared experiences in student life activities enable students from all over the world the chance to build life-long friendships. Many Hillcrest Academy students have had the chance to travel overseas to visit friends they've made at Hillcrest. A central component to their friendships have been the activities organized within the resident halls.

Students gather at the Men’s Residence Halls for an evening cookout and volleyball tournament.

While it sounds like the residence halls will wear-out our students, be assured that we value rest and contemplation. The halls have various policies which help students establish healthy devotional and study habits to set them on the path to success wherever God may be calling them.

Students have the opportunity to participate in student-led devotional and worship times. While we work hard to establish a quality program, there are many opportunities for student leadership. Devotional sessions for individual nationalities are strongly encouraged and are facilitated by the Resident Director with a student-leader. 

Students enjoy slip-n-slide kickball as one of the many activities planned during weekends.

Students enjoy slip-n-slide kickball as one of the many activities planned during weekends.


Slip-n-slide Dorm Activity Highlight

Fall Festival Dorm Activity Highlight

Homecoming Highlight

Boys Soccer Highlight


Hillcrest’s Student Body Offers a Unique and Challenging Cross-Cultural Experience


There are currently 14 countries represented at Hillcrest from around the world. That means that when you’re talking economics in Sociology you’ll have someone from a communist country, socialist country, and capitalist country. You’re perspective will be challenged inside the diverse experiences Hillcrest students bring into the classroom.

We like to say that Hillcrest’s cultural climate enables an intercultural perspective. We work hard to unite the various cultures underneath the banner of Jesus Christ. That means our classes start with places all students can speak from. In this unity students are able to explore the diversity of cultural norms and priorities, calling into question bias and virtue signaling to correctly sharpen thinking and practice to be more Biblically-based and Christ-like.

Outside of the classroom the cultures blend effortlessly. There is a general set of questions each high school looks to address during their development. Our 40+ years of experience in ministering to students from various cultures has taught us that students all have a passion to understand God, understand creation, and understand themselves in light of the order of the world.

Students build strong bonds inside the residence halls. Each student rooms with someone from a different culture. That means students from the United States will have either a Norwegian, Asian, or African roommate. These opportunities teach students how to communicate cross-culturally while also helping students build bonds with people from around the world.

International students find Hillcrest a fantastic place to not only solidify their English comprehension and speaking ability, but to also build an understanding of the Biblical perspective. Students from foreign countries are propelled into the American university system with a strong foundation, having built good practices and gaining great understanding of the systems used in America.

Because Hillcrest is located in the midwest there is a general politeness and honoring of people. Most Hillcrest staff have background in foreign missions, which enables students from around the world to feel welcome in a faith-forming environment without needing to “become American” in the process.

Hillcrest celebrates the various cultures through cooking events and opportunities for students to share their culture in chapel services and other community presentations. It is common for students from












Local Missions

Mentoring at Local Christian Elementary School

Mentoring at Local Christian Elementary School

40 Days For Life Rally in Fargo, ND

40 Days For Life Rally in Fargo, ND

Hillcrest provides an opportunity within the academic program for students to participate in local missions. Students engage in local missions opportunities naturally.

Students find opportunities throughout the school year in natural offerings to volunteer. Often these opportunities are communicated through service groups like Key Club. Other times, because of the close-knit community at Hillcrest, students find opportunities to serve and support the local community through simply engaging in the school and community naturally.

It is common for a student to connect with an adult during the school day, hearing of an opportunity to support a family in need or to join in with a ministry program that is happening in the community. Students interested in volunteering and engaging in service will find avenues in the first few weeks at Hillcrest that will carry through the rest of the year.

Service groups like Key Club hold membership drives where students hear of the service opportunities through the nationally recognized program. Students participate in bi-monthly meeting where they hear of service opportunities that accumulate hours of service that bolster college applications.

In addition to the natural service opportunities there are aspects of Hillcrest’s program that naturally breed mission and service. Students in varsity athletics will visit local elementary schools. Students hear of the plight of the pro-life cause and join community efforts to communicate pro-life messages. Through the chapel program students participate in the Operation Christmas Child packing party. In some classes students spend time considering the neighbors of Hillcrest and work to serve them naturally through yard work or visitation. Service is a natural component of the Hillcrest experience.

Outreach at Local Church

Outreach at Local Church

Service Projects

Service Projects

Erick Speaking Chapel.JPG

Church Planters Visiting HLA

Church planter Erick Sorensen spoke to Hillcrest students encouraging them in God's word to share their faith as he spoke of his work in New York City.

Evangelism Club Broadens Horizons for Students

The Evangelism Club materialized days after church planter Erick Sorensen spoke at Bethel Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls about his New York City mission, Epiphany Lutheran Church. His presentations inspired a group of students to embrace conversational evangelism. The new group was a reprise on mission trips Hillcrest has taken over the past 10 years that place students in real world setting to share their faith. 

Over the years Hillcrest has led conversational evangelistic trips to places like Missouri, Biloxi, Minneapolis, and Chicago. These trips took students inside the FermiLab in Chicago, sharing their faith through conversation and calling out truths in museums and on the streets. Students served in hurricane ravaged communities in Texas and Mississippi.

Hillcrest has a strong history in evangelistic opportunities, now offering an evangelism club that teaches advanced tools to students on engaging in conversation, offering real world environments in the Minneapolis area. This training is in an effort to equip students to partner with churches in their college and and adult life in reaching their communities for Christ. Hillcrest continues to bring in church planters to bring encouragement and offer opportunities for students to continue their conversational evangelism practices after Hillcrest.


Leaders Visit Hillcrest

Ryan Nilsen is a Hillcrest graduate who is a leader in the Fifth Act Church Planting initiative. The group is a ministry arm of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America. Their visit to Hillcrest's Evangelism Club was met with practical ways Hillcrest is training students to engage in their future church ministries.



Dominican - Megan Peterson Evangecube.JPG

Since 2009, Hillcrest senior's have traveled to the Dominican Republic. These short term mission opportunities have had an enduring impact on the student body, but there is also desire to ensure a lasting impact on the people of the Dominican. To that end, Hillcrest began a ministry partnership with a Christian grade school in a barrio of San Pedro named Santa Fe. Santa Fe is an impoverished area comprised of about seventy percent Haitian immigrants. The school has an enrollment of about 150 students which meet in two separate shifts when Hillcrest arrived in 2009.

God taught me that He has given me the ability to communicate His message to anyone, even people that speak a different language
— Trevor Leach, Class of 2013

A large part of Hillcrest's ministry on the ground in the Dominican Republic takes place in this school. Their campus consisted of nothing more than an open dirt yard with two concrete classrooms, surrounded by a fence made mostly of scrap metal. On the mission team's first stop at the school they spent time cleaning and repainting desks and chalkboards, helping the school to make the best out of the limited resources available. On subsequent visits to the school, Hillcrest has seen an explosion in the school's reach. Classrooms have been added, a water bottling factory now provides the school with income that will enable it to continue long after God calls Hillcrest to another mission location.


THE MISSION to reach hearts in the Dominican
By: Sam Isaac

This is a whole new world. It is very loud. Horns honk nonsensically. It is extremely dirty. Beyond what I could have imagined. Trash is strewn everywhere.

After unloading bags from the bus the first day there was a swell of voices ascending from the concrete stairwell. The boys left their bunks with backpacks disheveled. Some stumbled out the door with one shoe on and one in hand. The girls walked gingerly through aisles between their bunks, working to lay claim to new beds. The noise evaporated from the building, soft echos could be heard outside, as the boys sprinted down the sidewalk to a nearby park to play basketball.

Teenagers swarmed the park and a pick-up Basketball game was followed by a series of Gospel presentations. Various team members shared the reason we are in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican streets are filled with people hungry for something more than sport.

Dominican - Sam Isaac Sharing Faith.JPG

Sharing Christ

Sam Isaac practices conversational evangelism tools gained in the mission training used to equip students for street evangelism.

Boarding a bus in the Dominican heat, we departed the mission house and arrived in a muted neighborhood. The quietness was eerie as we stepped off the bus. Colors weren't as bright in this part of the island. We were sent out, door-to-door, to share the Gospel. Darkness covered the rough neighborhood we were evangelizing. Nervous excitement filled my heart. It seemed like there were incessant prayers for the Lord to speak through us. Every step I took was filled with a short prayer. This pace prepared us for day two.

We woke up the next morning at 5 a.m. to what sounded like a choking hyena, marking our second day in the Dominican Republic. I'm told that’s what roosters sound like here. Between cackles, I drifted in and out of sleep until the call for breakfast.

There was a slight dance to our shuffling feet in the breakfast line, syncopated beats are constantly in the air in the Dominican. We hustle to grab water bottles before boarding the bus to visit a christian school. Poverty cannot be escaped. Though they have little, the kids are filled with joy.

We transition from the poor Christian school to our sister school, Santa Fe. After walking through the gated fence all the senior boys became “caballos” (horses). The school yard was a shower of dust and bubbles. The mothers needed to turn their eyes from our dirty faces. Smiles are brighter in a face caked with dirt.

The following events are a blur because of the evening street evangelism. It's exhilarating.

In the first moments of going door-to-door for the second time in two days I made a new friend. His name is Jerry. Reggie Undseth and I shared the Gospel with him. Closing our time in prayer, we shook hands and continued down the street, thoughts moving to the next people we would share Jesus with.

As we turned the corner of one of the dusty, make shift street, I saw Jerry in the distance. He wasn't alone. Five friends flanked Jerry, whose smile was contagious. Jerry informed us that his five friends wanted to hear the message of the Gospel from “los americanos.” We said Jesus' name a lot in the next few minutes, showing the release from sin in Christ after identifying the pain of sin.

We left the boys smiling, eventually meandering back to the church for a worship service. During the boisterous singing and clapping, six young boys stepped from the darkness of the street to the church stoop. Their faces lit up the room. All five of Jerry's friends showed up to the church service, Jerry by their side, and we praised the Lord together, as brothers.

Dominican Mission Experience


2017 Dominican Mission Highlight



Hillcrest has a strong tradition in building community around student activities and social groups. In the fall of 2016 a student satisfaction survey requested more student clubs. By the spring Hillcrest formed 13 clubs around student interests. Two years later Hillcrest carries over 28 club offerings for students with 26 adult mentors leading the groups.


Listing of Clubs


Academic and Arts Club Offerings

  • Speech Club

  • Knowledge Bowl

  • Robotics

  • Band

  • Book Club

  • Yearbook

  • Drama

  • Chess Club

  • Math League

Outdoor and Fitness Club Offerings

  • Hiking

  • Horseback Riding

  • Fitness

  • Swim

  • Tennis

  • Archery

  • Fishing

  • Skating

  • Cheerleading

  • Nordic Ski

Ministry and Service Club Offerings

  • Evangelism

  • Key Club (Rotary)

  • Worship Team

  • Youth Groups

  • Comets for Life

  • Junior-Senior Mentors

  • Dominican Republic Missions Trip

Social Club Offerings

  • Cooking Club

  • Norwegian Club



adult mentors lead clubs


club offerings for students



ratio of students to club offerings

Hillcrest’s Comets for Life club gathering at a prayer service near an area abortion clinic.

Hillcrest’s Comets for Life club gathering at a prayer service near an area abortion clinic.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak up about something that I have recently can to understand and thank you for giving me the chance to something that I am a passionate about this club has helped me to realize that abortion is just as bad even worse that I thought it was so thank you for starting students for life
— Student in Comets for Life club

The Rhythm of Hillcrest is punctuated by meaningful events


Hillcrest holds many special events to draw students in to the school year. Hillcrest’s historic foundation rests in the Bible-school and revival movement of the early 1900s. During this time period students were moved by the Holy Spirit to seek faith formation. With that, most every Hillcrest event carries a strong faith-forming undertone.


Nearly half of the student body is new every year. With over twenty-five new students from a sister school in Norway attending Hillcrest each year, Hillcrest adds in another approximately seventy students. Welcome Week is where we onboard students, bringing all students, new and returning, through a series of orientation activities and faith forming events throughout the day, while offering athletic practices and student life activities in the afternoons and evenings. It is easy to make new friends at Hillcrest, and this is because we organize a full week of connection for students before classes officially begin.


Hillcrest has a dynamic worship arts program. Students not only play for chapel services, but build worship sets for large events like Prayer Days and Spiritual Formations gatherings. In addition to these formal worship outlets, Hillcrest staff have formed a backyard worship group. Musicians from the community join Hillcrest students to lead worship services in backyards throughout Fergus Falls. Students grow together as they participate in worshipping Jesus within the communities of Hillcrest and Fergus Falls.


In the first long weekend at Hillcrest students descend on a local park called Phelps Mill. The Ottertail River runs alongside an historic mill. The Phelps Mill picnic is a time for students to relax by the river, swim, play yard games and join in building new friendships.


Homecoming is one of the first places we see the student body rally around being a Comet. Students begin to see their identity being shaped according to Scripture in their classes, and outside of the classroom they begin uniting around the colors they wear at Hillcrest as Hillcrest Comets.



Harvest is a big deal in the midwest. To celebrate at Hillcrest we host a pumpkin carving event with lawn games, scavenger hunts, a meal cooked over the fire, and a time of worship around a bonfire. The event pulls students closer together as a body of believers, uniting students in a special way with this community building activity.

The Fall Festival at Hillcrest is highlighted by a Costume Party. Students dress up in their best individual, pair, or group costumes in a competition for prizes. After the costume contest students venture to the boys and girls dorms for an on-campus trick-or-treat event.


Hillcrest students pack boxes for children around the world during the Operation Christmas Child packing party. Friends of Hillcrest donate toys and essentials to pack in boxes, and Hillcrest students give to the shipping costs associated with sending the boxes around the world. The event is a highlight for many, who find joy in giving special Gospel-centered messages in their boxes that will grace students in foreign countries.


The Christmas Banquet is a 100+ year tradition where the school gathers to honor and commemorate Christmas. Students pose for pictures at the formal event, seated according to class as the event is not centered around going with a date but instead celebrating Christmas as an entire school. Faculty and staff participate in the banquet, graced by students who share traditional Christmas songs from Norway and Korea after a Gospel-centered message. The evening closes with carol singing before post-banquet activities on the broomball court and in the gym.


The Junior-Senior banquet is a special time where the Junior class honors and recognizes the leadership their Senior friends have given to the school. The formal event includes a grand march, banquet, and post-banquet activities at a local community center.


Hillcrest’s Student Life Program Unites Many Nations

Students unite at sporting events, playing and cheering for friends as a part of the Comet community.

Students unite at sporting events, playing and cheering for friends as a part of the Comet community.

Hillcrest is one of the most powerful learning environments for international students. Because Hillcrest bases our program on the Bible, we see every person as a divine expression of the character of God. We understand each person is made in the image of God, and every person at Hillcrest is on equal footing because they bear God’s divine imprint.

With this we celebrate the various cultures and backgrounds as they align to a Biblical understanding of humanity. Each question and difference in culture is an opportunity to teach history, language, logic, and expression. These pillars of understanding the world stand on the understanding that the world is organized and orderly, coming from the creative mind and character of the God of the Bible.

As students engage in classroom disciplines they see the form and function in God’s creative design. This understanding propels their learning. No longer are they simply learning facts and engaging in concepts. Students at Hillcrest understand stories and cultural expressions as they engage in mathematics, language, history, and the arts. Their exploration in academia is an exploration in identity.

With this foundation for learning in place, students engage in the culture of Hillcrest. Over seventeen different cultures are present in the 180+ student body. Students see that cultural differences and backgrounds are opportunities to exercise listening, sharing, and communication. Because students come from countries with various economic practices, government systems, and cultural ideals the classrooms at Hillcrest hold diversity of thought and expression. Hillcrest unites students under the banner of Christ, teaching students to express their viewpoints in a logical, honest, and respectful manner. The midwest culture holds a lot of great traits in debate and understanding. Hillcrest many times is the perfect place for an international student to build an understanding of the American culture.

Students from foreign countries find Hillcrest a place to share thoughts, opinions, and perspectives as part of a diverse community where many are new. Over half of Hillcrest’s student body is new each year, and over 17 different cultures are represented.

Students from foreign countries will see their English comprehension and expression improve dramatically as students engage in the small and close-knit community of Hillcrest. International students will room with students from other cultures, most often with students from the United States. This opens opportunity for aid in school work and navigating culture. Each student who attends Hillcrest is here because they desire to be here. Hillcrest does accept students who do not want to be a part of our dynamic and diverse community.

Hillcrest is not a place for troubled youth. Instead, our mission is to equip young people in a Christ-centered and Bible-based environment. We are best suited for students who want to understand more about the Christian faith and build habits for spiritual and academic growth. While Hillcrest does allow some students to attend Hillcrest who do not have a Christian background, there is a very rigorous admissions process to ensure that students on our campus have a general inclination to grow in an understanding and commitment with Jesus Christ as their savior. It is our desire that each student who attends Hillcrest will develop a personal, vibrant, and committed following of Jesus Christ.

Hillcrest classrooms are warm and open environments where students can freely share their perspective and culture. Most important things are discussed and debated at Hillcrest, from abortion to government structure. Students from foreign countries can share their perspectives easily, opening a robust learning environment for all.

Resident Directors are mentors who ensure a safe and comfortable living environment for the students. Resident Assistants are typically college-aged mentors who monitor the resident halls and enhance residence hall life by providing quality activities, one-on-one mentorship, and small group devotionals.

Residence hall life is a highlight for many students with activities planned nearly every weekend. Students have the chance to attend amusement park outings, shopping trips to the Mall of America, and various intramural activities.

Shared experiences in student life activities enable students from all over the world the chance to build life-long friendships. Many Hillcrest Academy students have had the chance to travel overseas to visit friends they've made at Hillcrest. A central component to their friendships have been the activities organized within the resident halls.


Student Life Highlight Videos

Move-in Highlight

Slip-n-slide Dorm Activity Highlight

Fall Festival Dorm Activity Highlight

Opening Picnic Highlight

Homecoming Highlight

Boys Soccer Highlight




Technology is an important tool for students in the twenty-first century. However a misguided approach to tools of technology can distract students rather than focus attention and increase efficiency. For this reason Hillcrest takes a calculated approach to using technology in educating students.

While technology is utilized in day-to-day classroom interaction at Hillcrest, students do not spend all of their time in front of a screen. Computers, videos and other forms of technology are employed as resources that aid in processing and communicating information rather than functioning as a primary knowledge funnel. We challenge students to think about and process information instead of merely consuming it. Hillcrest classrooms are discussion-oriented. Popular personal computing devices are out of sight as students sharpen their critical thinking and communication skills.

While Hillcrest remains on the cutting-edge of technology adoption, we do not make investments in new initiatives based upon popularity or educational trends.  Our technology policies are secondary to the higher objective of teaching students how to evaluate the unlimited information sources at their disposal through the lens of God's word and sound reason.

Many school districts place screens in the hands of each student. For some, it is to enhance cross-cultural communication, classroom learning, and communication in the classroom. Research is showing technology comes with side-effects.

But, rather than focus on the negative aspects of technology, Hillcrest sees technology as a great tool for students to learn to use. Hillcrest is low-tech on purpose, giving students a platform to build proficiency in their use of technology. The following quick truths are a few of the fundamentals we've employed with technology in the classroom.


This week a student plopped down in my office with a scowl on her face. She proceeded to tell me how things were so frustrating because she couldn't have her cell phone when she wanted it. she felt completely disorganized because we don't use tablets in school.

Through our conversation I began to see that this student's former school did her a disservice. Calendar reminders placed in her online learning platform by teachers reminded her when to do homework. Because the textbook was always at her finger-tips in the digital platform, the student didn't need to internalize the concepts she was reading about. 

School is fundamentally a place where students wrestle out eternal truths. They understand concepts in mathematics that have always existed. They ask questions that were historically recorded in works by Homer, Plato, and Aristotle. What I have seen from students who use digital platforms in school is an inability to think and reason apart from the direction of their digital platform. It has become the magic ball that directs thinking, learning, and communication.

If you sit in Hillcrest classrooms you will see a lot of dialogue. Students are greeted by their teachers and connect with friends in class. As they turn to their textbooks, their eyes waft up to the teacher. The textbook is designed to communicate complexities, the teacher leads conversation to unpack these complexities and uses the intercultural environment at Hillcrest to pull in the varying perspectives. A true global education is at students' fingertips, and it isn't because of the internet.

If you move into the science classroom you will see students using technology to gauge acceleration. They are doing labs and taking quizzes with clickers in hand. These forms of technology allow the teacher to see the eyes of students while gaining insight into what they've learned in his class with periodic quizzes placed in the lecture.

The building block students are learning in Hillcrest's socially interactive classrooms is communication of ideas. They are seeing complex concepts unpacked before their eyes through the words of their teachers and friends. In addition to this, they are learning the fundamentals of organization, balancing varying classes with planners, calendars, and teacher reminders that they need to organize themselves. This causes them to wrestle out a hierarchy of priorities that enables students to place value on homework time, time with friends, and see a correlation between the two.

Low-tech environments allow instructors to manage the students rather than the students' use of devices. Attention in the classroom is much different, as teachers have sacred space where learning, listening, and sharing is eminent over self-gratification and amusement. There is a building of the basics in a low-tech environment. A building of how communication works and how school subjects impact every day life.


A Barna study some years ago reported that technology is an amplifier. The study illuminated technology's impact on the family. It found families that built fundamentals in communication in the home benefitted when technology was introduced. Texting and Snapchat helped families who knew how to communicate. However, families that didn't build strong relationships before using social media saw technology disintegrate relationships.

Most students are underdeveloped in their ability to have conversation. The natural time to develop ideas and opinions, and learn to share them appropriately, is in the high school years. If we see technology as what it is, a simple amplifier, we will understand why many students make social mistakes and communicate poorly through social media and texting.

To codify or organize technology we remove the amplifier and allow the students to practice communicating in the classroom. Students learn to navigate nuance and clarify comments from friends, helping hone their ability to communicate. Students who use classroom chatboards through tech. driven schools can have a hard time understanding that they need to communicate because most classrooms require students to post a handful of times to achieve a certain grade. Communication becomes about attaining points rather than clarifying understanding.

At Hillcrest we see students building deep personal friendships with classmates from around the world. These friendships hinge on students' ability to communicate. Students are learning to have actual conversations in the classroom, where a teacher presents a topic, the students formulate an idea and ask questions, initiating a volley of conversational exchanges that fortify concepts in communication that are fundamental, existing outside technology. We call these fundamentals device independent skills. The amplifier is only used when we have developed something to communicate. The amplifier is codified in an organizational structure in communication. It is not the main form of communication students need to learn. It is a tool. Don't give a jackhammer to a student who doesn't know how to use a crowbar.


Sherry Turkle is an MIT professor who studies technology's impact on society. She is a 40 year veteran in the field. Her most recent book, Reclaiming Conversation, says comfort with vulnerabilities is essential in happiness, creativity, and productivity. In her 40+ years of study she has shifted from being a big fan of a technology driven world to a lone professor crying the dangers.

Among the myriad of topics she discusses in her book, she pulls out a few false lessons students glean from time on a screen. Notably, studies show that students learn that negative emotions are something unsuccessful students have, rather than normal emotions that need to be worked out. In traditional technology-infused environments it is easier to turn to the tablet than the teacher. The tablet can't sort out feelings, and thus the students are subtly trained to see emotions as negative because the tablet can't help them with that.

Secondly, Turkle reveals how technology-centric environments teach students that interruptions are natural and expected. As students write a paper on a device they will receive possibly hundreds of notifications that will pop-up. A friend texted them to see how they're doing. Snapchat buzzes their phone to let them know their favorite celebrity is posted something. In this world of distraction students are pulled from focused time to disruptive connections with screens. 

Studies show that when students hear less adult talk the students talk less. And with 80% of students sleeping with their phones, 40% saying they never unplug, even for religious services, It is clear that technology is greatly shaping their world. There is a clear empathy gap that Turkle states is a key factor in the rise in bullying seen in many schools.

Students have learned that emotions are challenges to avoid with their device and technology is a distraction from dealing with these emotions. In this, students are less empathetic because a significant amount of their day involves holding a glowing rectangle to see the world. This is a primary reason Hillcrest creates sacred space in classrooms. Students cannot hold a device during the school day unless directed as part of their classroom learning.

The best part of Turkle's book is the hope she gives. She breaks down the change seen in students who put down the device and have real conversations. Human interaction is proving able to overcome the negative results of a world bathed in technology. Human interaction is constant in Hillcrest's school day, because we are low-tech on purpose.

There are many other aspects that guide Hillcrest's low-tech approach. The instances listed above are a quick hit on three of them so you can see why so many students love school and love the Hillcrest experience. We focus on treating every student as an image-bearer of God. God is relational, so Hillcrest's classrooms focus on relationships as we learn about God's world. We see that technology impedes teenage relationships, because teenagers are learning how to have conversation and communicate with technology rather than humans. So, we are low-tech, on purpose.


Jean Twenge | IGen Generation

Sherry Turkle | Connected but Alone