Camp Harvest
Campers play a game at Camp Harvest. Screengrab from 2019 Camp Harvest promotional video.

Students Subjected to Hazing at Camp Run by Harvest Bible Chapel

By Julie Roys

Students attending a camp run by the Chicago-area megachurch, Harvest Bible Chapel, were subjected to hazing that included humiliating “punishments” and something called the “Icy Hot Challenge,” according to a recent statement by the church.

The hazing reportedly occurred from July 14-24 at Camp Harvest, a 650-acre, year-round camp in Newaygo, Michigan.

The church said that in some cases, students were urged by a Harvest student pastor to participate in a dare called the “Icy Hot Challenge.”

The statement did not describe the challenge. However, according to the Urban Dictionary, the Icy Hot Challenge is a “very painful experience” where a group of guys apply Icy Hot, a lidocaine cream, to their genitals. Then the group sees who can stand the pain the longest.

Harvest said it found “no evidence of any person-to-person contact during this incident,” nor was there “any moment where any person visibly exposed themselves to others.”

Harvest said the pastor who administered the challenge has been fired, but did not divulge his name.

In another incidence of hazing, Harvest said students were invited by camp staff and cabin leaders to play a game called “Silent Football” in the late hours of the night.

The game reportedly involved participants keeping their participation secret from others. And at the end of the game, losers were required to receive a “punishment” from other participants.

“While some of these ‘punishments’ can be characterized as juvenile and immature, other punishments clearly crossed the line of what is acceptable behavior from our cabin leaders and Student Ministry staff,” Harvest said. “These punishments had a general pattern of embarrassment, humiliation, and gross behavior.”

Harvest said it does “not condone hazing of any kind” and added, “(W)e want to apologize to you, our church family, not only for what has occurred but also for broken trust.  We wholeheartedly seek forgiveness and healing, and we covet your prayers for the next steps ahead.”

The church said it fired a summer camp staff member for “overseeing ‘inappropriate punishments,” and suspended two camp staff for “some participation” in the game. Harvest did not disclose the fired or disciplined staff members’ names.

Harvest said it also accepted the resignation of a second student pastor and a staff member at Harvest Christian Academy, Harvest’s K-12 private school in Elgin, IL, for “observing situations at camp that should have been reported.” Harvest did not disclose who the second student pastor’s name either.

Harvest reportedly sent emails to impacted families and reported the incidents to the state of Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Agency (LARA), which handles camper licensing matters. The church said it also reported the incidents to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Person Punched Camp Harvest
A person is punched in promotional video for Camp Harvest.

More Troubles for Embattled Church

The past couple years have been very tumultuous for the multi-campus, megachurch. In February 2019, Harvest Senior Pastor James MacDonald was fired for a pattern of bullying and lewd comments, as well as financial and spiritual abuse.

In May, a former youth pastor at Harvest, Paxton Singer, was found guilty of disorderly conduct for sending text messages to a teen boy that alarmed the boy’s parents. Singer, who also served as a counselor at Camp Harvest was sentenced to one year of supervision.

Pranks and laughing about people being harmed appear to be part of the culture at Harvest. An unofficial Harvest High School YouTube channel features 99 videos of “people getting hurt.” 

The official Harvest Students YouTube Channel shows people being physically assaulted as part of pranks overseen by former youth pastor, Landon MacDonald. Landon MacDonald is James MacDonald’s son who resigned from Harvest last year and currently serves as executive pastor of youth ministries at Cornerstone Church, a multi-site megachurch in the Phoenix area.

In one video, MacDonald laughs as Tommy Cruetz decks seemingly unsuspecting people who enter Harvest’s youth ministry office. Cruetz currently serves as the co-campus pastor of Harvest’s Elgin Campus.

Parent Complaints Prompt Investigation

In its statement, Harvest said it became aware of the recent hazing when parents complained about the “punishments” their children had received the second week of camp. Harvest said that at the same time, its camp director and senior director of operations also had “uncovered information” about the silent football game.

Harvest then conducted an investigation, which included “extensive interviews” with staff, volunteers, parents, and students who may have been involved in the incidents.

Harvest said it is will continue to evaluate potential violations of its policy. And it pledged to address the situation “at every level within our camp and student ministry departments.”

The church added that all student ministry will be held online only until an “assessment, re-training, and re-certification” is completed.

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65 thoughts on “Students Subjected to Hazing at Camp Run by Harvest Bible Chapel”

  1. Let’s see-you have a senior pastor with a potty mouth, who threatens other people, and then the sons do “fake” punishments during hazing incidents at summer camp.

    Why am I not surprised? Why are people still entrusting their children to HBC?

    1. Because they are deceived. This place is a cult. Cult members are more devoted to keeping the cult together than they are God or their own children.

  2. Good thing the campers spoke up

    A former Harvest attendee mentioned that their child played “Silent Football” years ago. Did Harvest investigate how long this game has been a practice and what current staff members (specifically those like Tommy Cruetz, who formerly worked with the youth ministry) knew about it?

    1. I used to attend youth group at Harvest RM back in late 90s/early 00s. I am in the same cohort as Landon MacDonald and had the “privilege” of attending with him. I used to hate the “games” they would make us play at youth group and on retreats. One in particular was called “Gutter Mouth” in which a volunteer(s) had to drink endless amounts of Hawaiian Punch (or similar beverage) out of a device (basically a beer bong) until he would throw up. It was some kind of competition. Everyone thought it was hilarious, but I just found it gross and pointless. Harvest still has a special place in my heart, since it is where I came to know the Lord and was baptized. Good things did happen there too, but it’s just a shame what has happened there over the years.

  3. Carolyn S Swick

    They disclosed the issue and took action. That is good. I suspect they need to reevaluate their youth ministry and camp staff. They clearly have a culture issue that needs addressed. What is the goal of the youth ministry? Is it spiritually focused with the goal of developing mature believers? To prepare the youth before they head out into the world as young adults? Or, is it immature leaders entertaining the youth?

    1. I’m glad this is bring revealed. It’s not new news. I reported behavior like this several times after my kids went to Camp Harvest. It’s a bully culture that breeds more bullies. I apologized to my son for sending him to camp so many times….and he would beg me not to go. So much pain has been caused by that church.

      Another thing they used to do at this camp is to lay a large plastic sheet on the grass and cover it in soap and water. It was slippery and teams had to quickly recover different items from the plastic sheet. Year after year, one of those items was live fish. Those poor fish were handled by many students, dropped in the soap, and tortured to death for sport. I complained about it, and it was ignored.

      1. Youth ministry across the board seems to believe that using small animals is not abuse. Always makes me so sad when I hear of it. My 16-year-old didn’t want to go to youth ministry and one of the reasons I decided to let him stop was immature behavior that is called ministry.

  4. The church added that all student ministry will be held online only until an “assessment, re-training, and re-certification” is completed.

    How does holding student ministry online make it any better? If the same youth pastors are still leading it, they can certainly continue to perpetuate this behavior online (bullying, hazing, etc.). And who and how do they measure this “assessment, re-training, and re-certification”? They should rather pause on student ministry until they can ensure all parents there is an environment where all students are safe from this type of behavior.

  5. Harvest needs to be “harvested…”SEPARATE the wheat from the tares…” which I strongly believe may not even be possible at this point.
    SHUT THE PLACE DOWN. Notice I did not say “Church.”

    1. Wow Harvest hasn’t changed
      much,when you get caught give as little information as possible, and when you have to be as vague as possible, then hope it blows over, that isn’t repentance. ….maybe the staff at Harvest should do an extensive study on Psalm 51, it might be bad for business but maybe just maybe they might realize that The Church ain’t a business.

  6. All of the previous comments are correct. However, no one is addressing the danger of the kids or anyone else at the camp of being exposed to the covid 19 virus. Why on God’s earth would HBC open a camp in the middle of a very serious desiese pandemic (which continues to spike in most of the country) with the distinct possibility of dozens of kids and staff becoming infected or worse? And why would parents send their kids any place and not take this into consideration? Someone please tell me where wisdom, discernment, sound judgement and common sense has gone. I can see nothing in Scripture where is says, “Thou shalt switch off thy brain when thou becomest a follower of Christ”.

    1. COVID is not serious for children and teens unless they are already immunocompromised. Stop virtue signaling and being afraid. More die from the flu every year.

      1. Another brainiac response! Maybe you should head-up the task force to get the pandemic under control. Please let me know if you do so me and my family can stay safe in my underground bunker or at least get as far away as possible from people who think like you.

        1. Abram,
          Not necessarily. We should be concerned about the covid-19 virus
          But not afraid.

          For we have the spirit of Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.

          In this case here, I would be more concerned with the emotional, physical and spiritual wounds that might come from the callous treatment of those in the camp.

          (And those poor fish!)

          And if this was from their camp in 2020, I’m wondering why they did summer camp in the first place since so many other things have been canceled.

          And in MI, where their governor has been very strict or restrictive with her covid policies?

          For example, she mandated people to wear masks if less than 6 feet apart outside.

          https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90705-534169–,00.html

          Did they do that? I have no idea, but I can say they DO NOT act out of a spirit of Love, Power, and a Sound mind.

      2. Denise pay no attention to Sam he isn’t using fact or logic with his lame attempt to poo poo what you posted…more people have died from the seosonal flu this year than from covid19, and humans have been dealing with viruses some more deadly than covid19 for centuries and have NEVER closed down the world economy because of it…but Sam doesn’t bring that up at all because like many people Sam let’s the government pick and choose what viruses he should hide from.

          1. Pump the hate brakes Fox and Friends.

            I certainly am not confident enough in the available data points to put kids at risk. I don’t see any compelling evidence to show that kids are not carriers of COVID, thereby putting their elders (ex, Grandma and Grandpa) at risk.

        1. I’m really glad you believe that about me Dan. Let’s see what happens when reports continue to come in from gatherings of people who have been infected by this deadly killer because they refuse to follow the experts guidelines to help prevent the spread of covid 19 until a vaccine can be found. In case you haven’t noticed, spikes of covid have been happening all across the country for weeks now because of the apathy of a huge number of those who think their rights are being violated and they don’t have to comply, not only for their own good but for the good of others. Demanding your rights does not in any way trump common sense and sound judgement, something lacking in people who make uninformed statements such as yourself and Denise. Oh and by the way, I’m definitely in the habit of thinking for myself and not at all predisposed to allow the government or anyone else for that matter do it for me. I recommend a very insightful book for you to read which came out a few years ago entitled “The death of common sense”. I think you may benefit from it.

          1. Wow Sam, your brilliant, Dr Fauci says hand shaking is a thing of the past and the same day says that having sex with strangers that you meet on hook up web sights is a personal decision that you must make for yourself,then he say 1 million people will die of covid 19 in a two week period in April.. .two days later he say oops 250,000 then a couple days later its 100,000. He also said masks dont help then he said masks do help. He also went to a Yankee game and sat right next to two people with his mask hanging around his neck. Churches closed liquor stores open restaurants closed pot dispensaries open, mom and pop stores closed lotto stores open…..Please Please Please tell me more about your common sense I’ll be holding my breath.

        2. Dan, please provide the data to back up your claim that “ more people have died from the seasonal flu this year than from covid19”. Is this just a feeling you have?

        1. Lea, thanks for providing the stats comparing the flu to Covid 19 and the links to back it up. I can not Imagine why anyone would throw caution to the wind and question the simple protocols established by medical experts to try to stem the tide of this deadly killer. I have seen and heard much utter nonsense from Christians in my own congregation saying stuff like “I am fully protected because I’m covered in the blood” and the Democrats are making this all up to shut down the churches. Like I’m trying to get across to the likes of Denice and Dan, “Thou shalt turn off thy brain when thou becomest a disciple of Christ, just is sheer nonsense. I have a brain and I’m going to use it.

          1. Sam you say you have seen and heard much of this in your church congregation..that means your meeting whit people in social settings who aren’t complying to the mandates…So are you a liar or a hypocrite..your large pulsating Brain shoul be able to figure it out. 1. liar, your not meeting with your chuch congregation. Or 2. You are meeting with your church congregation, which would make you a hypocrite.

        2. Again these are the same people who say that the MORTALITY rate from covid19 is 3.4 % that means over 1,200,000 have died.anyone can quote bad sources and the CDC has changed their minds like most people change their socks …but Sam and lea you keep doing as your told…and Sam why do feel you have to always let everyone know you have a superior Brain,because the things you say prove you dont.

          1. Dan, I notice that you still have not provided any sources or data to back up your claims. Please do so and I will be happy to discuss.

          2. Lea you havent given me a Credible source. so far all you’ve done is Google CDC, and although You trust the CDC, I dont. and the reason I dont is because they have been on both sides of this debate….and so has Dr Fauci…..in any court case when you find that your source of information has lied over and over again, anything they say becomes suspect. So heres the facts, you believe you should trust “The Authorities” on covid 19,I Don’t. they have changed their tune to many times for me and I dont believe what they say,but I respect your right to believe them, unfortunately many on your side,and I’m not saying you, want to impose their fears of this virus on me and I don’t appreciate it….we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t think that makes you a bad person.

          3. If you don’t trust the CDC that is your choice but you have not offered any alternate data for your claims.

            We can assume your claim then, that there are more deaths from the seasonal flu than from COVID, is based on nothing more than your personal feelings.

            Though you portray yourself as an independent thinker, all you’ve done here is repeat tired talking points that can be heard all day long on right-wing radio programs, internet sites, and in Facebook memes. Hardly original. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does make people take your fact-free claims less seriously.

          4. No not a liar or hypocrite. Apparently you’ve never heard of telephones, email or zoom. Doesn’t surprise me though. Also as Lea says where’s your source information that proves the flu kills more in a year than Covid could or has? Can’t provide it because it doesn’t exist. Also never said I have a highly superior brain, you did. Have you gotten that book I recommended to you yet, you know the one entitled “The death of common sense? Don’t wait too long. You really do need very badly. I forget where the verse is in Proverbs but it goes something like this “Although you pound a fool on his head with a club over and over again, yet his stupidity will not depart from him”.

          5. Dan: Not a liar or hypocrite. Have you ever heard of telephones, email or zoom? Not surprised if you haven’t. Also as Lea has requested where is your firm proof that the flu is more deadly than covid? You can’t provide it because it doesn’t exist. Never said I have a superior brain, you did. Anyway, have you gotten the book I recommended, you know, the one entitled “The death of common sense”? Don’t delay. You really need it very badly. Don’t know exactly where in Proverbs it’s found but there is a verse that goes something like this: “Although you pound a fool on the head with a club, over and over again, yet his stupidity will not depart from him”. Take my advise, GET THAT BOOK!!

          6. Dan: Haven’t been to a live worship service since March. My church decided to follow the Covid protocols to protect the congregation. Streaming has been utilized for worship time. Also zoom, phone calls and emails for communication between congragents, that’s how I’ve heard such nonsense about being covered in the blood so It’s all good and it’s all a plot by the Democrats, etc, which destroys your assertion that I’m a liar and a hypocrite. Also I never said I have a superior brain, you said it. And as Lea has requested where is your irrefutable proof that the flu is more deadly than Covid? You can’t provide it because it doesn’t exist. All you offer is feelings or options and feelings and opinions are not proof of anything. I’m really quite bored with this tit-for-tat bantering we’ve been engaged in. Certainly have bigger fish to fry so I’ll so good bye. By the way did you ever get that book I recommended?

          7. Sorry for the overkill on the responses to Dan’s replies folks but it looked like my posts weren’t getting posted. No harm done I don’t think. Third time might be a charm.

  7. Was the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services really contacted by HCA?
    Or was it another “fake” report like the one harvest said they made with the Paxter Singer case?
    Of course, Landon MacDonald and Craig Steiner who lied about the phone call made, are no longer working at harvest, but enough of the good ol’ boy staff remains:
    Greg Bradshaw, Tommy Cruetz,
    the two Bradshaw sons, Talbott…

    And,

    Isn’t it wonderful, that HBC statement came out AFTER parents complained about the hazing?
    I guess they had to make a statement then, huh?
    Such integrity!

  8. Tommy Cruetz is the Elgin Pastor. Landon MacDonald is still a Youth Pastor. Harvest will never change. It is in Harvest’s DNA to be abusive, immature, physically and emotionally violent. And most of all unholy. I would NEVER entrust anyone from Harvest with my children. EVER.

  9. 1. Silent football is not an inherently bad game. It’s bad when kids give stupid consequences/push it too far.

    2. That was a Really dumb move for that student pastor to do the Icy Hot challenge with students. Very dumb.

    3. What’s the benefit of Julie writing this article? This isn’t reporting. She’s not doing any journalism. She’s just keeps knocking over everybody’s garbage cans.

    I applaud her for her many moves to expose corruption. Her track record of journalism is something to be applauded. But this kind of crap is just furthering her brand as an Evangelical tabloid.

    1. Julie – Please knock over garbage cans and publish a tabloid. Dress up in a clown suit with one of those spinning signs if that’s what it takes to keep families, particularly children, out of harms way.

      There are always questions thrown out along the lines of “Does this bring glory…bla bla bla”, to the point of ignoring common sense. Any action that protects children from those with malicious intent (or perhaps just really really bad judgement) is the right thing to do. It’s a shame (and maddening) when others don’t advocate for the vulnerable as priority #1.

      1. Brent W. and Tony,
        You are wrong to criticize Julie Roy in reporting this news. You both need to step back and see the Big picture.
        1. You would assume that HBC leadership would have learn their lesson with the JMac fiasco after 1-1/2 years of turmoil but it looks like the HBC culture has not changed one iota. 2. The Camp Director and Sr. Operation Director were unaware of these two activities until complaints by the parents. Either they are very naive and/or not respected as leaders by camp staff to program these extra-curricular activities in the camp. It was pre-plan in that the cream was brought from IL to MI. 3. From a parents’ and campers’ viewpoint, these are HBC sanctioned activities led by HBC Student Pastors, HBC Student Ministry staff, HBC camp staff and HBC cabin leaders held at a HBC own camp. 4. If unsaved, unchurch and friends of HBC kids attended this camp; is this the testimony that you wish to portray of good wholesome fun and godliness? 5. Were any of these student leaders disciple by Paxton Singer? Thus the continue grooming and acceptable train behavior. 6. HBC stated that it found “no evidence of any person-to-person contact during this incident,” nor was there “any moment where any person visibly exposed themselves to others.” In making that statement; are they saying that self-application is permissible? 7. HBC stated that “all student ministry will be held online only until an “assessment, re-training, and re-certification” is completed. I trust, hope and pray that it will not be led by James MacDonald, Landon MacDonald, Paxton Singer and Tommy Cruetz. 8. The manure, garbage and stench reeks from those “who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Have nothing to do with them”.
        2 Tim. 3:5

  10. And the people who conducted, authorized or were silent about all of these abuses are now conducting similar programs, etc. at other churches. It seems this takes the whole idea of forgiveness to a different meaning — we wash our hands of people who have been caught giving us a bad name and we send them to other churches with no real punishment, and maybe even a good recommendation.

    I also not that it appears that the church’s response was due to complaints from parents. That means either the church was so lax in its supervision that it had no idea what was going on or that the church knew but didn’t care until it was about to get publicly exposed. I vote for the second choice.

  11. I’ve played Silent Football. It’s a fun and harmless camp game in and of itself. However, problems can arise depending on what type of “punishments” are decided by the winners. If the counselors and camp staff were involved, they needed to monitor the game closely to make sure the punishments were not demeaning, humiliating, or abusive.

  12. Isn’t it interesting that Harvest just emailed the impacted families about the incidents at camp?
    Why not the entire church, so the people who don’t have students who went to camp can be informed how their tithes are spent for icy hot.
    These are the people who trust the church, now that James MacDonald was fired and a new Elder board, and new staff leaders are running things. Doesn’t look too different then it was.
    Shame on them!

    1. All parents were emailed- including parents who did not have children attending camp. I speak as a parent on that email list whose children did not attend camp. My children aren’t even old enough for camp. So yes- they informed all parents.

    2. All church members received the email, even singles. I confirmed this with my former small group leader who is still attending RM.

  13. Do you think the kid (Landon) would pull this childish prank on company time if his old man wasn’t the boss?

  14. Coffee Guy you are correct to see the deeper telltale signs and intent in grooming. With Paxton Singer being caught, the shame and embarrassment it brought to HBC; you think HBC would be more diligent in their human interactions and relationships. Yet this FELLOWship in grooming continues with HBC staff in the guise of a game and dare. HBC and HCA, please do not look at Dr. Anthony Moore as a potential Student Ministry Pastor and/ or Boys basketball coach. Thank You in advance.

  15. Former HBC pastor

    The Macdonalds also set an intern on fire a few years ago for a promotional winter retreat video, the intern suffered second degree burns on his arm. I was there in a staff meeting where Landon Macdonald, Luke Macdonald, and Nick Massi (who applied the paint thinner and lit the intern’s arm), ridiculed the intern and said it was his fault for letting them set him on fire… nothing new here, harvest has always had a harsh, hazing environment. The church was designed around the Macdonalds and will forever have that family in its DNA. Current members should abandon ship.

    1. Don’t doubt it, but can’t understand such misguided behavior in the name of the ministry of the church. Also can’t understand why the MacDonald gang and those who aided them in their violence and criminal activities aren’t in prison. No worries. They’ll get what coming though when they have to stand before the Lord.

      1. Former HBC Pastor

        It’s all on video, the intern was playing a character called “Gus” filmed in the HBC meadows parking lot for the 2011 winter retreat promo video. Paint thinner was put on the interns arm, the lighter was held by Nick Massi and encouraged by Landon Macdonald. Second degree burns and months of healing. Dave Learned had a stern talk with the two aforementioned pastors but it was mostly about how it made harvest look. There have been numerous occasions at camp harvest where the hazing and the “joke” went too far. DCFS was rarely informed when students were involved. This has always been a part of harvest culture, I attended for over 15 years and was on staff for the last 5 years of that.

        1. Shocking how long three grown men can purportedly play “pastor” yet be so deranged, unbalanced, and unhinged, Landon, Luke, and James MacDonald belong in circus acts, not in the Church.

  16. First off Harvest isn’t a cult, people learn the definition before throwing that around.

    We no longer attend because we moved out of state but for the five years we called it our church we grew A LOT and the people who attended there were lovely.

    I talked to my son this morning about this hazing, he used to be a small group leader for high school boys at Harvest. He used to play silent football with them and when it is done correctly it brings the group closer. They always had a “what happens at silent football stays at silent football” joke. Like what happens in Vegas… but no one took it seriously. My son took his job as a small group leader very seriously, his ‘job’ was to raise up men for Christ and he held them accountable and they in turn held him accountable to live what was being taught. Not everyone coming out of Harvest is an awful person.

    Most of what I have read on this “Christian” forum makes me angry. There is a general nastiness towards each other and people you don’t even know. God will be the final Judge so why don’t we all get to doing what He has called us to do: pray. Pray for the deceived, pray for the broken and hurting, pray that wrongs will be exposed and the Light will shine in the darkness.

    BTW, I see some comments about Tommy K. on here that make him seem like a terrible person but let me tell you how when my son and his wife lost their twins Tommy sat at the hospital with them, cried with them and got them help. No one is one dimensional.

  17. Noble LaRocco Masi

    Hello – I really enjoyed reading all your investigative stories. I think however that this contraversy well the mothers concern for their children is real my response is that these games in youth programs are very common, silent football, challanges, etc however the challange meantion does seem extreme and i would not encourage it. A real discussion though does revolved around the merit of silly games in youth programs.

  18. I am in the heading photo. I am a former camp staff counselor from 2015 and 2016. I observed the hazing that happened. Thank you for bringing light to it.

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