NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries
Norm Middag, 91, born March 15, 1930, in Duluth, Minnesota, passed away June 23, 2021, in Apopka, Florida. He was an educator, pastor, conference youth director, camp director, and an administrator in the North American Division (NAD).
Middag was born into a family of seven siblings on an 85-acre vegetable farm with seven greenhouses. Though a heavy snow canceled services on the Sabbath her son was to be dedicated, Effie Middag offered her own dedicatory prayer over the son she cradled in her arms. “Bless this child, Lord. Let him grow to be a servant of God and a friend to man.”
After being baptized at age 12 and voted senior class president at Cedar Lake Academy in Michigan, Middag enrolled at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He graduated in 1954 with majors in religion, education, and history. While at college, Middag met Barbara Popp, whom he married in 1952.
Though being a youth director was his goal, he was advised to first learn how to deal with young people. He began his ministry teaching grades 7 and 8 at Battle Creek Academy in Michigan. This was followed with service as a youth pastor at Battle Creek Academy, dean of boys at Adelphian Academy, and pastor of a church.
Southern California called him to be a youth pastor at Eagle Rock Church. He had phenomenal success building up the Pathfinder club and organizing a Master Guide class which invested 200 Master Guides.
For nine years, Middag served as youth director for Florida Conference and director of Camp Kulaqua in the Southern Union. The Nature Center at the Camp became the first and only camp zoo in North America. In 1967 Middag organized the first camp for the blind, attended the first year by 17 campers. Blind Camp attendance grew rapidly with 200 attendees only four years later. This program is still in existence today through the sponsorship of Christian Record Services of Lincoln, Nebraska.
When invited to join Potomac Conference in 1974 as youth director and director of Camp Blue Ridge in Virginia, he formed an innovative four-person youth department with an associate tasked to lead Pathfinders, senior youth, and outdoor education.
In 1980 Middag joined the NAD as assistant youth director, and became director of Pathfinders and camp ministries in 1982. Many resources are attributed to him during this time:
- Spearheaded development of ministry manuals for Adventurers, Pathfinders, and Teen Leadership Training.
Chaired the Camporee coordinating committee and spearheaded organization of the first National Pathfinder Camporee in 1985 at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado. This later evolved into the International Pathfinder Camporee, held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, since 1999.
Coordinated the 1991, 1992, and 1993 Witness Through Rose Parade award-winning floats sponsored and decorated by Pathfinders.
Developed Association of Adventist Camp Professionals (AACP).
Norm and Barbara Middag retired in 2001 in Florida. For 20 years, the retired Middags remained involved in many additional assignments. They became the heartbeat of North American camp ministry and worked tirelessly to stay connected to the camp directors via the Association of Adventist Camp Directors.
Middag created a variety of insightful and visionary programs in the conferences where he served, and his excellence is still memorialized. The Middag Award of Excellence is awarded to camps which demonstrate strong growth and evangelism; and Camp Kulaqua’s nature center has been renamed the Middag Nature Center. His influence remains strong among NAD youth ministers.
“Norm was a personal mentor to me over the past 15 years,” said Tracy Wood, NAD youth and young adult ministries director. “He always had words of affirmation and visionary ideas to share. There are literally hundreds of children, youth, and young adult ministry professionals around the world whom he has mentored. He was highly respected, deeply loved, and will be greatly missed by us all.”
Middag was preceded in death by Barbara, his wife of more than 60 years, passed July 7, 2020, a few days after her 90th birthday. Barbara’s career as an administrative assistant, French teacher, and mother was impactful in its own right, but her invisible contributions to Norm’s ministry made his visible service possible and always successful.
Middag is survived by two sons, David (Tricia) and Loren (Joy); one daughter, Renee (John) Brownlow; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Some time ago, Middag began work on a book with his biographer, Bruce Coston, a former camper at Camp Kulaqua and a staff member at Camp Blue Ridge. The proceeds from Far From the Norm: Norm Middag’s Life in Ministry, will be used for the Middag Nature Center at Camp Kulaqua.
Two days before his passing, Middag finished his last phone call with Coston, laid down his pen, and uttered the words, “Well, I guess that’s that!” as the book was finished.
The memorial service, “Celebration of Life — Norm Middag, a Servant of God and a Friend to Man,” was held on Sabbath, August 28, 2021, at Spring Meadows Church in Sanford, Florida.
Florida | Septemeber 2021