For the third-consecutive year, Copper Hills Church in Peoria, Ariz., is preparing for its 4 Peak Challenge, a hiking and running event offered in association with the City of Peoria.
But although the 4 Peak Challenge involves tests of skill and endurance, it is designed for more than physical activity.
According to event director Elfie Klassen, wife of Copper Hills Lead Pastor Brad Klassen, the challenge is a way for church volunteers and participants to build relationships and point people to Jesus.
“It’s a bridge event, not to get people to church but to provide opportunities for people to get to know their neighbors if they don’t already,” Klassen says. “That’s a pretty rudimentary thing that we talk about all the time is getting to know your neighbors and loving your neighbors.”
About the Copper Hills 4 Peak Challenge
Klassen designed the 4 Peak Challenge after watching her sons participate in a Ragnar race, a team relay event.
“I saw how many people participated, and I thought, ‘If this many people participate in something like this, I wonder if people would participate in a hiking event in our community,’” she says.
Copper Hills Church is nestled between four hills in northwest Peoria, and the 4 Peak Challenge incorporates the hills in an 11-mile hike the weekend before Thanksgiving when Arizona temperatures are cooler. Trails range in distance from the 1-mile Calderwood Butte Trail to the 5-mile Sunrise Mountain Trail. The course includes 1,500 feet of elevation change.
In the months prior to the challenge, Copper Hills offers weekly training hikes, as well as beginning and advanced training plans.
Since its inception in 2015, the event has expanded to include a running component. Those who register as elite runners race between all four peaks via a 20-mile course.
Volunteers from Copper Hills Church are encouraged to sign up either as participants or hosts.
“I often tell the people from our church, ‘If you think you’ll have the most impact training with your neighbor or your friend to hike this challenge, then do the hike. If you think you’ll have more of an impact as a trail host because you don’t have a non-believing friend that would like to participate with you in this way, then volunteer as a host,’” Klassen says. “Either way, people can play to their strength.”
Hosts are trained to actively engage people in conversation on the trails and during the post-challenge meal.
“Whether they’re a campus host or a trail host, we train them to take notice and take interest in people because the goal of the whole event is to help people increasingly think like Jesus, so we are increasingly mistaken for Jesus,” Klassen says. “It’s a learning event. For us, if (people) are taught to take notice and take interest in people in an event like this, they can take notice and take interest in their colleagues at work, their neighbors at home, or the people that they see at the club when they go exercise.”
Partnerships and sponsors
Copper Hills Church is an affiliate partner with the City of Peoria for the event, in a unique relationship between the entities.
The relationship between the church and the city began over negotiations regarding the building of Copper Hills’ church property, Klassen says. Copper Hills Church, a member of the Pacific District Conference, was started March 15, 1998, and met in a theater or schools for at least 16 years. Only within the last three years has the church, which has a weekend attendance of about 800, occupied the first phase of its new building.
“We have such a great relationship with the City of Peoria,” Klassen says. “It’s been years in the making, but they trust us.”
In addition to the church’s partnership with the city, a major sponsor is assigned to each hill: Westwing Mountain Homeowners Association, Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, Norterra Family Medicine and Pavilion Dental Group and Orthodontics. The Peoria Firefighters Charities provides breakfast for participants, while city police provide help with street crossings.
While the goal of the event is to break even, Klassen says any proceeds will be used to install outdoor exercise equipment in the city park.
Last year, 350 hikers participated in the 4 Peak challenge, with an estimated 250 not from Copper Hills Church. An additional 27 finished the running portion of the challenge.
This year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 18, 2017, can accommodate as many as 600 participants—500 hikers and 100 runners—with an additional 150 to 200 volunteers from Copper Hills, Klassen says.
“This is our service to Jesus, in essence, because it’s a lot of work to put on an event,” she says. “Most of the people that have been involved from the beginning are still involved now, which is awesome. We’re getting better, we’re getting smarter, yet we want to make sure that the reason that we do this, the ‘why,’ is always in the forefront.”
More information about the Copper Hills 4 Peak Challenge or Copper Hills Church can be found at www.4peakchallenge.com or www.copperhills.org.
To read about Copper Hills Church’s January 2016 dedication, visit www.christianleadermag.com/copper-hills-celebrates-new-facility/
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.