GENEVA began with a vision of Reformed Church pastors and leaders to provide a permanent place for youth conferences and activities. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Reformed Church held youth camps in various locations on or near Lake Michigan in rented facilities. At one time young people even "camped" at Hope College, where they stayed in the dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and rode a bus to Ottawa Beach each afternoon.
The property was purchased in 1946 and christened Camp Geneva in honor of the Swiss city that was John Calvin's center of activity during the Reformation. The camp was formally dedicated on July 5, 1948, and the first youth conference was held the following week.
Over the next decade several buildings were added and the grounds were improved. In 1951-52 the chapel was built, the dining hall porch was enclosed, and a clinic was built, along with lodging for staff. The Fellowship Hall was added in 1955. Eventually GENEVA's active season extended from early spring to late fall to accommodate church retreats as well as the summer camping program.
The founders had always envisioned GENEVA as more than a youth camp. Construction of the adult retreat center in 1985 opened GENEVA to new directions in ministry and service. Since then GENEVA has become a year-round facility that hosts retreat groups nearly every weekend and in all seasons. Up to 15,000 retreat guests now use GENEVA’s facilities annually.
Over the past decade, GENEVA has undergone another series of dramatic physical changes. In 1999, GENEVA Pines was opened, creating a second site for camp programs and youth retreats to address the escalating waiting lists that had developed. And, starting with the construction of the Activities & Recreation Center (the "ARC") in 2000, GENEVA Shores has undergone a radical transformation, replacing many of the original facilities in order to better serve future generations of campers and retreat guests. The GENEVA Center has replaced the no-longer-adequate dining hall, fellowship hall, and camp store; a new pool and splash park has become a focal point for camper play during the summer; and the new Great Lakes cabins have been built to enhance the overnight experience on a year-round basis. Most recently the Chapel was renovated (2014) and the Retreat Center was renovated and expanded (2016) to meet the needs of retreat groups and provide excellent hospitality.
Today, GENEVA is a modern, well-equipped summer camp and year-round retreat center with a vibrant summer program that provides over 4,400 children and youth with an opportunity to experience the vitality of the Christian faith and encourages them to respond in commitment. GENEVA's first-class facilities enable some 350 retreat groups to pull away to refocus and renew their relationships with each other and God.