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  • 14 Mar 2019 4:12 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    I've appreciated the chance to dialogue with my UMC peers and with peers from other denominations about the similarities that we share and the different challenges that we face.  I also really appreciated the experience in our Biblical and Theological reflections class of working through the challenges in our different denominations and that we are not alone in those challenges, but share the opportunity to work together.

    - Sarah Ratz, Director, Beersheba Springs Assembly

    We so often forget that our camp’s “problems” are not just ours; everyone else is experiencing and navigating the same challenges. To be in Compass Points and to have an honest space where conversations about our difference led us to that common ground was SO refreshing. 

    - TayLa Fugate, Program Intern, Cedar Crest Camp
  • 28 Feb 2019 11:27 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    This has been a hard week for our beloved United Methodist Church. Barring a miracle, decisions made at the Special General Conference will fracture the church I’ve loved, for which I’ve worked my entire adult life, and that nurtured my faith from childhood.

    Even so, this year over a million children, youth, and adults will visit our United Methodist camps and retreat centers. Faith will be birthed and formed in countless lives in our ministries across the country. The work to which we are called continues to have eternal value as we invest in disciples who will transform the world.

    There is a quote we use in our leadership program, ELI, in North Georgia, to which I’ve become attached. It is attributed to French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

    If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

    Now, more than ever, the people called Methodists (and the world beyond) need to grow in our longing for the endless immensity of God’s love. We in Camp & Retreat Ministries are uniquely equipped for that work because the context of a temporary community helps us practice being the body of Christ for one another.  Campers and retreat participants leave longing for the immensity of God’s love and better equipped to build a church in which it may be made manifest.

    It is time for us to do our best work! So as we wipe away tears, pray for one another, and clasp hands with all our beloved and gifted siblings in God’s family, please remember that UMCRM stands ready to offer resources, inspiration, and a network of colleagues in support of your ministry. Within our association are folks who have dealt with every challenge you might be facing, people who have your back. Let’s continue to be there for one another. The need is greater than ever for sacred places apart, fruitful partnerships in the church and community, and space to experience the endless immensity of God’s love.

    May the Lord lift up God’s countenance upon you and give you peace,

    Russell Davis

    Chairperson, UMCRM Association

  • 06 Feb 2019 8:24 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Congratulations to all of the United Methodist Camp/Retreat Ministries who received 2018 Solomon Cramer Grant funding for your innovative, youth-serving projects. 

    Baltimore-Washington Conference Retreat & Camping Ministries  ($3,000)

                    The camp partners with Baltimore Metropolitan District and seeks to eliminate barriers to summer camp experiences for youth in Baltimore who are impacted by high rates of violence and poverty. The program offers Spring Break Camp which is a 1-week camp offering arts, crafts, worship and activities. Residential Summer Camp offers week-long programs at West River and Manidokan throughout the summer and reaches a predominantly African-American population.


    Camp Chestnut Ridge ($3,000)

                    This camp launched a new Traveling Day Camp in order to expand summer camp opportunities for youth from underserved ethnic populations who may not otherwise be able to attend camp. The lower cost of the Traveling Day Camp, and the central location within the community of Chestnut Ridge will allow for more children who do not regularly attend camp to have a camp experience. Chestnut Ridge strives to create a diverse population among campers, and is located within the community of the participants, which helps overcome issues with transportation.


    Camp Chippewa ($3,000)

                    This camp has encompassed the mission to provide an atmosphere in a simple, outdoor setting where individuals can experience the presence of God in nature, for a relationship with Jesus Christ and others, nurture one’s journey as a disciple of Christ and experience spiritual and personal growth and renewal. Camp Chippewa offered a high-school camp for the first time which focused on leadership and was held at their camp site.


    Camp in the Community ($3,000)

                    This camp is a week-long day camp for children in poverty. The camp operates in partnership with a host church located in an impoverished community within the Holston Conference. A high-quality summer camp experience is offered to those who could not otherwise afford to attend summer camp.


    Cedar Crest Camp ($3,000)

                    The camp has a two-fold initiative including empowering immigrant faith communities in the Tennessee Conference and to inform and transform the camp culture to better serve the children of these communities. Through this initiative, children from immigrant areas were shown support, love and empowerment. Space was created to facilitate cross-cultural conversation within the camp experience to better inform staff and campers about the richness of sharing in multiple contexts of life experiences.


    Don Lee Camp & Retreat Center ($3,000)

                    The initiative seeks to build greater partnership and collaboration between UMC churches, local school and the AME Zion Church to strengthen, develop and renew congregations and communities in an effort to make disciples. The Voyages initiative offered camp experiences in a local church setting. The churches worked together to provide this experience to 200 children who were able to experience camp within local churches.


    Go Camp NTC ($3,000)

                    The camp provided camping opportunities for kids in underserved communities in North Texas which focused on faith formation, community outreach, and nature conservation. The camps were mobilized to bring the experience to communities where they would not otherwise have camp experiences and offered a way for those populations to connect with the United Methodist Church.


    Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center  ($2,000)

                    The Camp Hope series is dedicated to at-risk youth from difficult, impoverished and/or minority populations. There are nine camps that focus on drug and/or alcohol abuse, anger management or sexual abuse. The funding focused on Camp Grace, which is a week-long camp for girls age 12-15 who have experienced sexual abuse.


    Next Generation Ministries, the Missouri Annual Conference ($3,000)

                    The initiative provided on-site camping ministries as a tool for children, youth, and young adults to encounter Christ. The camp was brought to local churches, which focused on low-income families who would have difficulty with the cost and transportation to a camp site. Local church volunteer staff help to provide one-on-one Christian mentoring and participate in reflection and discernment exercises with campers.


    Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries ($2,000)

                    The Directors’ Leadership Week develops a combination of secular and spiritual skills that develop principled Christian leaders who are prepared to serve. The program fosters a relationship between Pecometh and the local church to develop young leaders. Campers are chosen by their church with the understanding they will be placed in a position of leadership within the church in the following year.

    Applications for 2019 Solomon Cramer grants are due by March 1!

    View the application

  • 06 Feb 2019 6:43 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    "@ the Table" keynoters Beth and Travis Allison are camp pros and Canadians. How do United Methodist Camp/Retreat Leaders welcome such esteemed guests? 

    With this heartfelt song, sung to the tune of "O Canada!"

    O Allisons

    Our friends from the True North

    Teaching their ways to all camp mavericks

    With each CampHacker post we see

    Camp Code becomes ingrained

    Their podcast shows help us make

    staff trainings better than poutine!

    God keep them both, awesome and free

    O Allisons, we stand and clap for thee!

    O Allisons, we stand and clap for thee!

    Creative credit to Heather Withrow and Matt Williams.

  • 23 Jan 2019 8:37 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Camp and Retreat Ministries of the Susquehanna Conference are thrilled to announce that Sam Richardson has been hired as the new Director of Camp Penn.  

    Sam Richardson is from Bradford, Pennsylvania, where he grew up as an active member of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. Sam attended Edinboro University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education. After spending his summers working at Wesley Woods Camp & Conference Center during college, Sam joined the year-round staff at Wesley Woods as the Program and Marketing Director in 2013. He and his wife, Sara, met and were married in the chapel at Wesley Woods.

    In 2016, Sam and Sara started the Camp to Camp project. They had both experienced the transformative power of Christian camping in their own lives and wanted to share the value of this ministry with as many people as possible. Over two years, they traveled to camps around the country, working alongside and learning from other camping professionals. They shared their experiences through a blog and YouTube channel and collected footage for a short-form documentary highlighting the amazing stories of camp. During this time, they also built a creative content business providing marketing services, design, photography, and virtual tours to camps and other nonprofits.

    Sam believes that Christian camping is an amazing opportunity to offer people a safe place to explore their faith, seek answers to big life questions, and learn to trust others. Even after growing up in a Christian home, camp was the place he learned what it really meant to know Jesus and follow His path. Sam is excited to be joining the dynamic team of camping professionals and volunteers in the Susquehanna Conference and work hard to honor to legacy of Camp Penn.

  • 09 Jan 2019 9:14 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Analytics 101: What They Are and Why You Should Care

    by Jacob Turner, Website and Analytics Specialist, Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church

    At first glance, “analytics” sounds like something that’s restricted to big corporations looking to make more money off of their products, not something that a camp or retreat center would ever need. But that’s not true! Analytics can actually be really useful to you in your work to market your camp or retreat center, as the data can tell you who your current audience is, what they’re most interested in, and what you should be putting out there to best get the word out about what you’ve got to offer. Today I’d like to take you on a brief tour of what data is, ways you can see your own data, and some good ways to make sense of it!

    Which analytics are most useful for a camp/retreat center?

    For a camp or retreat center, there are three sets of data analytics that are most useful: web, social media, and email. These three provide different sets of data, so here’s a sample breakdown for each one:

    • Web analytics:  number of people viewing posts and pages, when/how they’re viewing them, where they’re viewing from, where they’re coming from and going to
    • Social media analytics:  number of people viewing posts and liking/following the account, general information about who’s viewing them by age and gender, when they’re viewing them, where they’re viewing from
    • Email analytics:  number of people reading the email or clicking links in the email, when they’re viewing them, where they’re viewing from

    And while that may seem like an overwhelming amount of data, most companies actually present it in ways that help you make sense of it! What companies do that, you may ask? Well…

    How can a camp/retreat center access its analytics?

    A disclaimer here: I use these products personally, alongside many others, for my work with the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. However, I don’t necessarily endorse these specific tools, and there’s a wide variety of products that you can use to get analytics for any given web/social/email platform that your camp/retreat center uses, including one big one that I’m leaving out: Google Analytics (and the reason I’m leaving it out is because it’s incredibly powerful but can be a bit tricky, especially for newcomers). However, if you’re just getting started, these are the ones that I consider quick and easy to set up.

    Web Analytics: Jetpack by Automattic

    This one is specific to popular content management system WordPress, but since WordPress is one of the most popular products on the web, it’s natural to include a very helpful plugin by WordPress’s creators Automattic. Jetpack does more than analytics; it’s an all-in-one plugin that allows you to do “hassle-free design, marketing, and security” through a wide variety of tools. But the site statistics are definitely one of the most useful parts of it. For example, this sample set of statistics shows us that a good number of views on our Conference website ARUMC.org came from Facebook! For more information on Jetpack, find its website at jetpack.com or its WordPress plugin page at wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack. Please note that while Jetpack is free, there are a number of paid options for it, as well, that provide enhanced features.

    Social Media Analytics: Page Insights by Facebook

    Of course, with Facebook being one of the largest social media networks out there, most everyone has a Facebook Page already. But have you been using “Page Insights?” This tool, part of every business Page on Facebook, allows you to access a wealth of data about your Page. Learn the most popular content, explore the demographics of your Page likes, and see how people are engaging with the content you’re putting out there! For more information on what Page Insights are and how you can use them, visit facebook.com/help/794890670645072. In addition, if your camp or retreat center uses Twitter or Instagram, you can find out how to access analytics for those platforms at  business.twitter.com/en/analytics.html and help.instagram.com/788388387972460, respectively. (Note: your Instagram account will need to be a Business Account in order for you to access your analytics on there. For more information, go to help.instagram.com/502981923235522.)

    Email Analytics: Reports by Mailchimp

    Finally, we come to email analytics, and with that also comes another popular platform: Mailchimp. As a platform that’s built around marketing, Mailchimp has a full-featured and robust set of tools to allow you to analyze your statistics from either overall or campaign-by-campaign, and from any number of angles including open and click rate, how people are subscribing, when they’re unsubscribing, and so on. For more information on this, go to mailchimp.com/help/about-email-campaign-reports(and if you’re using Constant Contact, you can visit knowledgebase.constantcontact.com/articles/KnowledgeBase/5562-reporting-for-an-email-campaign).

    Hopefully this gives you a head start on really crunching the numbers that all of these platforms have to offer! Spend some time with the data and you’ll find it will provide you with so many ideas to consider when it comes to effectively promoting your camp or retreat ministry.

    Jacob Turner is the Website and Analytics Specialist for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. When he’s not working, he’s a student at Hendrix College working on his Religious Studies degree and managing (and DJing on) the college’s radio station, KHDX-FM.

  • 19 Dec 2018 10:31 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Recently, I found myself sitting in a camping chair in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot, cheering on a man who was a complete stranger to me a mere 12 hours before. I was chanting his name, along with 99 other strangers, as we all rallied together and watched new friends and fellow “original chicken sandwich” lovers dance and sing to songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Let it Go.” Later that evening I ended up participating in a bizarre game with a 5-year-old girl that involved me attempting to hula hoop whilst trying to “juggle” bean bags (okay, throw randomly) while she wore a “KanJam” barrel around her.

    Chick-Fil-A opens nearly 100 new restaurants every year, and since 2003 they have been offering free Chick-Fil-A meals for a year to the first 100 people to join their “First 100 Campout.” The challenge involves staying on the restaurant grounds for up to 24 hours, not leaving the grounds (not even once), and participating in mandatory (but fun!) line checks. I have always been enamored by this idea of camping out and sleeping in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot for 24 hours to get free food for a year, so I had previously said that if a Chick-Fil-A ever opened near me, I would be one of the first in line.

    Well, it finally happened. A new Chick-Fil-A opening was announced in my town and I knew I had to go. I was number 13. I arrived at 5:45 a.m. along with several other folks, got my wristband, secured my place in line, and set up my tent in the drive-thru area right in front of the menu and ordering speaker. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I brought a chair and my laptop, a few books, and several other things to occupy my time. It turns that I wouldn’t need any of those things at all! The Chick-Fil-A staff not only welcomed us and made us feel at home by using phrases like “welcome to our family,” and “we are excited to be a part of your community,” but they also had exciting community-building activities and games for us to play. There was almost no down time because in between all of the free meals and mandatory line checks we played name games, minute-to-win-it games, trivia, had scavenger hunts, dance parties, and even a lip-sync contest.

    Everyone was welcomed regardless of social status or class or age or gender or background. I met mothers and fathers, the housing challenged and housed, rich and poor, students and unemployed. It didn’t matter who you were because we were all on this together and shared a common goal: free Chick-Fil-A for a year. We were all there “suffering” and “enduring” together. It was a single shared experience and we all quickly became friends and family. We became a tribe of Chick-Fil-A campers who shared meals, played games, talked about life, and even defended each other on social media after the news came, shared a story online and negative comments started rolling in.

    As I was setting up a tent alongside strangers, I started to make new friends by helping them set up tents, swapping stories, sharing jokes, and even talking about Christian theology (there were a lot of seminary students there for some reason.) The whole time I kept exclaiming to my wife, “This is like camp!” – I truly felt that it was. As I thought about it, the similarities to camp became clear: we didn’t know anything about each other, we all had the same goal, we were diverse, we were in a fixed state of sabbath and retreat (limited electricity, no A/C or heat, no comfy beds) and we truly felt welcomed with the radical hospitality of this fast-food franchise’s employees. The employees would and did bend over backward for our every need – and they didn’t have to! We weren’t there to give anything, we were only there to get free chicken for a year and they treated us like we were royalty.

    Chick-Fil-A’s “First 100” camp outs are, oddly, an incredible model for how to do camp. Radical hospitality and community building. Unbelievably organized. Unconditionally welcoming. Dropping a bunch of strangers from different backgrounds into a shared goal or mission is incredibly unifying and socially leveling. We were stuck together, and there was not much we could do but listen to each other, love on each other, eat with each other, and learn about each other.

    We don’t have to know anything about somebody to be able to love them and to celebrate them. Every person is important to God and to the Church. At camp, we already have all we need to kindle an incredible Christian community and invoke radical hospitality. “Radical hospitality” requires intentional invitation and welcome. It requires welcoming every person as an honored guest. So let’s let people know who we are and what we value. And if it somehow involves a free chicken sandwich, even better.

    Mark Walz Jr. is a life-long United Methodist Camper. He has previously worked on staff at Aldersgate Camp in Kentucky and has since then been a “permanent volunteer” working on everything from leading weeklong camps in the summer, retreats in the winter, and running the camp website and working with their communications and technology year-round. Mark and his newly-wed wife Ciara live in Lexington, KY, where he serves as the Director of Communication and Technology at St. Luke United Methodist Church. He is a type 2 on the Enneagram, the helper. As such, he is involved with volunteering for so many things, including a local community development after school Program, a secret concert series, and a monthly community personal storytelling event. Mark and Ciara will be eating a lot of chicken sandwiches this year.

  • 05 Dec 2018 6:17 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    You must begin by experiencing the natural wonder of the outside world. No doubt you can step outside and appreciate some combination of the natural mystery where air, water, land, rock, sea, plants, and animals all come together, inspiring spiritual awe. For their part, our executives were riding together in a short bus through the windy roads of South Dakota, twisting, turning, and corkscrewing through mountainous forest. As the bus traveled, one noted how incredible it was that the fallen branches from the local trees were all piled together in large mounds within the forest. “Why do they do that?” another asked. Without hesitation, a smart aleck executive who shall not be named replied, “to provide habitat for the elusive land beaver.” The tale continues, because the gathered piles were numerous. For miles upon miles, as the bus carried its special cargo of camp and retreat leaders through the forest, they noted with growing awe the vast number of wood piles, and the incredible amount of labor that must have gone into it. “When do you think they do all this?” someone asked in hushed awe, to which the other executive quickly quipped, “At night. The land beaver is nocturnal.”

    slash piles in forestHere is the thing about the elusive nocturnal land beavers of South Dakota: they work hard, unseen, unbidden, somehow making the world a better place. By gathering the trees’ discarded branches into neat piles, they help remove fuel for fire that might otherwise affect greater portions of the forest. Even if those piles are not intentionally burned and simply decay on their own where they sit, the forest is a safer, better place for it. One caring executive marveled at how the piles provided habitat for local animals, until the driver commented that while that may be true the piles tend to be burned after two to three years. Roast critters aside, the work of the land beaver was inspiring to behold. Great labor went into creating the wood piles, and even if they were destined to be temporary monuments to the land beaver’s herculean efforts, they stood witness to the elusive animal's dedication to improving the forest.

    That’s the nature of the land beaver, to be helpful without needing to claim the spotlight. The elusive land beaver is the parent who would pack pepperoni rolls in your carry-on because you had a long day of travel ahead of you. The elusive land beaver is the counselor who would never lose a camper or leave a passenger behind when the vehicle rolled out for an off-site adventure. The elusive land beaver is that volunteer or staff member who regularly goes above and beyond, not for recognition and oftentimes without any awareness of the work s/he has done. They work quietly in the background, gathering whatever sticks or branches may exist in the ministry that might trip others up, making our camp and retreat experiences safer and more enjoyable. Perhaps they even impart some special meaning into otherwise ordinary or mundane activities.

    While our executives acknowledge that they may be spotlight-loving, oversized personalities powered by the adulation of campers and staff, as they witnessed the results of the land beaver’s tireless work a change came upon them like that which descended on Ebenezer Scrooge. Seeing the hard work done to protect the forest, one by one the executives admitted that each of their ministries was blessed because of industrious critters like the elusive South Dakotan land beaver. Staff, volunteers, parents, and other supporters make a daily difference in these Christian outdoor ministries, working diligently behind the scenes to help accomplish the awesome work of life transformation that occurs at camp. Camp truly changes lives, and such work is dependent upon the committed alignment of people passionate about helping one another connect to God, nature, and others. Grateful for all the elusive land beavers who create the foundation for the success of these outdoor ministries, our executives broke from their annual gathering, descending upon the local airport en masse to cause chaos and disruption on their way to leading their ministries with a playful, non-anxious presence.

    Contributed by an anonymous UMCRM executive.

    Conference Staff Summit 2018 at Mt Rushmore, SD

    Unamused by the executives’ shenanigans, Washington looks on, stone-faced.

    Pictured: (front row) Bryan Johnson, Jack Shitama, Mike Standifer, Dail Ballard, Gary Lawson, Sharon Cook, Shea James, Todd Bartlett. (back row) Joseph Bradley, Keith Shew, David Berkey, Russell Davis, Warren Hopper, Kelly Peterson-Cruse, Chris Schlieckert, Jen Burch, Alan Rogstad, Ron Bartlow.

  • 05 Dec 2018 5:09 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Cross at Warren Willis CampKids love camp worship services because they are fun and provide experiences where campers can encounter the Lord in new ways, realizing that God speaks in music, through sermons and skits, and in the silence or sounds of creation. One of our goals as summer camps is to partner with the local church to ensure that our camp worship experiences build on what campers experience at home. At January’s National Gathering, we will seek to do the same thing for camp and retreat leaders.

    worship at the LEC, 2013 National GatheringEach evening of the event, our worship services will aid us in reflecting on each day’s theme and will do so through liturgy, music, spoken word, and prayer. As a gathering of primarily United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry leaders, we will have a wide range of experiences that will keep us close to our Wesleyan theology, but will be diverse in musical styles, reflecting the diversity of camp and local church musical experiences. Our worship leader for the event, Chuck Bell, and the other members of the band will lead us musically each night.

    Worship at Onward! 2015Chuck loves to help folks consider ways they can take something familiar and make it unique and provide opportunities for participants to become leaders. Know the chords G, D, E minor, and C? If so, plan to bring your instrument and join in with the instrument choir during a service. If you like to sing, plan to lift your voice in song as part of the congregational “choir,” with and without other instruments. Got rhythm? Be a part of the interactive percussion segment. Not so much a musician? Join us to read, sign, or simply listen and reconnect as Rev. Junius Dotson brings us the Word each night.

    This is one table that mom won’t fuss about you singing around!

    Established in 2002, Chuck and Kim Bell have been serving in ministry from the start of their relationship. Over the years they have led youth choirs and orchestras, young adult ministries, children's worship services, workshops, youth and children's retreats, small groups, and family dinners at the table together. Blessed with two awesome daughters, Lucy (13) and Blakely (9), their ministry has expanded to include their whole family, as both girls love to sing and play instruments while leading others in song and worship, and are often referred to collectively as Team Bell. Kim currently serves as a Director at Glisson Camp and Retreat Center in North Georgia and serves as a Worship/Main Stage Coordinator for the upcoming National Event. Chuck is a Worship Consultant and CEO of Chuck Bell Music, serving churches, retreat groups, annual conferences, and more, and is the Worship Leader for @the Table. Team Bell loves living in their Hallmark town of Dahlonega, GA with their outdoor cat, Mr. Fluffy Pants, and thousands of their closest friends every summer camp season.

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