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  • 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.


  • 14 Nov 2018 8:10 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Editors’ note: Trinity/HPSI has been serving United Methodist camps and retreat centers (currently more than 100) for many years and would be glad to talk with you about how they might partner with your ministry, too. Plan to chat with Rod at their booth in the Vendor Hall at the UMC National Gathering, or contact Steve directly at the email listed below. 


    HOW TO SAVE MORE UNITED METHODIST DOLLARS

    by Steve Claypool of Trinity/HPSI 



    We at Trinity/HPSI are happy to highlight some of the ways you can save, keeping those funds to use in your ministry to reach people for our Lord. For those who are unfamiliar with our program, here is a brief explanation of why you might be over-paying for some of the goods your camp uses most often, and how we can help you save substantially.


    Our experience has shown that foodservice represents the greatest recurring purchase expenditure for most camps and conference centers, much greater than most other recurring purchase categories. Consequently, even though greater percentage savings may be found in other areas, foodservice usually offers the largest and most easily achieved savings opportunity, typically amounting to 10 to 20% off normal “street” pricing. We are pleased to have been able to help many United Methodist camps & retreat centers realize that level of savings or more.


    A “street” account, historically the predominant structure with foodservice companies and distributors in other industries, allows the sales representative to set pricing at their discretion anywhere above a defined base cost level that they can get the customer to order. We have often heard of representatives with less than full integrity who “low-balled” pricing initially to “get a foot in the door,” then let prices drift up over time as the customer became loyal and trusting and the representative thought they wouldn’t notice. In one extreme case our program brought a 35% foodservice savings opportunity for a camp.


    A “program” account (also called a contract or multi-unit or national account), as in the Trinity/HPSI structure, usually has a couple of service level options, with one being just like a “street” account, except for the very significant benefit that the sales representative has no ability to increase or control prices. Instead, the specified pricing structure is applied by the foodservice distributor’s computer system to each program customer’s account.  


    NOTE:  Some distributors are offering what they call program accounts that incorporate deviations as described in the next paragraph, but with the continued ability of the sales representative to set prices.  Though this may be somewhat better than a traditional street account, it often just results in the sales representative’s maintaining or increasing margin.


    Two main factors result in the substantial savings opportunity of a true program vs. a street foodservice account. The first is “deviations,” or allowances that have been negotiated with many manufacturers based on the tremendous aggregate volume of the organizations (under HPSI, more than 18,000) included in the overall program. Deviations serve to lower the distributor’s ultimate net cost and reduce the invoice price. On a periodic basis the distributor claims and receives reimbursement from the manufacturers for the deviations that have been passed through to the program customers. Not all items have deviations; they are much more common on processed foods than on commodity items. Some deviations are modest, while others can be dramatic, such as those for liquid eggs, paper goods, and trash liners.


    The second factor is simply an attractive pre-negotiated margin schedule for all items except capital kitchen equipment that is applied to the distributor’s actual purchase cost including freight to their warehouse. Additional factors contributing to the program savings opportunity can include delivery size and prompt payment incentives and rebates.


    The cost of propane is often second to foodservice as a recurring expense for camps and conference centers and sometimes, especially in the northern United States, can be even greater than the cost of foodservice. Propane prices vary widely. On rare occasions we have found camps that have pricing roughly in line with our national account pricing. At the other extreme, we have had reports of savings of $3.00 per gallon and more, and those savings can be achieved with a brief telephone call if your current propane supplier is one of our national account partners. If a transition from the current supplier needs to be made, the national account partners provide tanks with no rental charge, and there is no charge for delivering and setting up tanks.


    Many other agreements are available for everything from paint, office supplies, mattresses, maintenance supplies, and sporting goods to credit/debit card processing services, first aid supplies, kitchen equipment and much more. Whatever the purchase category, however, we recommend that each camp/conference center consider each area individually and do whatever is best for your ministry. You may have a friend of your ministry who is sacrificing a reasonable profit margin to sell at a level that is better than national account pricing; or she/he may be selling to you at “street” prices, then donating $10,000 or $50,000 per year to your scholarship fund. Only you can solve that value equation and determine what is best for your ministry.


    For help with any questions left unanswered or to request a complimentary analysis to identify your savings opportunities, please feel free to visit www.trinity-usa.net or to contact us at 615-672-0229 or steve.claypool@trinity-usa.net.



  • 14 Nov 2018 6:10 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Hey Folks,

    On Wednesday afternoon we will once again hold our silent auction to raise funds that support UMCRM's Intentional Leadership Groups.

    This is an afternoon where the focus is on what you can give rather than what you can get. There will be nice items, great trips, and all sorts of cool camp stuff to bid on. The real purpose is to have a fun afternoon of camaraderie and fellowship while we give financially to the organization that supports our work.

    What can you offer?

    ● Trips and Stays: Do you have a personal cabin or a facility at your site that you could provide for a few nights to support the ministry? If you are open to sharing your gifts with other camps, these offers are really useful and can raise a lot of money.

    ● Talents/Experiences: Do you offer consulting, grant writing, carpentry, or do you have other talents that you would be willing to share? 

    ● Art: Do you paint, make jewelry, cross-stitch, or do woodworking? Is your tie-dye to die for? Why not give the gift of your art to the ministry? Conference participants love having something handmade by their friends.

    ● Consumables: Bring your desserts and treats from your neck of the woods. We love trying things that we can’t get at our specific sites. Examples of this would be maple syrup, candies, pecans, peanuts, etc.

    ● Wearables: Give your gear or your gadgets. Bring stuff that you would want and give it. Humorous items are always crowd pleasers. Examples: books, shirts, flashlights, etc.

    How to Give

    If you know an item or two that you would like to offer, please fill out this brief web form so the volunteers organizing the event will be able to better plan the auction. When you arrive, there will be a designated area to place your auction items so you don’t have to hold onto them during the Gathering.

    If you need to ship an item, you can send it to:  Life Enrichment Center, Attn: UMCRM Gathering, 4991 Picciola Rd. Fruitland Park, FL 34731

    Who Benefits? 

    The funds generated will go towards supporting our Intentional Leadership Groups.

    And Finally...

    As camp leaders we know the importance of fundraising. I am sure that we are all very thankful for the donors that support our individual ministries.  Now we get the chance to exercise our own generosity by enthusiastically taking part in a festive afternoon of giving.

    We all have something we can offer. Please send your auction submissions and come to the auction filled with a playful attitude and a grateful heart. As the saying goes: “Bid early! Bid often! Bid High! But, Bid Last!”

    If you have any questions about the auction, please contact Auction Coordinator Stephanie Gaines, 256-483-1536

  • 07 Nov 2018 8:15 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)


    Details about the Workshop:

    A 2019 ACA Accreditation Process Workshop will be offered as a National Gathering pre-Conference event, Monday, January 28th from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the Life Enrichment Center. It's open to all (you don't need to be UMC nor necessarily attending the Gathering to take part.) We're just making it available for your convenience since so many of us will be in one place at one time.  


    This workshop is designed for camp representatives who are preparing for ACA accreditation visits in 2019 and beyond. It is appropriate for those who are new to the accreditation process AND those who have been part of an accreditation visit or completed standards training in the past. There's no "update" this year -- if your camp will be visited, someone from your ministry must take this full course.


    Register in two places:

    If you'll be attending the UMCRM National Gathering, please note on your registration that you are planning to participate in the ACA course. If you'd like to stay over at the Center on Sunday night, you're welcome; there's a very reasonable "Add A Sunday" option on the registration form that includes the overnight and meals. If you're already planning to attend, please also register with ACA so they'll have materials for everyone.


    Help spread the word among fellow ACA camps about this opportunity.


    If you're NOT attending the UMCRM Gathering but want to attend the ACA Course, you're more than welcome! Click to Reserve a hotel-style room to stay over Sunday night, or plan to join us for a meal or two on Monday. 


    Want to learn more about ACA?

    If you are unfamiliar with ACA and wanting to learn more about accreditation and other benefits of membership, there will also be an informational ACA workshop during the National Gathering. The event described above is for those already accredited or ready to get accredited next year. But we want all UMCRM folks to be familiar with the best practices in our industry and to access the benefits and resources that the American Camp Association provides. Some of those are free and don't require membership. There are over 70 UMCRM-affiliated sites that are accredited by the ACA, and our colleagues are wonderful about sharing advice, sample documents, and encouragement with one another. Remember you are not alone as you seek to operate a safe and high-quality camp ministry.



    Questions? Contact Jen Burch, UMCRM Registrar


  • 31 Oct 2018 6:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    2019 Gathering Guide Program

    Click to Sign Up!


    Attending a conference of any sort for the first time can be daunting for anyone. So we’re hoping to change that for our first-time friends at the upcoming National Gathering.


    The Sherpa people of Tibet settled in the high peaks of the Himalaya Mountains 800-1000 years ago and are world-renowned for their commitment to radical hospitality and for providing guidance to visitors climbing the tallest mountains in the world. Out of deep gratitude and appreciation for this tradition of the Sherpa, we seek to emulate this commitment to hospitality and guidance by providing an opportunity for first-time attendees of our 2019 gathering to be guided by seasoned attendees.


    Our Gathering Guide Program is designed to be intentionally short in duration. Assigned partners will connect at least once prior to arrival at the Gathering and then at least once daily during the event itself. Partners may find they want to connect more often or even remain connected after the Gathering. We leave that up to each set of partners.


    How does the Gathering Guide Program work?

    Both first-time attendees and seasoned attendees (generally anyone who has attended two or more of our previous gatherings) complete a simple application by Wednesday, November 28th. Then no later than Wednesday, December 12th, each applicant will be informed of the name and contact info of their assigned partner. Gathering Guides will then contact their first-time attendee to schedule a time prior to Wednesday, January 23, 2019 to meet via phone or video chat.


    What can a first-time attendee expect to get out of the National Gathering Guide Program?

    This program is designed to provide first-time attendees with a connection to a seasoned pro who can be expected to: answer most questions they may have (or know where to redirect them); help them figure out which workshops to attend; be a familiar face throughout the Gathering; introduce them to other members of our community; and check in with them each day.


    What can a Gathering Guide expect to get out this program?

    We expect that Guides will experience a deep sense of gratitude for being able to share their knowledge with the newest members of our community.


    Important Dates:

    • Application Deadline: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
    • Partners Announced: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
    • Partners Connect: Wed., December 12, 2018 – Wed., January 23, 2019
    • UMCRM National Gathering: Monday, January 28 - Friday, 1, 2019

    Contact: Matt Williams at matt@skylakecenter.org or 607.467.2750 (office)



      Expectations of Gathering Guides and Their Role in This Program


      In order to be considered for selection, a Gathering Guide applicant should:

      • Be friendly and hospitable
      • Have previously attended two or more United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders Gatherings, at least one of which should have been in 2015 (Epworth by the Sea) or 2017 (Lakeview)
      • Possess basic knowledge and be supportive of UMCRM and the Gathering
      • Have a desire to share one’s own knowledge with others
      • Have access and ability to use email, telephone, and video chat
      • Be able to communicate with others
        • Depending on the needs of first-time attendee applicants, we may need Gathering Guides who are minimally proficient in ASL or in a spoken language other than English (Please let us know if you have these skills!)
      • Have time to fully commit to this program: roughly one hour prior to the Gathering and then ample time each day during the Gathering

      Once selected, a Gathering Guide will be responsible for:

      • Contacting their assigned first-time attendee partner to set up at least one phone and/or video chat prior to Wednesday, January 23rd

      • Lifting up UMCRM and the Gathering

      • Answering any questions their partner may have (or knowing where to direct questions)

      • Helping partner figure out which workshops would be most beneficial to attend

      • Establishing a time to meet in person on the first day

      • Introducing partner to other members of the UMCRM community

      • Checking in with their partner each day during the Gathering


      Expectations of First-time Attendees and Their Role in This Program


      In order to be considered for selection, a first-time attendee applicant should:

      • Possess the desire to be intentionally connected to the UMCRM Community
      • Be attending a United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders Gathering for the first time
      • Have access and ability to use email, telephone, and video chat
      • Be able to communicate with others (Please use the designated section of the application to let us know if you need a Gathering Guide who is at least proficient in ASL or in a spoken language other than English)
      • Have time to fully commit to this program: roughly one hour prior to the gathering and then ample time each day during the gathering

      Once selected, a first-time attendee will be responsible for:

      • Alerting the coordinator of the program if they haven’t received any communication from their assigned Gathering Guide by Wednesday, January 23rd

      • Asking questions

      • Having at least a rough idea of what they would like to get out of their first Gathering

      • Checking in with their Gathering Guide each day during the gathering



    • 17 Oct 2018 5:27 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      Our Denominational Partners at Alton L. Collins Retreat Center:

      Sharing Mission, Growing Together

      by Dan Benson, Director of Alton L. Collins Retreat Retreat Center



      Of the Seven Foundations of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, "Partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies" sounds both the most boring and obligatory. I say this being fully committed to the work of The United Methodist Church and as an ordained Elder serving under appointment. But still, on the surface, this foundation might appear to be less engaging than all of the others.


      However, what I have experienced at our sites throughout the conference is that we facilitate some of the most dynamic opportunities for congregational visioning and deepening of relationships. Believe it or not, partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies is some of the coolest work we do. Camp and Retreat Ministries [in Oregon-Idaho] also does very cool work officially partnering with Episcopal churches and agencies!


      The most common and direct way that we support the work of United Methodist and Episcopal churches is through hosting church board and vestry meetings. When the leadership of a congregation steps outside of their busy lives and sets aside time for one another and their congregation, the results are dramatic. Often I see the participants come into the center, looking weary and distracted, searching for the wifi password in order to keep tabs on all of the projects left behind. In these moments I understand that these people need time away to be open, to listen for the voice of God prompting them to set forth on more grand adventures with God. Over the course of the day, weekend, or week, I see people look less anxious and more energized. I hear people talking excitedly about one idea or direction. I encounter laughter and smiles as new experiences are shared together. I get to see the hand of God at work in their life together. While I had expected to encounter these church council, board, vestry, and committee meetings, I did not expect to see such a significant change in the lives of the participants in such a short time together.


      The other thing that I did not expect to see is the sheer number of ways that we support the work of the larger church. We have worked with our conference to host numerous groups and agencies. In my short time here I have worked to support:

      • United Methodist Women region-wide events
      • Certified Lay Minister training (this is a vital ministry for many of our smaller congregations to find ways to survive and thrive amidst changing demographics)
      • A community of practice around new circuit rider and other models addressing the changing needs and compositions of our congregations
      • The Love Your Neighbor Coalition
      • United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
      • Jurisdictional meeting for the work of General Board of Global Ministries
      • A gathering of Episcopal female clergy focused on Women Embodying Executive Leadership
      • Time to Sow, a four-day lectionary preaching planning session to map out and dream about how God is speaking to a congregation for the coming year

      The change and energy that each of these groups bring as they do their work here is intense and remarkable. These and many other groups use the gift of our camp and retreat sites to foster the work of the local and global church. It is a blessing and ministry to provide space and input into these processes through which our congregations, communities, denominations, and world are transformed to more readily reflect the likeness of God.


      For congregations or organizations feeling lost in the wilderness, looking for the spark of God toward the next big adventure, camp/retreat experiences can provide inspiration and direction for what’s ahead. Individuals and teams looking to fan the flames of the Spirit may encounter God’s Spirit in new ways in UMCRM’s beautiful “places apart.” Let us listen together and grow the love of God in our hearts and in our world.


      Peace to you,

      Dan Benson


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