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  • 15 Nov 2017 11:41 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    A letter from Kevin...

    Serving as the Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries with UMC Discipleship Ministries for the past 21 years has been such a privilege. I want to express how rich with meaning life has been knowing, supporting, and growing with you as colleagues in camp and retreat ministries across the United Methodist Church. I leave this role with deep gratitude to all of you for the opportunity to serve you. I’m grateful for the ways we have rallied together to grow as spiritual leaders dedicated to create a strong, innovative future for the ministries we steward and those we serve. It is a challenging time as the landscape of society and the wider church rapidly changes, and yet exciting to be engaged in what is emerging as we join God in the midst of it all.  

    I am very excited about joining the Susquehanna Conference (PA) team as the Director of Camp/Retreat and Discipleship Ministries, which begins on January 1, 2018. This position fits so well with my gifts and graces and the vision of the Conference. It is energizing to be coming on board with a dynamic group of leaders there. In addition, my parents live in Pennsylvania. They are now in their 80’s, and being a part of their lives and supporting them is an important dimension of my Christian journey and calling in this season of life, too. Prayerful discernment and insight gleaned from many conversations clarified that this is Christ’s path for me. Still, I will certainly miss being with Discipleship Ministries, which is progressing in some very exciting ways.

    Undoubtedly, some of you are wondering how my transition to a new position may impact Camp and Retreat Ministry moving forward. First, it is vital to realize that the networking, consultations, visioning and strategic planning, motivating resources and newsletters, social media networking, training and certification courses, fundraising for leadership development scholarships, and much more arise from the creativity, dedication, and hard work of many people in the UMCRM community, not just the Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries. This collaborative network of leaders, including all those involved in the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry Association, will continue to work on behalf of the whole. This rich network of inspiration and support has been a true partnership.

    While the way we resource our leaders has always been collaborative in nature, that does not diminish at all the value of having a staff position within Discipleship Ministries with expertise in camp retreat ministries and time to lead initiatives that help align and enhance the missional effectiveness of camp and retreat as a pathway for growing world-transforming disciples and spiritual leaders. I have intentionally prepared a document that outlines the most important initiatives underway in order to facilitate a smooth transition for a new person coming into this role. I have strongly encouraged Discipleship Ministries to identify and bring someone on board in a timely way and to continue camp and retreat ministry within its staff portfolio. Fortunately, there are many capable leaders who have the gifts and graces for camp and retreat ministries along with the all-encompassing missional initiatives that are priorities for all staff with Discipleship Ministries. Each time a staff person transitions at Discipleship Ministries, job descriptions and the focus of positions are re-evaluated. This discernment and decision process will be in the hands of the leadership team at Discipleship Ministries in Nashville.  

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for the ways you have encouraged me, extended grace, and valued my contributions over the years. Obviously, no one person can do it all and I recognize that there is much yet to be done. I have tried diligently to be faithful to the trust you have placed in me and to utilize my gifts to serve you and God. Thank you for the opportunity. Know that I am not riding off into the sunset. We have a powerful heritage of helping each other. I will continue to be a part of this great circle of colleagues and friends in a new way.  My new email address will be kwitt@susumc.org beginning January 1, 2018.

    Kevin Witt, November 15th, 2017

  • 15 Nov 2017 9:41 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Students in Compass Points Program Development course Oct 2017UMCRM participants were: Geoff Fielder (Tanako, AR), Matt Williams (Sky Lake Camp, NY), Abel Salas (Suttle Lake Camp, OR), Brandon Gooch (Camp Lake Stephens, MS), Zach Brandt (Northern Pines, MN), Allison Doyle (Lakeshore, TN), Jonathan Gowan (Sumatanga, AL), Ashlee Phillips (Camp Wesley, OH), Whitney Winston (Camp In The Community, Holston Conference,TN), and Jeff Wadley (Camp Bays Mountain, TN)

    Are you seeking to better understand your role and call in Christian camp and retreat ministry? Let me highly recommend the Compass Points certification program. I have attended various workshops at different conferences, retreats, and events that all sought to better equip us camp folks with knowledge and fun new ideas to take back to our camp. However, I have learned more from my time taking classes in the certification program than I ever did from these workshops.

    Students of the Biblical & Theological Foundations class, Oct 2017First, the classes are more intensive because they last over a 3-day period. Most workshops are just an hour and you never get to interact with the speakers. With Compass Points, you have time and opportunity to ask all the questions you can think of. Our instructors teach on everything from fundraising to hiring summer staff counselors to creating a mission statement.  I have learned so much from the wealth of experience all our faculty bring to the table. You also get the added benefit of hearing from your fellow classmates about how they are dealing with certain issues or have found solutions to common problems.

    final campfire, Compass Points Oct 2017Getting to know Christian camping people from various denominations around the country has been my favorite aspect of the program. I have realized we are all asking the same questions and that there is more that brings us together in community than divides us. What unites us is our love for sharing Jesus and building His kingdom through camp and retreat ministry.  The different ways we try and separate ourselves from others soon fall away as you hear other people’s passion for the work they do day in and day out. The community I have formed through the Compass Points certification program has truly been a blessing to me and one of the best parts of my whole experience.

    The Compass Points certification program will help you be a better camp and retreat professional. Whether you are just starting out like me or you have 20 years of experience, the classes offered will enable you to be the best that you can be. It will help you to continue building God’s kingdom one camper, one activity, one encouraging word at a time.  

    Jonathan Gowan is Director of Summer Camp Ministries at Sumatanga Camp & Retreat Center, Alabama. He formerly served the summer camp ministry at Lakeshore (TN) for 7 years and as a local church Youth Director prior to that.  Jonathan feels strongly that camp and retreat ministry is part of the greater church, and believes it is his call to pour into young adults to help them see their part in the Kingdom.

  • 08 Nov 2017 7:46 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    “Go and make disciples… baptizing them… and teaching them to obey…”  Matthew 28:19

    We all know the Great Commission; the exhortation from our Lord to help form one another in discipleship, to initiate one another into the fellowship of the church, to inspire one another into transformed lives characterized by world-changing behaviors of piety and mercy after His example. But in changing times and circumstances, sometimes we wonder how to take people deeper into discipleship.

    In 2015, Rev. Curtis Brown (Director of Faith Community Development in the Pacific Northwest Conference) shared to a group of Camp and Retreat leaders that in our Methodist heritage discipleship growth was deeply rooted in a back-and-forth movement between three focal points. Drawing from the strong start of our Methodist movement, Rev. Brown named the three nodes as "sacramental worship,” “class meeting,” and "camp meeting.” I would describe the three points as Experiential Worship, Intentional Community, and Creative Dislocation.

    Experiential Worship is the experience of being both in the presence of divine mystery and within a community greater than oneself. For the early Methodists, this was experienced through worship in their local parish. Through liturgy and sacrament they experienced the transcending presence of God and the communion of saints. In baptism, we are initiated into the fellowship of the church and the mystery of grace; in holy communion we are renewed and reconnected with the grace that welcomes, heals, challenges, and sustains us.

    Today, many churches excel in providing inspiring, experiential worship. Some invite people into God’s larger story and community through traditional liturgies and music. Others incorporate modern rituals and varied communal practices to help provide a place for people to experience God’s presence and express their worship.

    The second node, which in the days of our earliest movement was done through Methodist societies, classes, and bands, is that of Intentional Community. Today many churches incorporate this important focal point as a key part of their ministries, developing Sunday School classes, small groups, Bible studies, covenant accountability groups, or other gatherings of people with an intentional focus on their growth as followers of Jesus.

    Years of evaluative study and training have taught us that personal discipleship grows best in the context of an intentional community that lovingly balances acceptance and truth-telling, encouragement and challenge. We know the importance of smaller, intentional communities where we hold one another accountable. We may vary on how successfully we lead in this node, but we are aware that resources abound: from the multitude out of Willow Creek to the work of our Discipleship Ministries’ Steven Manskar, from the discipleship plans of 3DM to the Wesleyan revival moment of England’s Inspire Network.

    But there is a third node that we perhaps neglect, to our detriment. In the Methodist movement this was experienced through field preaching and/or the camp meeting; times outside of the norm of parish life or community life of Society, Class, and Band. These were experiences where growing disciples stepped away from their normal routine, and as a result saw and heard the divine a bit differently; a bit more clearly. For this node I borrow a term that others have used, “Creative Dislocation.” (I believe I first encountered this concept in writings of Brian McLaren.)

    Experiences of Creative Dislocation invite us outside of our normal routine and experience, and somehow, through changes in geographic location, religious ritual, or daily rhythm, we find ourselves open to the divine in a different way. It’s not that God is suddenly more present. Rather, like the experience of the disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration, we suddenly glimpse more clearly the divine that is always present; the God who is always with us. Our perception expands and, when nurtured, informs and sustains us as we re-enter our regular rhythms of life.

    Today we can experience Creative Dislocation in a number of ways. The Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis are weekend retreats hosted by church leaders that bless adults and youth, respectively. I personally find the experience of the Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation deeply meaningful. Camps and retreats may be hosted by camping centers, annual conferences, districts, or local churches; and the experience therein blesses many with a renewed spiritual awareness of God.

    Like a three-legged stool, I believe these three “nodes” of discipleship combine together to support the overall mission. And I believe that as we intentionally engage these three nodes, we move deeper into our commitment to knowing and following Jesus Christ. As we progress, our Lord inspires (and perhaps compels!) us toward greater personal and social holiness; calling us to new patterns of personal and social behavior aligned with Jesus himself:

    • Experiential Worship, in its best expressions, gives us a glimpse of heaven on earth, compelling us to do what we can to truly fulfill the prayer “Thy will be done on earth…”
    • Intentional Community fosters our growth as agents of change, both within ourselves and for our world, by nurturing and challenging us after Christ’s example.

    • Creative Dislocation removes us from the standard pressures and rhythms of life, allowing us greater space to reflect on our lives, our roles, and the impact we might have toward achieving peace and justice in this world. 

    In re-sharing this with our Camp and Retreat Ministry network, I am keenly aware how our varied UMCRM sites and ministries serve an important role in the spiritual formation of children, youth, and adults. Indeed, several of the 7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry speak to our role in providing “creative dislocation” as an integral part of a holistic approach to spiritual formation! As we Partner with United Methodist Churches and Agencies with our commitment to Provide Sacred Places Apart, Extend Christian Hospitality and Community, and Nurture Christian Faith and Discipleship, our sites’ unique missions, objectives, and ministries serve the greater good of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

    Rev. Ron Bartlow is a member of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, where he serves as co-pastor of Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Flagstaff, Arizona, and as the conference Director for Camp and Retreat Ministries. While he has yet to find a TARDIS, Ron is currently traveling through time, just slowly and in one direction.

    This reflection was originally written for the Desert Southwest Conference and helps inform the “Mountain Pathways” Discipleship Plan at Trinity Heights UMC.

  • 01 Nov 2017 10:01 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Promising young athletes are connected with key coaches, sought out and recruited to excellent teams and sports programs. Promising young scholars’ test scores are shared with top universities, building a pipeline toward future academic success. Who’s responsible for recognizing, “coaching,” and developing promising young disciples of Jesus Christ? What are the key opportunities that will nurture their gifts and build their skills and networks? Could we more intentionally build faithful young Christian leaders through whom God will transform the world? Could churches, camp and retreat ministries, campus ministries, mission agencies, and others collaborate better in their efforts to engage youth and young adults in faith formation? More than 30 United Methodist leaders from these fields of ministry gathered in Dallas to address these questions and look toward a future that more fully embodies a “Culture of Call.”

    The Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship (IFD) is named for the authors of the Disciple Bible study program that has deeply engaged United Methodists and beyond in small group study, transforming the relationship between faith and scripture for many. More recent endeavors of the Institute include the online platform BeADisciple.com, bringing rich virtual learning experiences to participants wherever they are in the world. As part of its newest project, the Timothy Circle, IFD hosted an intentional time of conversation with United Methodist leaders engaged with youth and young adults, with support from AFTE, A Foundation for Theological Education. Guests were invited to meet at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas from camp/retreat ministries, campus ministries, and local church ministry with young people. UMCRM participants included Kim Bell (Glisson, N.Georgia), Jen Burch, Melissa Cooper (Life Enrichment Center, FL), Laura Goldenbaum-Yang (Don Lee Center, NC), Matt Idom (Lakeview, TX), Jack Shitama (Pecometh, MD), Troy Taylor (Magruder, OR), and Joel Wilke (Horizon, KS). Along with colleagues from campus and local church ministries, the group was joined by “listeners” from IFD, UMC Discipleship Ministries (including UMCRM’s Kevin Witt), the Perkins School of Theology and Southern Methodist University, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), Project Transformation, and several others involved with missions and faith formation opportunities with young people.

    The conversation began on the subject of “call,” coalescing in a collective definition that expanded the meaning far beyond callings to ordained ministry. As a group, participants shared a strong belief in the “priesthood of believers” and the idea that every person can live in the service of God and participate in the transformation of the world through Jesus Christ. The conversation moved to sharing specific ways that various ministry settings may (and do!) cultivate the awareness of a call in those they serve. It was touching to observe the passion and excitement with which participants described their ministries. The ideas that surfaced are too many to list: campus ministries collaborating with mission agencies, connecting students to seminaries, helping to recruit camp/retreat ministry staff, camps that are training worship leaders and Christian educators, service learning retreats that partner camps, campus, and community, internships that connect students back to local churches. There are so many exciting programs and opportunities available to youth and young adults, but how do they learn about them? Who are the connectors?

    It was humbling, at times, to realize the untapped potential for collaboration among ministry areas. Camps, campus, and churches often operate with limited resources and fall into functioning as “silos,” disconnected from sisters and brothers who share many of the same goals. The metaphor of “passing the baton” as in a relay race became a key touchpoint as we realized that the “handoff” is often a place where the metaphorical baton gets dropped. How are camps & retreats receiving youth group members, Sunday school kids, etc.? How do camp/retreat leaders connect young people coming “down from the mountain” from our experience and re-entering their church, family, and community? How do churches and camps hand off the metaphorical baton when a young person heads off to college? How are we connecting promising disciples with the next step in their path of faith formation? The experience of the Call Cultivation conversation deepened our commitment to working better together. Keep an eye out in your region for extensions of the conversation. Or start your own! How well is your ministry aligned with others in the local church, on campus, and in missions and community? Does your Annual Conference have a Vocational Discernment Coordinator?

    IFD’s new Timothy Circle is an emerging resource that aims to connect young people with mentors and opportunities oriented toward this goal. The project includes a searchable online database (going live in 2018) of resources and opportunities for students exploring and clarifying their call. It features training and community for local church mentors engaged in helping young people on that journey. Registration is already open for the Mentor Training courses through BeADisciple.com in early 2018. The different aspects of the Timothy Circle will come together through a phone app that will act as a portal to connect young people (and those who support them) to community, resources, and opportunity listings. Camp and retreat ministries will be encouraged to participate in the Timothy Circle by listing leadership training programs, internships, mission/service experiences, and other faith formation and call-cultivation opportunities. UMCRM leaders can also be key points of connection and avenues for communication and collaboration. Let's become better handlers of "the baton" of young disciples, running with intention the race that's before us and practicing our handoff skills so no one gets dropped along the way. 

    Jen Burch is the part-time Administrator for the United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association.  A former UMC camp Director, she works from her home office near Denver and delights in supporting and connecting the UMCRM community. Full disclosure: Jen edits this blog and the weekly S'more Mail e-news. Jen also has joined the Timothy Circle team to help coordinate organizational partners. 

  • 18 Oct 2017 5:04 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Abi Fuesler is currently attending Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, where she is pursuing a degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education with minors in Business and Environmental Studies. Abi is the youngest member on the UMCRM Association Board of Directors and is the biggest fan of Frosted Flakes in the entire Western Jurisdiction. Abi has been passionate about camping ministry since the first grade, when she knew that she was called to be a camp counselor. When she isn't at camp or studying, Abi is FaceTiming her chihuahua, who is living at home with the rest of Abi's family in San Diego, California.

    In an effort to learn more about why camp is special, I interviewed my best friend, Maya McLeod, whom I met at Camp Cedar Glen in Julian, California 11 years ago. As long-distance friends for all but one of those years, camp was the one week out of my year that I was guaranteed to spend time with her. Now that we can't have that time as campers, I cherished a little time with Maya to reflect on our experiences. After conversation regarding Maya’s recent wisdom teeth extraction, the following discussion ensued:

    Abi: So Maya, what do you think it was about the camp atmosphere that allowed our friendship to form?

    Maya: Well, for one you’re just dropped off with random strangers. We could put our best foot forward in our effort to make friends. Plus, you’re living in community with these people 24/7 for a week.

    A: Without technology, too, you really have to connect with people.

    M: Yeah. I feel like it’s that "we’re all in this together" mentality. Like the bugs might be crazy one year, and as unpleasant as that is, it’s a shared experience that a group of people who were initially strangers are having together. That’s one way that I will always be able to relate to those people.

    A: How has camp impacted your spirituality?

    M: I think being in nature is where I feel most spiritual because I’m away from distractions and I can really see the beauty of God’s work.

    A: That’s a good one. I think one of the reasons my faith is strong is due to my counselors. I was surrounded by these cool 20-year-olds and I realized I wanted to be like them. When they displayed their spirituality during campfire or praying before a meal, young Abi saw people with strong Christian faiths. I’m sure part of me was aware that if I was going to be a positive influence in others’ lives, I should really look towards Christianity as a guideline for how to be that positive influence, if that makes sense.

    A: Why do you think UM camping is something that needs to continue happening in the world?

    M: It’s so much more rewarding than doing a “craft camp” at the church or a YMCA thing. It’s like you get that same experience of making friends and getting away from home, but gain so much more. I can’t explain exactly how it works, but growing as a person and in your faith identity has to be a part of it.

    A: What hopes do you have for the future of camp ministry, Maya?

    M: Oh, gosh. I hope it doesn’t change a lot, honestly. Growth is a good thing, but I hope people know camp doesn’t need the latest gadgets to be a place of significance. Like with all the technology, I feel like it’s just going to turn into glamping, you know?

    A: Yeah, that’s totally valid. I would say, too, that I hope camps do more to be of service to the outside community. Church and camp and the way I was raised and all sorts of things have taught me that being of service is a big part of the Christian faith. It’s easy to feel really fulfilled and stoked on life when you’re at camp, and sometimes when I’m in that mindset I forget that there are others out there who aren’t feeling that fulfillment. I get excited when camps work to serve populations inside of camp that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to that fulfillment, or camps go into the world to reach people that way.

    Thanks to Abi and Maya for giving us a window into their friendship and encouragement in our work to impact young campers' lives.

  • 04 Oct 2017 7:15 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, Florida will host UMCRM’s first week-long Immersion Experience from January 21-26, 2018. A core component for Certification in Camp and Retreat Ministry, this event is open to anyone who would benefit from an immersion into what it means to be a uniquely United Methodist Camp, Retreat and Conference Center.

    New and aspiring Directors and Program Directors, board members, and key staff, as well as students seeking Certification, are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to grow and be nurtured by exploring the following topics:

    • United Methodist Theology and Doctrine

    • History of UM Camp and Retreat Ministry

    • The Seven Foundations of CR Ministry

    • The Social Principles and How They Apply

    • Worship in the UMCRM Tradition (And Daily Worship)

    • Program Development and Faith Formation

    • Tour of the LEC to explore Facilities and Hospitality

    • Budgets, Financial Management, and Conference Treasurers

    • Governance Models/Working with your Board

    • Collaboration with Local Churches and Agencies

    • Best Practices in all the Above

    Perhaps best of all, the event features networking with peers in small groups and growing in relationship with colleagues across the nation, many of whom may become friends and encouragers throughout your ministry.

    Russell Casteel, Camp Executive of the Tennessee Conference and Site Director at Camp Cedar Crest, will direct our week together as well as offering instruction. Your faculty will be United Methodist Camp and Retreat leaders with many years’ experience in our shared ministry and the art of teaching.

    Tuition is $300 plus room and board. The Life Enrichment Center is offering us a 10% discount: double occupancy $301;  $392 for single occupancy.The inclusive cost is $601 (shared room) or $692 (single room). Full payment is due by January 5th.


    Questions? Contact Gary Lawson, Education Chair 731-441-8501

  • 27 Sep 2017 5:44 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Think back to a time that you experienced a deep sense of awe in nature. Recall a time you met God in the outdoors. Do you remember the first time you felt your part was so small in the grand scheme of the universe, yet realized you have a purpose and you are loved?

    Hundreds of schools across the states pack up their fifth and sixth graders and drive them to science camp for a week. Students learn about local wildlife, plant life, and stewardship; they learn about respect, how to work as a team, that they are braver than they think they are. They learn that they are special. 

    Christian camps that program outdoor science schools not only have the opportunity to help students experience moments of awe in nature and provide an open space for questions about the earth and the universe, they have the chance to pour Christ’s love into students without verbally mentioning His name.

    Before working at Mount Hermon, I didn’t realize the great capacity camp actually has to reach people. Aside from summer camp regulars and year-round retreat groups, science camps are reaching a different demographic of students—children that might otherwise never step foot inside a church camp, or any camp for that matter, except for a school field trip.

    I am now in my second year of teaching outdoor science and have experienced dozens of wonderful weeks of students, but one of the students that stands out most in my mind is a boy I taught within my first month at Mount Hermon Outdoor Science School. Eduardo* was a quiet sixth grader who didn’t seem to have many friends. His weight caused him to lag behind during hikes, but I never heard him complain. He paid attention in class but had a way of disappearing into the crowd in large group settings.

    One morning at the creek while all my other students splashed in the water or skipped rocks or hunted for banana slugs, Eduardo knelt by himself in the gravel. When I asked what he was looking at, he showed me some unique pebbles he had gathered. When I praised his find many times over, his shy smile proved his pride. From that moment on, he was my buddy. We didn’t talk much; he just liked to walk near me and show me what he discovered. Every time I encouraged his finds and told him he was a good scientist, he beamed.

    That week at camp, Eduardo and his classmates saw a wild deer for the first time. A hush fell over the chatty sixth graders as they snapped photos with their yellow Kodak cameras. I was immediately humbled.

    The last day of camp as the students hugged me goodbye, some with smiles, some through tears, I glanced over and saw Eduardo standing by himself trying to shield the tears running down his full cheeks. When I told him goodbye and that I was so glad he had been a part of science camp that week, he handed me a rubber bracelet that read the word confidence. I wiped away my own tears at his humble offering and at the fact that these students had experienced something that week that some of them never had before and perhaps never would again. I didn’t know what Eduardo’s home life was like or what he was going back to once he disappeared onto the school bus with dozens of other sixth graders, but I knew that that particular week at camp he knew he was loved. He was told he was smart; he was showed he was valued. I hope he never forgets that.

    Week after week, students jump off their big yellow school buses in utter excitement about camp—a pool, yummy food, scampering squirrels, staying in a cabin with friends, the fact that they’re on a week-long field trip. At the end of the week, students climb back onto those buses having experienced transformation. In some students, the transformation is very clear; in others, we trust that seeds have been planted and that the Gardener will yield a harvest in His time.

    Before working at an outdoor science school, I had no idea of the importance of this kind of program within camps and camp ministry. I am now a huge proponent of it. It provides an incredible opportunity for students like Eduardo and thousands of others who attend science camp each year to experience a week of Christ’s love through the outdoors and to leave camp knowing they are special.

    Do you remember the first time you felt your part was so small in the grand scheme of the universe, yet realized you have a purpose and you are loved? I do. And I hope I never forget that.

    *The name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.

    Genée Morrison and her husband Zane live in Santa Cruz, CA, where they both enjoy teaching at Mount Hermon Outdoor Science School. Although this is their second year in CA, they have deep roots in KY where they spent many summers at Aldersgate UM Camp and Retreat Center, the place their passion for camp ministry was fostered. In her free time Genée enjoys hiking, climbing at the rock gym, and experimenting in the kitchen. Her most recent experiments include eggplant gravy and pistachio pancakes. Genée also serves on the UMCRM Association Board of Directors.

  • 20 Sep 2017 9:21 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Do you already send postcards to past campers?


    Instead of a preprinted message on the back, why not kick it up a notch with personalized handwritten postcards?  Here’s what has worked for us.


    On the first day of camp, take group photos of cabins or the whole camp and email the pictures and camper addresses off to a local print shop to be made. Pick up the postcards later in the week.  After campers leave, summer staff then divvy up the postcards and write a personal message to each camper sharing something specific that happened during their camp week. Store the postcards for sending nearer registration in the spring time.  Campers will love getting a personal, specific note from their favorite counselor.

    Joel Wilke serves as the Director of Camp Horizon in Arkansas City, Kansas. He grew up going to camp at Horizon and now he and spouse Lindsay are raising their own 3 camp kids there. Joel also serves on the UMCRM Board of Directors representing the South Central Jurisdiction.

  • 30 Aug 2017 8:23 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Leadership in some key roles in the Tennessee Annual Conference Camping Ministries will be changing soon, and the future looks bright. The Tennessee Conference Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries is pleased to announce that Sarah Ratz will serve as the new Director at Beersheba Springs Assembly starting in September. Rev. Dickie Hinton, who has served over the past 30+ years as a camper, leader, board member, Tennessee Conference Camping Board Chair, Site Director, and as Conference Camping Executive Director, will retire December 31. Russell Casteel, current Director at Cedar Crest Camp, will now also assume the role of Tennessee Conference Camping Executive Director following Dickie’s retirement.


    Ratz (pronounced "Rates") comes to Beersheba Springs with over 10 years experience as Director of Judson Collins United Methodist Center in Onsted, Michigan. She also has served as the North Central Jurisdiction representative to the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association since 2015. Ratz has a positive Christian, team-building style of leadership and a proven record of success in her past professional positions. As the Director of Beersheba Springs Assembly, Ratz will oversee all aspects of the conference center, including hospitality, food service, maintenance, program development and office management. Her leadership will also strengthen partnerships with conference and local church ministries and the local community.


    "I'm beyond excited to join the Tennessee Conference and the amazing staff at Beersheba Springs Assembly in ministry," said Ratz. "I believe that God has been preparing me for this role and I'm looking forward to all of the amazing ways that God will continue to move at Beersheba."

    Ratz will work closely with Russell Casteel in his new Executive Director role to further the mission and ministry of Beersheba Springs Assembly and Tennessee Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries. Russell says,

    I could not be more excited to have Sarah with us in Tennessee. She is a camp professional, and I know that leaders and camps around the country appreciate her gifts and graces in camp and retreat ministry. Sarah is a perfect fit at Beersheba Springs to carry the torch that Dickie Hinton helped keep lit for so many seasons. I’m forever grateful for our United Methodist connection and our camping certification program. From Mississippi to Michigan and now to Tennessee we get to share in connectional work together!  If not for that program, I would never have met Dickie OR Sarah; now I have the joy to call them friends in ministry and do the good work of camp and retreat together with trusted colleagues. Thanks be to God for our connection!


    A farewell for Sarah in Michigan is being held this Sunday September 3, at Springville UMC from 2-5pm. The church is located at 10341 Springville Hwy, Onsted, MI 49265; (517) 467-4471.


    Please help us welcome Sarah to Tennessee in just over a week! Her new email is sarah.ratz@tnumc.org.

  • 09 Aug 2017 10:09 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Six years ago, I began my current role within United Methodist Camping and Retreat Ministries. Four years ago, I became a first-time parent to a creative and hysterically witty little girl. Two years ago, I became a mother of two, when our smart and daringly brave son was born. And in all of that time, I have been trying to find the perfect balance between my responsibilities at work and my responsibilities at home. I have read articles and listened to podcasts. I have watched motivational speakers and tried numerous step by step guides. And I am excited to share with you what I have found.

    First, the bad news - The main strategies for work/life balance that are out there… well, they just don’t always work for camping and retreat leaders! Balancing work and family is hard within any field, but this task is uniquely difficult for us in CRM. It is uniquely difficult to “have a consistent schedule” when a counselor knocks on your door in the middle of the night with a camper who needs to go to the ER. It is uniquely difficult to “separate work life and family life” when you are experiencing a family struggle, with dozens of prayer warriors right at your fingertips. It is uniquely difficult to “use time more wisely” when a really good worship or board meeting is going an hour long because the Holy Spirit is moving folks in life changing ways. And they say to “reserve weekends for the family” well, .. HA!

    However, here are some strategies that I have found or created that are working well for this camping leader’s family:

    Acknowledge guilt, but then release it.

    I took a yoga class in college, and as one who has always struggled to maintain focus, the meditation at the end was always the hardest part for me. Tell me to touch my big toe to my ear and I’m on it! Tell me to lay still and think only about my pinkie-finger for five minutes, forget it. But then the instructor said something that has continued to stick with me in various parts of my life. “If you find your mind start to wander, acknowledge the thought, but then release it.” He was telling me not to get frustrated that I couldn’t maintain focus. He made it clear that it isn’t wrong for my mind to wander; it is natural for our minds to wander. But the most important part of what he said was, “… then release it.” Those few words were incredibly empowering. I realized that I had control over whether I would be consumed by a thought or whether I would allow it to pass and focus once again on what I wanted to focus on. Bringing it back to work-life balance – There are times when I know my work is going to take a back burner to my family and there are times when I know my family isn’t going to see me for days at a time. That is my reality; and with it comes a tremendous amount of guilt. However, just learning to acknowledge that reality and embracing what I can and (most importantly) can’t do, has dramatically lowered my stress level. Society puts so much pressure on both women and men to be perfect in every aspect of our lives. Every project we start should succeed, every dinner should be delicious and served on time, everything your supervisor asks of you should be met with an enthusiastic “yes,” every child should be well behaved and aging parent should be healthy, and it should all be meticulously documented on Facebook. But no one can live up to that expectation. I cannot do everything that is asked of me. You cannot do everything that is asked of you. (Heck, this blog post was submitted a week late for a variety of reasons.) Just knowing that true reality, I can make much better decisions on where and how I spend my time. Although I know that there is guilt that comes along with making those cuts and calculated sacrifices, I also know that this feeling is completely natural. I cannot avoid the guilt, but I can decide if I am going to let that guilt consume me, or if I am just going to acknowledge it and then release it and bring my focus back onto the things that I can do and accomplish.

    Build your network/team

    We talk about team building all the time at camp; and just by being a part of UMCRM, you are intentionally building your network. I hope somewhere on your office desk or on your computer you have a list of volunteers that you can call on in an instant and they will be at your camp getting things done that need to be done. I have learned that building that same type of network around my family is just as important as it is in my work life. But this is another one of those uniquely difficult things to do as a camping and retreat leader. For me, and I know for the majority of you, my career has taken me hours away from our relatives. My spouse and I don’t have the luxury of calling on grandma to come babysit when we both have an evening meeting. So some creativity has been needed to create our team of support. For us, it comes in the form of a flexible daycare center and strong bonds that I have formed with co-workers. Currently, our babysitter is the daughter of our Conference DCM. But most importantly our team relies on the unconditional support that my spouse and I give to one another. He does not get frustrated when I come home an hour later than normal, I will happily leave work early if he has an unexpected meeting pop up, etc. We are each other’s number one supporter.

    Embrace work/life integration

    The last strategy that works for me goes completely against the standard recommendation of creating separate times for work and family. As camping and retreat leaders we work in a unique environment where children and family are embraced, allowing for a healthy work/life integration. My work often comes home with me and often my family can be found at my work. After my parental leave was over, my babies came with me to work for an additional six weeks. My office looked like a nursery, but those who came to meet with me, from the Bishop to donors, were never once bothered. All online or phone meetings that are scheduled in the evenings are done from my home. My children can often be seen poking their little heads into the picture. And although they might not be able to articulate exactly what I do, my children can see their mom working hard to make a difference in the world.

    If you are finding it a challenge to balance your life at home with your life as a camp/retreat leader, know that you are not alone. I encourage you to find relief in acknowledging guilt but then releasing it, get creative in building a family network around you even if it looks different from a traditional family network, and try to embrace a work/life integrated lifestyle instead of resisting it.

    Jessica Gamaché serves at the Conference Camping Coordinator for the Western PA Conference. She is a Northeast Jurisdictional representative on the UMCRM Board of Directors. She enjoys spending time exploring nature ... all her time exploring nature!

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