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  • 18 May 2022 9:29 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    What is the soundtrack of your summer camp season? Is it largely the same as it was 50 years ago? The sound of rustling trees, children's laughter, waves lapping the shore, buzzing insects, screen doors slamming, clanging cookware, lawnmower, cheering, dinner bell, lifeguard's whistle... many of the background sounds of camp have stood the test of time. But what about the music? 

    Singing is an integral part of most camp experiences, especially at church camp. We have traditions of sung meal graces, songs for worship, songs for campfire. Some of us sing on hikes and even for announcements. There's always singing at our talent shows and end-of-camp performances. Guitar accompaniment and a cappella songs (including the rowdy "repeat after me" variety) have been standard fare from our camps' earliest years.

    A recent article from Nelson Strickland on the Summer Camp Society blog got me thinking about how the soundtracks of our camps get changed and updated. In "Five Simple Ways To Step Up Your Music Game This Summer," Nelson, a former DJ turned full-time camp pro, challenges camp leaders to think outside of our usual boxes in choosing music for camp. He reminds us that recorded music can be a powerful way to set a mood and bring people together. Unlike the soundscapes mentioned above, recorded music is a somewhat newer addition to camp life. Depending on your site, sometimes music is played to set the tone for a large-group gathering. Maybe staff listen to music while working in the kitchen or shop. Perhaps your program includes a camp dance. Is there music for cookouts, swim parties, or dining hall meals? Is music played on the bus? Who gets to choose those tunes? Who decides what's "church camp-appropriate"? Are counselors allowed to play music in cabins or in program areas? If your camp plays music in any of these ways, Nelson invites us to expand our playlists. Are there familiar TikTok songs that work for camp? Do your playlists include music from other cultures? If you have international staff, let them curate a collection for you! What's comforting, happy music for your campers? – is it K-pop or hip-hop? Trying new things and being inclusive are generally-shared values at our camps, but does that extend to our musical choices? Nelson's "Five Simple Ways" introduced me to unfamiliar genres of Lo-Fi and Kidz Trap. What else might we be missing? 

    Just as we're challenged to expand our playlist repertoire for recorded music, I also encourage summer camp leaders to review the standby songs we sing. As you know, "we've always done it that way" isn't a great reason to keep doing it the same old way. Here are some questions to spark conversation with your team:

    • Are there some traditional songs that no longer meet the cultural and educational goals of our ministry? 
    • Are there lyrics that feel insensitive these days? 
    • Do the religious songs we sing reflect the theology we actually want campers to learn? 
    • How can we introduce new favorites that reflect cultural literacy and align with our camp's mission? 
    Let this be a fun, ongoing challenge for your camp's staff. These conversations and the sharing of songs and playlists can break down barriers, help us learn about each other, and expose us to new worlds through music. 

    Camp Dickenson in the Holston Conference curated a fun Spotify playlist that provided some camp-nostalgic listening during the pandemic in 2020. Check it out here  If your camp has publicly-accessible playlists, please link them in the comments below.


    Pictured: Author Jen Burch sings with campers at Camp Alta Mons (VA), circa 1992.

  • 24 Mar 2022 12:17 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    2020 turned our lives upside down. And it turned the world of camping upside down. It opened the floodgates that were already on the verge of breaking. Those gates? Hiring summer staff. Already we had seen a notable trend of summer staff giving one or two quality summers, but we were finding it harder and harder to get those “lifers” (people who spend all of their college summers at camp, even some prior if they came through our developmental program). Staff hiring and recruiting now played such a pivotal role, as turnover was increasing with every passing summer. Pre-pandemic, we had to contend with requirements from school (e.g., mandatory internships, summer classes, and studying abroad). These school requirements factored in with staff pay and the need to find someone to sublet apartments they were already contractually obligated to, required extra effort on the part of camp leaders; still, hiring was hard but manageable. 

    Anytime we go to a career fair, developmental hangout, or just see fellow camp people in the outside world, one of the first questions that seems to be asked is “how is hiring going?” Summer camps are similar to a lot of the workforce, having a rough time finding staff willing to work and commit to the time we hope for. To adapt, camps are being flexible, hiring for partial summers, reworking programs in order to run with fewer staff.  However, these strategies are not necessarily sustainable or a healthy practice, and are contributing to turmoil and turnover like never before seen in the camping world, even for year round staff. This all sounds grim and tough, and quite frankly, it is. Camps are setting records with camper registrations and gaining traction through marketing efforts, but it’s challenging to envision having the full staff required to serve a growing camper population.

    Camp Tekoa (Western NC) was able to find a new light and hope for encouraging retention once we have staff, in addition to being a powerful recruiting tool. That light? ALUMNI!!! Alumni are the backbone of camp. They are the ones we admire, learn from, and who continue to move forward to carry out the mission of camp. Each of Tekoa’s alumni has impacted hundreds of kids while their own lives are forever changed. Alumni are the reason we have some staff today. They are the reason those “lifers” who grew up as campers decided to give back and work on staff at their home camp. Alumni have a passion for camp that they love to share. In order to fundraise and endure the brunt of the pandemic, our camp relied heavily on reconnecting relationships and leaning on our enduring supporters. This experience led us to realize that our alumni are the reason we still run today; they are the ones we will piggyback off of for generations to come. This realization led us to the logical next step: connect summer staff alumni back to camp in a physical and spiritual way.

    With this realization, and considering the staffing shortage we were facing, we decided to invite former staff to return to camp during staff training. They would reconnect with current staff in order to create a positive experience, increase retention rates, and help us to recruit new staff. Our Alumni Panel gathered people from various backgrounds. Together in one place, an accountant, a banker, youth leaders, a program director at a retirement home, and several teachers all were able to share about how their time at Tekoa has helped them with life after school and enriched their professional lives. We hoped that hearing their stories would help to eliminate the stigma that “camp isn’t a real job.” Yes, camp is fun, but it is also transformational. We used the personal connections with alumni to show the importance of camp and how the summer staff experience is worth so much more than the monetary value. Hearing encouraging words from our veteran staff helped ease nerves for current staff, to feel more comfortable for the road ahead that summer. The Alumni Panel experience also provided personal connections with someone in their line of work who shared the common factor of being transformed at Camp Tekoa. Due to the overwhelmingly positive outcome, we expect to continue offering this enriching program for years to come. 

    Be inspired by a few quotes from alumni about their time at camp:

    “I became a teacher. I was not intimidated when responsible for a large group of kids and I never ran out of activities to do with them. It’s also super helpful to know how to let go and be confident in front of any group of people”

    - Julie Noblitt, former camper and counselor

    “I just graduated from Law School! Tekoa (and John Isley) taught me how to be efficient while also going with the flow”

    - Jo Harcombe, former ropes course facilitator

    “When I couldn’t figure out a way to work as a FGL forever so I became a doctor instead. Tekoa summers taught me to take risks and what it feels like to do something you love. Also, how to lead a group and to be a person the vulnerable rely on and look up to.” - Dr. Lindsey Prewitt, former counselor

    “I currently work as the Volunteer Coordinator at Henderson County Habitat for Humanity. Tekoa inspired my desire to do mission-based work. My time at Tekoa helped to uncover a passion for people and a drive to get community members involved in something larger than themselves”

    - Kayler Debrew, former backpacking resource and counselor 

    “I started my fourth (and final) year of medical school with hopes to specialize in anesthesia. As an FGL at Tekoa making quick bonds with campers and providing parental trust and reassurance parallel the patient population about to receive surgery and entrusting they will be kept safe and comfortable”

    - Lucy Howard, former counselor and Logistics Coordinator

    Special thanks to Camp Tekoa’s Program Intern, Will Busch, for sharing this story. “WillyB” is well-known for his loud singing of "Brown Squirrel" and his creative program planning for family groups. His passion has been being a Family Group Leader (FGL) because he believes that is where the magic of camp happens. Will studied Sports Management at Western Carolina University. He can be found around camp planning schedules, creating social media or slinging some disc golf discs (every shot is a hammer!)

  • 23 Mar 2022 10:30 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    In mid-February, the UMCRM Association received word that it was granted one million dollars from an anonymous family foundation to distribute to United Methodist Camps & Retreat Ministries in the U.S. The goal of the gift was to enable individual sites and ministries to take one significant step in the 2022 calendar year toward long-term impact and sustainability. What a joy to be invited to invest in a thriving future for camping and retreats in the United Methodist tradition! As nonprofit organizations, many of the 183 UM-affiliated sites in our network do big things with small dollars, creatively stretching shoestring budgets while continuing to innovate to meet the needs of today’s youth, families, church, and communities, maintain and develop historic properties, and support the church’s transformational mission. As camps and retreats rally to return from Covid shutdowns, minister with a changing church, and provide sacred places of renewal in challenging times, it is rare to be invited to dream big and imagine what might be possible for our ministries’ future. The 2022 Ministry Impact Grant was just that invitation. 

    When it was announced that UMCRM had secured the grant of $1,000,000, our members responded with enthusiasm, submitting proposals totaling $4,000,000! The review team realized that meant that only 25% of the projects could be funded. Faced with the prospect of saying “no'' to the majority of applicants, the grantors were moved by the vision and hope represented in those proposals. The compelling and wide-ranging requests received from United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries from across the country provided a window into the vast reach of our sites and programs and the untapped potential for impact. We serve a God of abundance, a Christ who served multitudes with simple loaves and fishes. Hope, vision and generosity of spirit are contagious. The UMCRM Association’s advocacy provided inspiration and context for the ministry impact that might be accomplished through offering more “yes”es. In the process, we were able to secure an additional $1,500,000, more than doubling the original gift, for a total of $2.5M from the granting foundation! The UMCRM Association is thrilled to distribute the grant funds in the coming weeks to the projects listed below. Collectively, United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries will broaden our impact in reaching more people with the love of Christ for a thriving future. Praise to the God who multiplies loaves and fishes. May we be worthy stewards of the great gifts entrusted to us. Stay tuned in the coming months as projects are completed and together we celebrate all that these ministries have been able to build and accomplish.

  • 17 Feb 2022 9:53 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The Solomon Cramer Fund was established to provide scholarships for youth to attend United Methodist camp experiences. Annual Conferences, camp ministry sites, and/or programs are invited to apply. 

    The deadline for grant application submission is March 18, 2022. Award recipients will be notified by April 1st. All approved grant projects must be completed by October 31, 2022. 

    In order to maximize the impact of scholarships for youth to attend Conference-related camps, the funds will be distributed to Conferences or ministry organizations to use for scholarships rather than directly to individuals. The recommended priorities of the scholarship grants will be for camp experiences that focus on one or more of the following dimensions:

    1. Minister with youth living in poverty

    2. Intentionally develop young people for spiritual leadership and/or leadership within camp/retreat ministry

    3. Camp experiences that collaborate with local churches and agencies in processes of faith formation

    4. Opportunities for increasing racial/ethnic diversity within ministry participation and leadership

    Special consideration will be given to United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries or groups collaborating with their local UM camp/retreat ministries to launch new programs and opportunities related to the priorities above. Grants may also be given to existing programs that are adding new components that engage youth in ways directly related to the priorities of the fund.

    The funds received by a Conference or camp/retreat ministry must be used solely as scholarships for youth to attend the specific camp experiences outlined in their application for the scholarship grant.

    Each applicant for a grant must submit the official application form and send an evaluation within 30 days of the completion of the project for which the funds are granted. A completed evaluation is required in order to remain eligible for future grants.

    Grant recipients will be sent a “Good Faith Agreement” outlining the terms of the grant. A signed “Good Faith Agreement” must be returned before the grant award can be distributed.

    Proposals will be evaluated on their direct application to the priorities of the fund. Grant requests that are approved may or may not receive full funding depending upon the amount of funds available in a given year and the number of requests received. It is not intended that a grant from this fund will cover 100% of the cost, but assist with other funding sources to enable attendance.

    Important considerations as you prepare your application:

    1. Grants are usually in the $500-$3,500 range so that the greatest number of applicants can be assisted.

    2. Use these funds to challenge local donors. Applications that consider a Solomon Cramer Award to be a “challenge” or “matching funds” are looked upon favorably. In other words, it is preferred that the grant not be an initiative’s sole source of funding.

    3. When possible, the grant committee seeks to use the Solomon Cramer Grants to leverage the ministry goals of UMCRM in developing leaders especially among currently underserved and underrepresented ethnic populations. The Association would like to follow up with newly-identified leaders in camp/retreat ministry. Successful applicants minimally agree to forward names and contact information of identified leaders so they may be added to UMCRM’s S’more Mail and made aware of regional and national training and educational opportunities and scholarships. 

    Contact UMCRM Development Chair Jeff Parsons with questions: jeff.parsons@umcrm.org  989-883-2501

  • 09 Feb 2022 10:30 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    If you could fund one project this year to elevate the future sustainability and impact of your camp/retreat ministry, what would it be? 

    All United Methodist camp and/or retreat ministry organizations are invited to submit a grant proposal for funding through the new 2022 Ministry Impact Grant. Secured by UMCRM, this $1,000,000 in foundation grant funding is to be used to move our ministries toward lasting missional impact. Knowing that each of our ministries is different and the needs at each site are unique, grant proposals are not limited by amount requested nor for what purpose. One site may need funding for leadership development, while another may need a capital improvement project, consultation on a master site plan, etc. 

    For help discerning the type of project that might bring the most value to your organization, join next week's 2-hour UMCRM Community Conversation on Monday, February 14th. Kathy Trotter, former camp/retreat and nonprofit consultant and strategic visioning specialist, will help us think through project possibilities by determining how to measure sustainability for continued impact.

    While project types are not limited, there are a few requirements to keep in mind as you consider applying for a 2022 Ministry Impact Grant:

    • All grant funded projects must be completed during this calendar year. Any funding that is not spent by December 31st, 2022 must be returned to the Association. 

    • All proposals are due by midnight on Tuesday, March 8th

    • Proposals must be no longer than one page and submitted as a pdf through the Proposal Submission Link. Proposals longer than one page will not be considered.

    • A Project Report will be required at the completion of all grant funded projects.

    In order to remove bias from the selection process, the selection of approved proposals will be done by a small group of United Methodist camp/retreat ministry advocates and representatives from the granting foundation. This group’s priority is to ensure the funding makes as broad of an impact as possible. They will be looking for the following information in the proposals:

    • A summary and timeline of the project.

    • Amount required to complete the project and the total amount being requested.

    • The outcomes or impact that this project will have on the long-term effectiveness of your organization.

    While UMCRM cannot guarantee that all project proposals will be funded, this opportunity comes as a blessing to our whole community. When any of our ministry organizations are strengthened, we are all strengthened. When our ministries thrive, camps and retreats will be able to continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are excited to see what will grow from this investment in the future of these ministries entrusted to our care.

    Please direct questions about the grant to UMCRM Association Director Jessica Gamaché

  • 09 Feb 2022 9:40 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    It’s February – solidly in the middle of off-season for bees in Iowa. The honeybees that remain in Iowa are tucked in for the winter, clustered together and slowly flexing their wings to keep their hive warm, each taking their turn rotating to the outside of the cluster to allow others further inside the cluster to warm up. They’re slowly working their way through the honey stores they put up for the winter, just waiting for a warm enough day to go out for a cleansing flight, to catch a bit of sunlight, and maybe to find an early bud from which to source some nectar or pollen.

    My bees don’t get that slow season. As other beekeepers are preparing their hives to over-winter in sometimes sub-zero temperatures, my husband is preparing our bees for a trip out west. Our bees, during the typical off-season, gather with other hives from all across the country in California to pollinate almonds! Instead of being tucked in for the winter, they’re busy going from one blossom to the next in acres of almond orchards. And instead of just beginning to stretch their wings in April, they’re coming back to Iowa full of the nectar and pollen they collected, just bursting at the seams and ready to grow.

    That gathering of honeybees reminds me some of the UMCRM National Gathering that was held this fall in Pennsylvania. Fall is typically our off-season, so we gather with our friends from all across the country to work on a shared mission: to resource, advocate, inspire, and network to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of camp and retreat ministries! And when we return home, we’re bursting with ideas to grow our camps and make them better and stronger to serve our campers.

    If almond farmers didn’t bring in bees from all around the country to pollinate their trees, the world would sadly have many fewer almonds. And if we didn’t all come together through UMCRM, we wouldn’t be as easily able to share ideas, learn from one another’s successes and failures, and may not bear as much fruit.

    Our individual camps are similar to individual beehives – each one can stand alone and function on its own. It will bear fruit, or rather, honey, without interacting with other hives. But the reality is that we do interact and help each other to grow. When a hive is looking weak, a beekeeper can go into another hive and take a few frames of brood (soon-to-hatch bees) and move them into the weaker hive to help it grow. And so it is with our association: when our camp and retreat ministries need new and refreshing ideas, we can visit our camp friends and bring revitalized ideas back into our own spaces.

    Each hive has one queen. That queen is responsible for laying up to 1500 eggs per day in the summer while the nectar is flowing. If the queen is damaged or dies, the entire colony may collapse. But as long as the hive is queenright (meaning the queen is present), that one bee can keep the hive happily humming along all year long. Come fall, the colony begins to pare down the number of bees in the hive. Fewer are needed to get through a long, cold winter. But those that remain must be hearty to begin to re-grow the hive in the spring.

    The queen is like the leadership of your camp – maybe not just the director, but the whole team. It’s important to have healthy leadership to keep camp growing and thriving. The core leadership team is much like the smaller cluster of bees that takes the queen and hive into the wintertime. They’ll spend all of the off-season diligently working through the projects that need to be accomplished, so that when spring rolls around, they’re ready for summer staff to arrive and campers to be on site.

    Now about those 1500 eggs the queen lays each day – nearly all of those are the female worker bees. In the summertime, those bees live only about 45 days. They literally work themselves to death. Each bee will bring in approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her entire life! The worker bees will go through many phases in their short lives: janitor, nurse, construction worker, undertaker, security guard, and breadwinner. Do you ever see your campers go through many phases in the short time that they’re with you? Perhaps going from shy to homesick to building confidence to not wanting to leave? We see similar types of campers each week as the camp population turns over. As the summer goes on, our skills refine and grow to better meet the needs of our campers.

    I believe our association and our camps are all just as sweet as honey! May we all come to appreciate the beauty and blessing of these wonderful insects God gave us. We can learn a lesson or two from these sweet creatures.

    Shannon Bardole-Foley has been camp registrar and fundraising assistant for Iowa United Methodist Camps for 4 years. She also keeps Russian honeybees with her husband, Jason, who produces queen bees for a living.

  • 02 Feb 2022 9:08 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    People of color and racism against them have deeply shaped the history of our denomination. Monday’s Community Conversation explored that history and provided space for camp and retreat leaders to talk about how those realities impact the ministries that we lead. 

    The group began with establishing ground rules for the meeting:

    • Do No Harm

      • Think before you speak

      • Beware of judging yourself and others harshly and unfairly

    • Do Good

      • Own your thoughts and beliefs by using “I” statements

      • Listen with a compassionate and curious heart to others especially when their experience and views are different from yours

    • Stay in Love with God

      • Pray for one another and this gathering

      • Be faithful in word and deed to your commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ

    (from GCORR’s “Racial Justice Conversation Guide”)

    We opened with this prayer, adapted from a prayer created by Rev. Amy Stapleton:

    God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, it is indeed YOU that has brought us thus far. As we gather together to discuss the difficult history of racism that has and continues to impact camp and retreat ministries, make us mindful of the gift of life in spite of the hate present in the world. Remind us of the goodness of people in spite of the sins that we commit against one another—sins that come from brokenness and our own inability to see you reflected in each other.

    Forgive us, God, for the ways in which we have been complicit in creating anything other than the Beloved Community. Make us ever mindful to do the work of justice and be a body of peace in this world—a world ripped apart by conflict, war, famine, violence, guns, racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, genocide, poverty, and privilege.

    THIS is a new day you have given us. May we begin again and recommit ourselves to removing barriers where we find them—on state houses and in prisons, on mountaintops and in classrooms, on retreats and in churches.

    We pray to you on this day and all the days ahead to keep us forever in the path.


    Then together the group walked through this timeline (adapted from “Timeline: Methodism in Black and White” distributed by United Methodist Communications)

    View the presentation slides here

    During the conversation, Matthew Williams from Sky Lake (Upper NY) shared this presentation with the group. 

    The key takeaways from “Thoughts Upon Slavery” are:

    • Part I of John Wesley’s pamphlet describes the horrors of modern slavery.

    • Part II brings to light the false notions that Europeans had of Africans.

    • Part III describes just how horrific the journey was from slaves from Africa to the Americas.

    • Part IV is Wesley’s proclamation that there is no moral justification for slavery.

    • Part V is a call to take responsibility for slavery as an abject moral failure.

    As Jeff Wilson (Camp Lake Stephens, MS) pointed out - From the story told through the timeline we reviewed, we can see that its information “can give us tools to address the assumed narrative and what is perceived to be ‘true or having always been.’” 

    The efforts of the United Methodist denomination and its United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries around anti-racism and diversity intend to bring the Church back to the original intent of its founder and God’s calling on our lives to show love and do justice. 

    The following are resources to help camp and retreat leaders dive deeper into justice ministry personally and at their sites:

  • 02 Feb 2022 8:05 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Since 2017, the Solomon Cramer Fund has been sending young people to camp by granting scholarship funds to United Methodist conference camp/retreat ministries. Through these grants, camps have developed innovative programs that reach new people in new places, widening the circle of leadership and campership.

    Scholarship grants from the Solomon Cramer Fund encourage us to consider the breadth of our ministries by focusing on the following four priorities:

    • Experiences that minister with youth living in poverty
    • The intentional development of young people for spiritual leadership and/or leadership with Camp & Retreat Ministries
    • Camp experiences that collaborate with local churches and agencies in processes of faith formation 
    • Opportunities for increasing racial/ethnic diversity within ministry participation and leadership. 
    Special consideration is given to Camp & Retreat Ministries that focus on more than one of those priorities and that are launching new opportunities. 

    Some of the 2020 grant recipients were not able to operate due to the pandemic and opted to defer their grant until 2021. A total of 11 Solomon Cramer Fund grants were received in 2021. 

    • Hope Camp, Jumonville (W.PA): Grant funding supported four weeks at which at-risk youth experienced a safe, loving community at camp. Even a small thing like being able to sit around a table together and share a meal family style is a huge step for many, who often don’t eat dinner as a family and have to worry whether or not there will be enough food.

    • Best of Summer Sampler (BOSS) Camp, Wesley Woods (PA): 4 new campers were able to attend this popular camp week due to scholarship funding.

    • Camp Chippewa (NE) : 25 children from underserved churches were able to participate in a day camp experience. When asked about the impact of the camp, 34% of the campers reported that the camp made a positive impact on their faith. Staff were moved by being able to offer camp ministry, even in a season when COVID-19 restrictions impacted regular residential camp operations.

    • Camp Koronis (MN): Grant funding enabled 33 children from Liberian and West African immigrant families to participate in a camp experience. One camper was excited to learn to swim, and two families joined their local UMCs after their children came to camp.

    • Northern Pines TEENS Camp (MN): Funding enabled increased participation and diversity in the Teaching, Equipping, Empowering, Nurturing Servants leadership camp. A first-time camper on the autism spectrum not only was able to stay all week, but volunteered to help lead worship.

    • High Impact Movement (HIM) at Camp Tanako (AR): Camp partnered with a local youth empowerment organization to provide a place apart where youth could encounter Christ and experience God's Creation through day camp. This summer collaboration has blossomed into a year-round relationship with camp and the HIM community!

    • Semana Latina at Gretna Glen (E.PA): 85 campers deepened their relationship with Christ, fostered healthy peer relationships, and enhanced their connection to ethnic and cultural Latinx heritage.

    • Solomon Cramer Interns at Cal-Pac Conference Camps (CA): Four Hispanic/Latinx leaders received support as they developed leadership skills through hands-on ministry experiences at 3 camp sites. One participant was especially excited to facilitate conversations with campers around issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

    • Camp In The Community (Holston): 40 campers whose families would not be able to pay for camp were enabled to enjoy a day camp experience based in their local church community. 35% of participants did not have a connection to a home church. Among the many benefits of camp, campers got to know pastors and children's ministers in their community.

    • Voyages Day Camp, Camp Don Lee (NC): Camp fostered positive behavior and leadership learning among at-risk youth. Campers and volunteers experienced "the best week of their summer," in a very difficult year, encountering Jesus some for the first time through the dedication and love of the camp staff.

    The 2022 cycle of Solomon Cramer Grant funding will be opening in the next few weeks, so now is a great time to begin dreaming of mission-driven, grant-worthy projects for this coming summer season. Watch S'more Mail for application details and deadlines.

  • 19 Jan 2022 9:03 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Monday’s Community Conversation was all about creating staff teams that work together in a way that brings fulfillment and productivity to each team member and creates "predictable success" for the team as a whole. Ryan Clements of Next Gen Ministries in the Greater New Jersey Conference kicked off the discussion by presenting the work of author Les McKeown, specifically based on the books Predictable Success and The Synergist.

    There are 4 Types of Leadership according to Les McKeown. Ryan presented information about three of the four types; along with examples of ways each of the leadership styles need the others for the team to function well.

    Visionary Leaders are leaders with these qualities:

    • Big thinkers who are excited by ideas
    • Love starting new projects and getting people excited about them
    • Motivate people to be their best
    • Optimists who believe there’s always a way through problems


    • Get bored with the details and small logistics
    • Hate routine
    • Not the best at finishing projects
    • Sometimes prioritize the new over the important
    • Known to go to conferences and come back with 50 new ideas to try right now
    • Don’t work well by themselves

    Operators are leaders with these qualities:

    • Do-ers
    • Dig into the details of projects
    • Can take something apart to figure out what one piece isn’t working to fix it
    • Enjoys working from a task list


    - Visionaries start projects and Operators finish those projects.

    - Visionaries need Operators to translate the vision.

    - Operators need Visionaries for direction and flexibility.

    - When Visionaries and Operators work together there is a lot of fun and growth.

    However, when you have growth, complexity can come with it. This leads to overwhelm for both Visionaries and Operators.This is when the team needs to bring in:


    • Rational, logical, analytical, sequential
    • Love bringing order and organization into your ministry
    • Value routine, systems & consistency
    • Don’t like being rushed
    • Love data-driven decisions (and love collecting data)

    Processors organize and create systems and processes to make Visionaries’ and Operators’ work more manageable.

    Visionaries come up with the vision, the Operators come in to make things happen, and the Processors make sure everything happens smoothly and effectively.

    Case Study - Greater New Jersey Conference’s Next Generation Ministries recently made a shift from departments (Camping, Youth Ministry, Campus Ministry) to staff roles based on Processors, Visionaries, and Operators (Programming, Administration, and Project Management). All of their staff now work with camping, youth, and campus ministries. Visionaries are able to vision all across the board. Administration people are now able to focus on operations and don’t have to stop to think about programming. Project Managers are holding the whole thing together by finding ways to be more

    efficient with processes.


    • People often can function as two or three of these types, but one tends to be a person’s preference.
    • Someone may be strong in multiple types, but we can only function in one at a time.
    • This isn’t the full story. Visionaries, Operators, and Processors will inevitably run into conflict and need a 4th leadership type/style: The Synergist. We would all benefit from growing in the Synergist skills of collaboration and conflict management.

    We had some lively conversation about how these play out at sites in which the Director wears all of the hats. How can seasonal staff, volunteers, and board members contribute to building effective teams that exhibit all of these strengths and skill sets? How can we better delegate different kinds of tasks to those best suited to handle them? 

    Our special thanks to Ryan Clements for sharing his insights and introducing us to this resource. If you have an idea that's been valuable to your camp/retreat ministry that might similarly contribute to a Community Conversation, please tell us about it. Contact Jessica to discuss!

    Just because we’re sharing these recaps doesn’t mean you should skip Community Conversations! If you’re able to attend, your presence, perspectives, insights, and even your listening and your smile are a key part of our community life. Thanks to all who have been a part of these conversations over the past year and a half. The next one will be Monday, January 31st. Hope you’ll join us.

  • 13 Jan 2022 12:56 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Martha Pierce has served in camp, retreat, and youth ministry in many roles over the years, including 15 years at Riverside UM Retreat in southwest Florida, and most recently in an interim role at UM Camp Mekokiko in Hawaii.

    She is trained as a United Methodist EarthKeeper, Lay Servant, Master Naturalist, and a teacher trainer for Project Learning Tree. She resides at the Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center in Tennessee, where she serves as Board Chair. She has one daughter who resides in Knoxville.

    Martha’s commitments to radical inclusion and sustainable Creation care align with UMCRM’s values and will enrich the work of the Association.

    Some "fun facts" Martha shared with us:

    1) I live in an off grid, straw bale home that I built myself.

    2) I love power tools!
    3) After a year of experimenting with free style pottery, my first pieces will be going up for sale this month!  

    We are grateful for Martha’s willingness to help guide the UMCRM Association in a governance capacity, sharing her insight and experience with our community. Please join in praying for her and the other awesome volunteers who commit their time, talent, and treasure to the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Association.

    Drop Martha a word of welcome and encouragement at her new UMCRM email address: martha.pierce@umcrm.org 

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