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  • 26 May 2021 6:40 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Chris Alexander is a longtime supporter of Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center (TN). Chris attended Lakeshore in his younger years as a retreat camper for 5 years. He later was a part of the summer staff for 5 summers. Chris just couldn’t get enough of camp, so he has continued on as a dedicated volunteer, taking care of a variety of tasks. Chris is on our Board of Directors, serving on the Program Committee. Year after year, he helps in training our summer staff. When he is not leading a session in staff training, he is helping our maintenance crew get the facilities ready for summer. Along with two others, Chris leads Senior High Camp each summer. These are just a few samplings of all the work Chris does at Lakeshore. He is a “let’s do it” kind of person, always ready to jump in and do whatever needs to be done. 

    When asked why he is dedicated to giving so much to this ministry, Chris said, “... I love the ministry that is done. It allows kids to be authentically who they are. And I have the greatest friends at Lakeshore.”

    Chris is a great support to the team here. We are incredibly blessed to have him serving alongside us in this ministry.

    Allison Doyle is the Program Director at Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center. She enjoys hikes, sunny days, warm weather, and riding her jet ski!

    • Are there some dynamite past volunteers that your ministry might reconnect with this season? 
    • Are there new ways to utilize volunteers this summer to meet your camp's needs?
    • Is there a special volunteer who blesses your ministry who ought to be publicly recognized and celebrated?

  • 25 May 2021 3:37 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Summer camps are having a challenging time hiring staff this season. Here are some strategies some UMCRM camps are trying: 

    • Leverage past summer staff’s connections (even from years ago). Are they interested in working a week or two? Do they know a young adult who would be great? 
    • Recruit volunteers to make up for paid staff shortfall. Allow them to sign up for one or more weeks. Give them a free week for one child, either theirs or someone else’s.
    • Require churches to send one adult chaperone with every x # of campers coming from their church.
    • Hire staff for shorter durations (2, 3, or 4-week job). Include mandatory staff training as one of the weeks.
    • Share staff with a nearby camp (works well for specific roles like lifeguards).
    • Share staff with a camp that starts later or ends earlier than yours.
    • Recruit international staff.
    • Combine camp weeks to shorten season.
    • Limit registration to a smaller camper capacity.
    • Eliminate some specialist jobs and cross-train all staff for all roles (so everyone’s a generalist and can help in the kitchen, facilitate archery, ropes course, etc.)
    • If you have raised the pay rate at your camp, be sure to mention that in your promotions. 
    • Ask already-hired staff to help recruit from within their networks. Offer a "finder's fee" or special gift for each person they recruit who is hired and completes their term of employment.

    What's working for you as you seek to hire fantastic summer staff? 

    Share your ideas in the comments below!

  • 24 May 2021 2:44 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    May 20th, 2021 – United Methodist camps are gearing up for a full summer of fun, friendship, learning, and faith formation out in God’s creation. After the challenging summer of 2020, when most United Methodist camps were unable to host programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, camp ministries across the United States are delighted to be open for business in 2021.1

    The demand for summer programming for children and youth is high, especially the kinds of opportunities offered at United Methodist camps – outdoors, active, led by trained leaders who prioritize safety and Christian community. Families who have been cooped up at home with virtual school are eager for children to play and socialize with others in wholesome, fresh-air environments, taking a well-earned break from technology screens. Jessica Gamaché, Director of the United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association, observes, “Time exploring faith and independence is what our youth are longing for. Our camps are ready once again to provide safe spaces where that can happen.”

    Churches that have struggled to provide engaging, age-appropriate Christian education for children, youth, and young adults during this difficult year are relieved to know that camps will be doing what they do best, helping those young people encounter God’s good news in experiential, fun ways. Children and camp staff who were devastated to miss their “best week(s) ever” last summer are excited to return to the beautiful forests and shores of their camp to reconnect with friends, with nature, and with the best of summer camp traditions. The isolation, stress, and grief of the pandemic have taken a toll on young people’s mental health,2 for which camp will be a welcome balm. Active days in fresh air and sunshine in the company of other children and near-peer counselor role models can help to provide a social, emotional, and spiritual reset, getting them in touch with connection, peace, joy, and a sense of normalcy that has been largely absent over the past year. 

    Of the nearly 170 United Methodist camps in the U.S., 90% were unable to operate in summer 2020, leading to staff furloughs and massive financial hardships.3 The few camp ministries that were able to offer programming last season provided insights into health protocols and best practices that will inform operations for all camps opening this year.

    A study by the American Camp Association (ACA) provides strong data showing that camps can provide COVID-safe environments through layered mitigation strategies, including small group cohorting, masking and distancing where appropriate, cleaning protocols, and more.4 Camps have been gearing up all year, reviewing guidance from the CDC and ACA, purchasing supplies, and training staff to meet the increased demands of a safe reopening. Many have found it a challenge to hire staff for the summer and are still seeking qualified applicants for seasonal and short-term paid and volunteer positions. Readers who are interested in applying to work at a United Methodist camp or referring a potential staffer should contact their local camp directly.5 

    The United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association encourages churches and communities to pray for your camps now and throughout the summer. Consider providing extra financial and volunteer support as camps seek to surmount every hurdle to make meaningful, wholesome experiences for children, youth, and families in a year when we all need them more than ever. The partnerships among our Association, local health authorities, Annual Conferences, and others affirm the importance and interconnectedness of camping ministries and communities at large. Camps can’t wait to welcome you back to United Methodism’s sacred grounds.

    The American Camp Association maintains a state-by-state map of COVID operating guidance for camps

    Covid stress taking a toll on children's mental health, CDC finds

    Data collected by the UMCRM Association, Summer 2020. Faithfulness In a COVID Summer: How United Methodist Camp/Retreat Ministries Navigated the Summer 2020 Season

    New American Camp Association Survey Demonstrates Camps Can Operate Safely; ACA Camp Counts COVID approach infographic

    Camp Finder Map of United Methodist Camps & Retreat Centers in the U.S.

    Jen Burch (M.Div.) is Association Administrator for UMCRM and edits weekly S'more Mail e-news. Jen is a former Director of several United Methodist Camp/Retreat Centers and youth-serving nonprofit organizations. 

  • 28 Apr 2021 4:00 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Our colleague Jeff Wadley (Camp Bays Mountain, Holston) attended the 4/21/21 webinar hosted by the National Council of Nonprofits. Jeff helpfully shares the highlights:


    Presenters: Joe Tumolo, Tim Sarrantonia, and Amy Silver O’Leary

    National Council of Nonprofits

    April 21, 2021

    This workshop was not specific to faith-based nonprofits or camps, but was a generic briefing on Legacy Giving; however, the presenters offered a few items that were helpful in my setting and likely for yours, as well.

    What is Legacy Giving? 

    Legacy Giving is one part of a total integrated financial plan including annual, capital, operations, etc., but is one that can produce huge dividends and is often overlooked by those in the nonprofit sector, simply due to not knowing how to begin the conversation.

    There are two types of planned giving:

    1. Current outright (transfer of assets during the donor’s lifetime such as from a Required Minimum Distribution from an IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution)

    2. Deferred Gift – testamentary (will/estate gift after death) or life-income arrangement (Charitable Gift Annuity)

    Why should my Camp/Retreat Ministry add Legacy Giving to our fund development portfolio? 

    The majority of your donors’ wealth is not cash-in-pocket but delayed/invested assets.

    It is statistically proven that once a donor names a nonprofit in their estate plan, their annual contributions also increase.

    How Do We Ask?

    The key is to ask a potential donor if they would consider a contribution to camp as a legacy gift that would not interfere with their current cash flow, retirement plan, or family obligations, but would have an enormous impact after they are deceased.

    The “ask” can begin with the question, “Are we in your top five charitable gifts?” and if so, ask the donor:

    • Why do you care so much about us?

    • What would you like to do with your assets that would enrich other people’s lives?

    • How would you like our camp to help you do that?  This is where the donor and asker can develop a plan of intention in the form of a letter or formal declaration of intent in their will.

    Planning Our Asks & Identifying Potential Legacy Givers

    For a Development Officer, Director, etc. who is leading the asks for your camp, it is helpful to set goals in terms of behaviors and results (# number of planned conversations or # amount of a financial goal).

    Make a list of your top ten current donors who are interested in the camp, who are invested in the mission, etc., and simply ask for the opportunity to sit down with them and have a conversation about legacy giving and how you could help the donor think about their legacy and how camp could benefit as well as the donor.

    Other ways to ID potential givers:

    • Who are people who have been affected positively through camp?

    • Who shows up to help at camp?

    • Who are your main volunteers?

    • Who are frequent givers?

    • Who are the largest givers?

    • Who promotes camp?

    • Who is loyal to camp and has no children?

    • All Board members

    The bottom line is that Legacy Giving (as well as all other giving) is dependent on the notion that people are generally philanthropic to what matters to them. All philanthropy rests on the principle that people have a desire to give to things that make a difference.

    At Camp Bays Mountain, we offer a person the opportunity to transfer their financial resources as an opportunity to assure that their values live on after they are gone.

    This goes beyond what was shared in the webinar, but here’s how we are implementing Legacy Giving: 

    • Simple Will – The camp receives cash, property, or a percentage of the donor’s estate after death.

    • Trust Accounts – Camp is the beneficiary of the remainder of a trust account after the death of the donor. There are many types of Trust accounts.

    • Charitable Gift Annuity – A monthly payment is made to the donor until their death from an annuity and the remainder value is retained by the camp.

    Camp Bays Mountain has just started in the past couple of years with planned giving. We have five planned gifts currently; one of those was a Charitable Gift Annuity which after our donor’s death resulted in the camp receiving a substantial remainder gift. The other planned gifts are estate percentage gifts. Our goal is to double our planned gifts by the end of 2021 with a total of ten estate gifts and continue to set these up each year.

    The Holston Foundation is our custodian for stock transfers, charitable gift annuities, and other estate plans. Your conference foundation can assist you in starting a planned/legacy giving plan.

    Contact Jeff for more details: Jeff Wadley, Camp Bays Mountain (Holston Conference)

  • 31 Mar 2021 6:53 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Thinking About Interim Camp Ministry

    What is Interim Ministry? 

    Interim Ministry is a specialized ministry of leadership engaged during transition in an institution, in this case at a camp. The transition may be planned or unplanned. Engaging an Interim Director is recommended: 

    1. after a long-term Director has retired, resigned, passed away, or been terminated; 

    2. when larger structural questions need to be answered before the Director job description can be developed; 

    3. when there has been disruption within a ministry and skills for addressing the result of that disruption are needed; or 

    4. when a Director needs to step out of their role for a specific amount of time for family, health, or other commitments. 

    “One foot in and one foot out,” is a phrase often used to describe the reality as well as the strength inherent in an Interim Ministry season. The interim person can operate both as an Insider working for the organization and as an Outsider who can make decisions without their own livelihood being at stake. Operating with “one foot in and one foot out” can allow the Interim to assess and address structural strengths and dysfunctions. Typically, the Interim has had training in conflict awareness and management such that they can assess the level of conflict within the organization and how best to address it (or not.) Each ministry situation is unique, and the Interim needs to be flexible in order to respond to the situation with its specific history, challenges, and strengths.  

    When might a camp need an Interim Director?

    Typically, Interims can be classified as one of three types, although there are no rigid definitions; and these often overlap.

    1. Placeholder – This describes a situation where a leader is needed to fill a gap, often until a Director returns from a leave or until a new Director can arrive. Even within this small period of time, the Interim can act as a consultant in assessing and reporting observations and suggested changes within the system. Usually, the scope of change expected or allowed during this short term is small.
    2. Consultant – This person acts as an Interim on-site and actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of the site while also creating conversations and offering recommendations to the Board, Executive Director, Bishop, or other supervisor or oversight group. The consulting can be either formal or informal. Expectations for how the consultation proceeds should be established before the interim begins. It can be as informal as regular conversations in which concerns or recommendations are given, as formal as a plan being developed before the arrival of the Interim for intentional feedback, or the Interim giving a final report.
    3. Change Agent – This type of Interim is usually engaged due to an urgent need for crisis intervention or for change that is needed in a quicker timeframe than normal. A few situations where a Change Agent is needed are after there has been a trauma to the system because of a moral lapse or financial or other malfeasance or an unexpected death. Another time when this type of interim might be established would be when a Board or agency establishes a plan that needs leadership skills to make the recommended changes while also creating an organization that will need a skill set different for the Settled* Director than is needed for the Interim Director. This Interim may be the one who is tasked with identifying and reporting the systemic changes needed or may also be given the authority to enact those changes. 

    The United Methodist system in which the Bishop and Cabinet appoint clergy rather than each congregation searching for and hiring and terminating its own pastor means that Intentional Interims are not often engaged in the appointing of pastors as in other denominational systems.  It can be helpful to think of the hiring of an Interim Director as a business arrangement as opposed to an appointment that happens within a structure with already established directives and processes for doing that. United Methodists are often not well-practiced in the processes of intentionally creating job descriptions, interviewing, hiring, welcoming, supervising and engaging, and ending an interim leaders’ ministry. Following are some processes that will help create a more successful interim season. 

    Some nuts and bolts:

    1. Develop a contract or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Interim and the Interim Director’s Supervisor, Conference, or oversight Board. Establish salary, health and other benefits, use of vehicle, reimbursements, time off, etc. within the hiring contract. It is unfair to expect the Interim Director to point out these details to their employer. Whether or not an Interim will be able to participate in a Conference’s pension plan will differ from Conference to Conference, and it is the responsibility of the hiring party to be knowledgeable of their Conference’s pension rules and communicate them before hiring the Interim Director. Also note that this is not the time to try to save some money for the camp. A successful interim season can increase the likelihood that a ministry will thrive, and the person facilitating that ministry should be paid at least as much as the Director coming in. Their salary should, if at all possible, mirror the former Director’s whom they are following. 

    2. Create a formal start date and finish date before hiring the Interim Director and stick to it. Unfortunately, with overburdened Conference staff members or Boards unsure of their role in engaging an Interim, the end date can be pushed out indefinitely when it is not firmly established ahead of time. A vague end date can negatively impact the Interim Director’s leadership, the staff whom they supervise, their personal well-being, and the ministry as a whole.

    3. Create a Welcome Event where the Interim Director is introduced to stakeholders where questions can be engaged both formally or informally defining the parameters of the interim season and the Interim Director’s role. At the end of the interim season, create an Appreciation Event in which the Interim is thanked for their work. These events with write-ups in Conference and other newsletters and social media outlets help supporters understand the role of the Interim as they come into the new role while also establishing boundaries for the completion of that Interim’s role. 

    4. Create a welcoming living situation for the Director so that they arrive to a clean, fresh house with enough food to tide them over for a day or so until they can get settled.

    What does an Interim Director need to succeed? 

    1. A well-crafted, written contract

    2. Support from and easy access to the supervisor or supervisory group

    3. A mutual understanding of the role of Interim by all involved

    4. Ability and freedom to objectively engage the situation into which they are stepping. (Projection and emotionality from past conflicts and mistakes and anxiety regarding the future are expected aspects of interim ministry.)

    5. A mutually agreed-upon and well-articulated understanding of the hierarchy of the context and the level of authority of the Interim Director

    6. Informal support from stakeholders to counterbalance some of the social isolation usually inherent for an Interim Director during the interim season. This can include invitations to worship, coffee, dinners, introductions within the local community, and occasional calls of, “How are you doing?” or “How can I be of help?” or ”How would you like for me to pray for you?”

    7. Kindness and grace given freely

    How long should an Interim stay at one site? 

    Typically, an Interim Director should not serve for more than one summer season. 6-18 months should give a Board or staff person overseeing camping ministry enough time to assess needs, develop a job description, and complete a job search. Overlap between the Interim and successor Director helps to orient the new Director, allows time for the Interim Director to make needed introductions and give needed information, and offers space for the developing and answering of questions as the Interim leaves. Two weeks is typical. The timeline needs to be established ahead of time. It should be long enough for the Director to receive what they need to succeed, and short enough that the Interim Director does not inadvertently create confused or divided loyalties amongst staff or stakeholders through their staying too long.

    What is the role of an Interim Director in choosing the subsequent Director?

    Sometimes, the Interim Director is asked for their expertise in creating a job description and/or a search process if it has not been done previously. The Search Committee or individual in charge of hiring the Director usually conducts the screening of applications and initial interviews, and may bring the Interim Director into the process to meet and answer questions of the final candidates. Often, the Interim Director takes on the tasks of providing hospitality for the finalists’ visits to the site such as providing transportation, getting candidates settled for overnight accommodations, giving a tour of the camp including the Director’s house, introducing the candidates to the staff, offering a tour of the local community, and introducing the candidates to local stakeholders or supporters. Of course, some of these tasks can be done by supporters of the site or members of the Search Committee. However, it is important to include the Interim Director in the final candidates’ introduction to the site. Not doing so can inadvertently send the message to finalists that the Interim Director is not trusted or that there is fear on the part of the Hiring Committee that the Interim Director will give information the Search Committee is hiding. In addition, the opinion of the Interim Director can be sought after the finalists have been interviewed. Often, the Interim Director can give a nuanced assessment based on their experience at the present and previous sites they have led. However, the Interim Director, just as the current staff members, should not have a vote in who is chosen.  

    Can an Interim Director apply for the role of Director?

    The Interim is typically not available for hire in the Director search, in order to allow for their insider/outsider viewpoint. However, if applying for the settled position is a possibility, then this needs to be well-communicated to all parties ahead of the Interim Director’s being hired. If the Interim is allowed to make an application for the settled position, often a term such as “temporary” is used instead. Temporary typically refers to a period which is short-term but does not have a defined ending, whereas interim usually refers to a period of employment during a transition that has a defined ending. Hiring someone as an Interim Director to “see how they work out” invites confusion as to what is actually offered and expected and can lead to assumptions being made within the void of clarity. Each context is unique, so differing arrangements can be successful. However, clear and ongoing communication as plans or processes change is required to avoid incorrect assumption-making and possible legal consequences resulting from differing understandings of verbal promises or changed or broken contracts. 

    What is the role of the Interim Director after they leave?

    The former Interim Director typically is available for short questions or consultations for a month or two after leaving. If more consultation is needed, a MOU or contract with an established rate of pay and process can be negotiated amongst the Board or supervisor, the Director, and the Interim Director. Care must be taken to avoid the undermining of the new Director’s leadership and their developing relationships with staff and stakeholders. A previous Interim’s involvement with former staff or stakeholders or the camp operation should be minimal or only through permission granted by the Director and not engage conversations about the Director’s decision-making or overall ministry. It is also unfair to assume that a previous Interim Director is available to volunteer their time and expertise indefinitely.  

    How do I find an Interim Director? 

    The United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association partners with Lutheran Outdoor Ministries to train previous Directors for interim camp ministry and keeps a list of individuals available for Interim service. While this list does not act as a recommendation or endorsement, the names are typically people who have received Interim training and/or served as Interim Directors in one or more contexts. The same screening processes should be used for hiring an Interim Director as are used for any other position. Interviewing the Interim applicants to identify their strengths and weaknesses to ascertain the best fit should be done along with the checking of references and background check as required by one’s Conference or context for any employee. Contact UMCRM for the list of available interims. 

    What if I am interested in becoming an Interim Director?

    The next Interim Director training is being planned for fall of 2022. In the meantime, contact UMCRM if you would like to be added to UMCRM’s list of available Interim Directors.

    Download Sample Agreement/MOU for Interim Director

    *Settled is a term often used instead of "permanent," as Camp Directors are typically hired with an expectation of 5-10 years of service, not for a lifetime appointment or tenure.  

    Melinda Trotti has served as Director for urban day camps, overnight camps, and retreat centers around the country, as well as Interim Director in several Conferences and denominations. She is currently serving as Interim Director at Lake Lucerne Camp & Retreat Center in the Wisconsin Conference. Melinda is a part of the UMCRM Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leadership team and has led countless workshops at UMCRM events. She is certified as a Spiritual Director and enjoys traveling with her husband David Berkey, long walks in the woods with her dog, Gouda, journaling, and cooking meals from scratch.

  • 24 Mar 2021 8:52 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The email announcing that the 2023 InsideOut design team would be creating our summer camp curriculum over Zoom wasn’t surprising because, well, everyone knows all meetings are over Zoom now. I quickly responded, letting the team know I would do my best to be available again, even if it was through my laptop screen and not at a beautiful camp setting as it traditionally has been. My life as a furloughed Camp Director still managing camp while staying at home with my three year old daughter doesn’t leave me much bandwidth for additional undertakings, but this is one I wanted to show up for. 

    I am one of two United Methodist representatives on the ecumenical team that sets the annual themes with scriptural daily focus for a Christian camp resource used all over the country. Each spring, I have the pleasure of gathering for a handful of days with representatives from other mainline Protestant denominations for this creative process. Together we land on a theme, break it into days, connect it to scripture, then try to explain what’s in our heads for program writers to flesh out into activities and lessons. Because this generally happens with camp people at a retreat center, it feels like a three night camp with long, intense working sessions. 

    The team gets input from United Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and Baptist backgrounds. I’ve always appreciated these people, but over the years I’ve also developed a deep trust in them and our ability to work together and push each other to get at the heart of what we hope each year’s resource teaches. Everyone cares deeply about the finished product, the process of getting there, and each other. I like to think of myself as a new kid on the block in this group, but I walked on in 2013 and have been a part of it most years since. 

    We put this resource together with care for many considerations. We want a curriculum that is somewhat evergreen, yet pertinent to the specific times we’re in. We want an even sampling of scripture from Old to New Testament to attempt to get at the whole story of the Bible. We lean towards story-based scripture because it tends to be easier to work with from a program perspective. We aim to choose stories from the Bible that feature relatable figures for as many people as possible. This has us conscious of how many women have voice, how often the poor have voice, and how much the outsider gets a voice, in addition to the major protagonists. We are mindful of how the presence of Creator, Jesus, and Spirit show up in the theme. We set a goal not to repeat scriptures from previous curricula for at least four years, to cover more of the Bible and stretch ourselves. These considerations keep the team poring through scripture and soul searching. The project is ambitious, which is what we show up for, but wow, it leads to some head-pounding-on-the-table kind of moments to get where we want to go. 

    We discuss, break into smaller groups, take lone walks, talk one-on-one at meals, and have late night epiphanies to bring back to the group the next morning. We have impassioned debates about which scripture best matches a specific day we’re considering. We scrutinize the flow of each day, whether to put the most introspective sessions in the beginning, middle, or end of the week. We worry over how scripture can so easily be used as a crutch or weapon for something that isn’t intended. We get frustrated, we hold on hard to the concepts that resonate deeply with each of us, we explain ourselves – often multiple times – and eventually we let go of some ideas. 

    We all bring strengths, knowledge, and personality to the team and consequently the resource we produce. I see myself thinking often of the young generation’s longings, particularly those campers who are unchurched or struggling with their faith. I play devil’s advocate frequently (though everyone generally gets a turn at some point). I hear my skeptical campers frequently holding me to a higher standard, wanting themes that speak deeply to their questions, their frustrations, their disillusionment, their joys and passions. Everyone on these teams brings with them their social and theological location, and we are constantly tugging each other towards some sort of center. Our hope is, in the end, the Spirit has guided us to a center that includes the perspectives and needs of many different types of people. 

    What we always marvel at by the end of the process is how we manage to come out of the several day meeting with a fully formed theme. We come with nothing on paper and by the end we have a description of the overarching theme, each day with a thought-out progression based on the rhythms of summer camp weeks we all know, a scripture to go with each theme, bullet points outlining what campers will explore in each of those daily themes, and an idea for artwork. All this will be passed on to a team of hired writers to make into a full week of lessons, worship ideas, activity, and many other resources, divided into multiple age groups all with unique lessons. Apply to be a writer

    There’s more than enough for the novice counselor, dean, or Director to have a detailed outline of everything they might do. Even for the more seasoned camp leader who wants to inject their own creativity, this saves weeks, possibly months of work. We know people will tinker with it when they get it. We camp leaders will second guess some of the scripture choices. We know some will switch days around or drop a day altogether and insert a preferred theme there. In fact, we hope people customize the curriculum product to their camp. We hope it can be many things to different camp leaders, but always be inspiring and grounding as summer leaders imagine and plan camp. As it inspires conversations and sessions all over the country, there’s this potential to unite hundreds of mainline Protestant campers in considering a similar set of questions in the same summer. There is such opportunity for discussion and input in this digital, shareable, connected world our campers and staff inhabit. 

    When our Zoom planning concluded this year, our design team still marveled at how we’d managed to cram so much thought and careful planning into a matter of days. Due to the production and publication cycle, we come up with the theme two and a half years prior to its release. I am still amazed at the theme of deep longing experienced as a faith community called “This is Our Prayer,” planned in 2017, that ended up being so timely as the summer 2020 theme. Future themes coming down the mail chute focus on creation reflecting God, naming and identity, and the Fruit of the Spirit. 

    I hope when you use the InsideOut summer camp resources you will catch a glimpse of the ways they have been so thoughtfully and lovingly written. Our ecumenical team of volunteers does what we do because we love it, of course, and because even the act of making it and putting it out into the world is something like camp. Like most of you, I’m stoked to rely on Zoom less in the coming years, to go to a beautiful camp setting, recreate with wonderful people, and be touched by the Spirit through all that. My fingers are crossed that our next planning will be more like that. It’s what we were imagining as we put together the resource. But, we also know from this past year, all our future plans will need to reach far beyond the conventional and be able to meet a changing world. We’re prayerfully seeking that vision as we put these themes together.

    Check it out– I hope it resonates with you, too. I hope the resource helps you in the great task ahead of planning our summers, rooted in our great tradition, while always changing and growing in our faith and understanding. If you use the resource, remember that the design team treasures your evaluations and input so that each successive year is even more useful to you.

    If you want to know more about the process or would be interested in any aspect of the writing team, shoot me a message at troy@campmagruder.org. I’d love to answer deep burning questions, do some storytelling, or nerd out. Many blessings on your thoughts, meditations, and planning for the coming summer and beyond.

  • 24 Mar 2021 7:48 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    My name is Becky Valenzuela, and I am your Childcare Coordinator for the 2021 National Camp & Retreat Leaders' Gathering, "In the Kitchen." This will be my second time serving on the Design Team for the Gathering (I met many of you "At The Table" in Florida in 2019). It is UMCRM's goal to make the event accessible to families and enable caregivers and kids to all have a great educational experience. One way we commit to that is through offering a free childcare program.

    By trade, I am the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at First UMC Torrance in the Cal-Pac Conference, and a teacher. I have spent over 20 years teaching all levels of education from infants & toddlers through high school seniors. 

    This year, with the state of education varying from state to state, we are looking at childcare through a new lens. If your children are still in virtual classrooms and will be attending the event, we will be working to set up a classroom type environment for them to complete their needed school work. If your children are not yet in school, we will still be providing a dedicated, safely supervised space to play, explore, create, and rest so that parents can participate fully in the conference.

    Our host site at Jumonville will partner with us to make your children welcome, too. The lodging facilities offer a variety of cabin options that will work great for families, and there are high chairs available in the dining space. There's a discounted rate for kids' room and board depending on age, and little ones under age 3 stay free of charge.

    We will customize age-appropriate activities for the children registered. Please reach out to me via email (and/or we can set up a time to talk) to discuss your family's needs, and we can plan together to care for your children during the Gathering. I'm looking forward to seeing you all "In the Kitchen" this October! 

  • 24 Mar 2021 4:38 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Here’s to you...

    Here’s to the dozens of noses you will wipe, the bruises you will ice, 

    and the scrapes you will bind.

    Here’s to the hundreds of songs you will sing,  the tables you will set, 

    and the toilets you will plunge.

    Here’s to marshmallows and sticky fingers

    to G chords and broken strings

    to bracelets and bobbles, beads and boondoggle

    to packing, portaging, and paddling

    to offsides, learning scales, and puddle jumping

    to taking the wet life jacket so your camper can have the last dry one

    to never sitting down to eat when you are counselling the 7 year olds

    and carrying your littlest campers to bed who fall asleep during campfire

    Here’s to washing pee stained sleeping bags first thing in the morning 

    and cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night

    Here’s to being chosen by your camper to disclose their very worst secret

    and to being there to witness their very best moment

    Here’s to disagreeing with your colleague on virtually everything 

    and still figuring out a way to make it work

    To being supervised by a close friend and not getting your nose out of joint

    To being told by a director that you messed up 

    and doing your best to take the lesson from it not just the hurt feelings

    Here’s to wearing your clothes inside out because you missed 

    your laundry day…again

    To remembering to wear your hat, your sunscreen and drink lots of water,

    To putting your best effort forward every time you look into a microscope, 

    shoot an arrow, or head out on a hike

    Here’s to the adrenaline you’ll feel when the horn goes

    to the fatigue you’ll feel when the morning bell rings

    to the relief you’ll feel when your last camper gets in the car

    and the goose bumps you’ll feel when the harmonies at campfire are perfectly tight

    Here’s to the helicopter parents, the bulldozer parents,

    The ones you will put crying into their cars as they leave their baby for the first time,

    Here’s to the pastors who support you and those who don’t get camp at all

    Here’s to board members, alumni and family camp die-hards who will spoil you, write to you, and pray for you

    Here’s to the health inspector who will show up at the most inconvenient of times,

    the church groups who generously give of their time

    and the parents and families who love to hear your singing most of the time

    Here’s to throwing pots, shooting shots, and making stained glass

    to counting your campers at every activity to make sure you have them all,

    to gaga ball pits, cooking lessons, and ukulele classes

    Here’s to dressing up as magical characters  

    and to the giggling campers who always buy into the magic

    Here’s to children who would prefer to wear nothing but their bathing suits and rubber boots for a entire week

    to those who cover their ears during loud songs and thunder storms

    to the ones who cling to Mummy on the first day of camp 

    and to you on the last

    Here’s to the Chapels, Bible Studies and Vespers that make you question 

    and the songs of praise that give you answers 

    here’s to having a spiritual moment or two every day that gives you pause

    and at least one this summer that makes you realize how truly small you are and how big God really is

    Here’s to a summer that leaves you so tired, you had no idea that kind of

    tired even existed,

    to a summer filled with sunsets and star gazing, late night chats and early morning paddles

    to singing until you are hoarse, and playing until you are sore,

    to laughing ‘til you cry and crying ‘til you’re spent

    Here’s to knowing the importance of apologizing

    and seeking first to understand before being understood.

    Here’s to letting go of all you don’t need

    and holding on tight to all you do

    Here’s to the friendships that will last you a lifetime

    to those who became your university roommates,

    your bridesmaids, your birth coach, 

    your spouse.

    To watching their babies grow up and them grow old.  

    Here’s to never being ashamed to admit you were wrong

    and knowing it shows you are wiser today than yesterday.

    To not waiting for opportunities but creating them.

    To never trying to influence the world by trying to be like it.

    And to knowing that it’s not what you do for your campers but what you teach them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.

    Here’s to your heartaches, your frustrations, your ‘end of your rope’ moments

    and to coming out the other side

    stronger, wiser, and filled with gratitude

    Here’s to becoming a true leader...and to remembering true leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

    Here’s to cherishing every moment you are given in your place

    To giving away love and grace like you’re made of the stuff

    to being inspired because that’s pretty great

    and to inspiring others because that is ubba-awesome

    Here’s to serving with honour and grace

    here’s to you, the staffs of 2021

    to you who have taken up the torch

    of those who have gone before 

    and who will keep it burning brightly until you pass it on to those 

    who will come after 

    Here’s to making a difference and changing the world

    Here’s to you...here’s to you

    Here’s to Camp

    – Beth Allison, Go Camp Pro

    (Shared at UMCRM Community Conversation, 3/22/21. Beth gives permission for you to customize to your setting and share with your own staff.)

    The Camp Song, by Peter Katz, with #thankstocamp moments from Canadian camps

  • 03 Mar 2021 8:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Have you been outside lately? Are you thinking of warmer days and time spent in the great outdoors? John Muir, the “father of our national park system,” knew well how deeply the outdoors affects our lives. Muir wrote ecstatically about the outdoors one hundred years before we had an iPhone to stare at while our eyes glazed over. His words remind us today that the removal of the constant distractions of life, social media and an abundant workload, can refocus our view and deepen our faith. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life” (Common English Bible translation). This passage from the creation story reminds us that we are enlivened by God's breath and formed from the “dirt.” Our scripture informs us that the dirt path is part of our experience of God’s goodness.

    While we are taking a few dirt paths in life, Jesus and, similarly, the mission of the United Methodist Church, commands us to “go and make disciples.” Through discipleship we are called to transform the world. Making disciples is at the heart of who the church is.

    In January 2021, the “Basics of Faith Formation” series was launched by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. The five-session series is designed to equip local churches for disciple-making by understanding the role of the church in forming faith. The course aims to help church staff and volunteers gain more clarity about discipleship and the role of the church/extension ministry settings in forming disciples. The fifth session of this new series was designed and written by United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry leaders and delves into the significance of camping and retreat ministries and their important role in faith formation.

    UMC Discipleship Ministries “Basics of Faith Formation” course is open to all as either a free or a Continuing Education Unit version (same content, just with CEU credit for a nominal fee). Pastors, children’s ministers, local church leaders, camp and retreat leaders, and others are participating and sharing their learning about ways to be more intentional in faith formation in the church. These leaders are becoming more strategic in forming disciples who are then forming other disciples. 

    Each of the five sessions in the course series is accompanied by a video segment that includes a diverse set of practitioners from across the connection, along with suggestions for “action steps” and questions for reflection and response. Sessions include the two dimensions of grace, purpose of the means of grace, the importance of context, and a session on camping and retreat ministries. In addition, this teaching series has an online forum where participants share their challenges, hopes, and celebrations in ministry. 

    More than 340 people have registered for the “Basics of Faith Formation” eLearning teachable course in the first month since its release. The facilitators of the course have enjoyed the comments and interactions with the participants through this teachable platform. Participants’ comments about what resonates within their context or challenges them to do ministry in new ways is inspiring and encouraging to those who teach the course.  

    The instructor team wanted to share with the UMCRM community some of the comments from participants who have chosen the “dirt path” at various times in their ministry and faith formation. 

    I have volunteered at our nearby (sort of) United Methodist camp/retreat center for many years, and it has definitely been a faith-building experience for me. I love working with the kids and helping them grow in their faith. And their questions make me think and grow in my faith! The natural setting allows more freedom to talk about things that are more challenging.

    I also have participated in retreats at another nearby United Methodist retreat center. They have two labyrinths there that I enjoy going to walk. Sometimes I do nothing else but go there to walk along the lake or walk the labyrinth in the woods. I feel closer to God there in nature and can pray and meditate more freely. The veil seems thinner there.

    It was at the retreat center that I heard the call to become a spiritual director, and then I followed up on the two-year training to become one. And now I go back to the retreat center for more retreats - virtually at this time, unfortunately, although I can still go there for my walks.

     – Bonnie-Jean M Rowea

    Walk to Emmaus - Being afforded this opportunity was amazing. The fellowship, worship, and the spirit of the Lord moving in this place was unreal... God's presence and love is felt more due to being one with nature, being around other Christians, and those with the desire to further their walk, the love shown by everyone, the genuine concern, and the fellowship.     

    I found it left me wanting to grow more in my walk and eager to learn more in order to share with others.

    – Cassandra Justice

    I have participated in the Walk to Emmaus retreats a number of times, first as a pilgrim, then as a worker during the retreats— a wonderful experience for all involved. I also have participated in retreats of another type at a nearby United Methodist retreat center. These have most often led to times of prayer, grace, and worship; they have greatly impacted the spiritual growth of a large number of people. They are always a great growing experience.

    – Marvin Moore

    I was blessed to be a participant at the Upper Room two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation that was held at Camp Sumatanga in Alabama. It was a true camp retreat setting. With contemplative and creation as my spiritual pathways, this nature setting offered me the environment for a change of place and pace that just nurtured and refreshed my soul - a place to pause, calm down, lay my routine aside, and just be with God. 

    For me, it definitely was the natural setting that soothed my soul - the walk around the lake, the trees, the streams where I could reflect, and sense and see God. The intentional teaching, reflection, sharing as a community - growing in faith together. The various ways we were encouraged to stretch ourselves to try new avenues and new practices – were like waves enveloping all of us. For me, it was the freedom to leave my every day, routine, somewhat structured life with its responsibilities aside - to come just as me. It was truly one of the most life-changing experiences that has led me on the journey to write and facilitate classes on individual spiritual formation.

    – Lisa Rosea

    What comes to mind when I think of camp and retreat ministries? Fun! Indeed, fun for all ages and not just children. Belonging also comes to mind. When my son was a youngster, we decided to spend a week at family camp. We didn't know any of the people there, but nearly all of them knew one another. We were loved into that community. My conversion to Christ came during one of our stays. Camps and retreats can collaborate with local churches by connecting their unique role to the mission of the local church. They will not take the place of the local church but will enhance that role. Persons of all ages come to an awakening when they get away, and that awakening is to be nurtured in the worshiping community.

    – Kevin Hugh Seymour

    Camp & Retreat Ministry leaders, be encouraged that you are part of the church's larger story of forming faith over the lifespan. Consider taking and recommending this course as you grow in understanding of our ministry's role in the church's mission. Connect with others from across the United Methodist connection to share your challenges, hopes, and celebrations in ministry. The course will spark new ideas and give leaders from all levels of experience a renewed energy and solid foundation for discipleship formation.

    Join the “Basics of Faith Formation” teaching series or share the link to invite someone else to participate in the course

    Rev. Kevin Johnson is the Director, Children’s Ministries for Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Kevin’s hero Fred Rogers suggests that we, “listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.” This quote defines Rev. Kev’s approach to ministry. Kevin, an ordained elder of the Kentucky Annual Conference, has over fifteen years of ministry experience in which he has thought of the children first. Prior to ministry, Kevin worked with children in the hospital setting and in group homes for emotionally and physically abused children. 

    This article was also published by UMC Discipleship Ministries: Connecting Faith Formation To Camping & Retreat Ministries

  • 03 Mar 2021 4:03 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)


    Every two years, our UMCRM community joins camp and retreat leaders from several other denominations through the Outdoor Ministries Connection (OMC) to conduct a massive research project that measures trends and impact of faith-based camp and retreat ministries across the US and Canada. Sacred Playgrounds, Inc. conducts the research via a thorough Directors’ survey. We began collecting data in 2014 and are now able to see insightful trends over time. In 2020’s survey we are also able to see the significant impact that the pandemic has had on our collective ministry. 


    The United Methodist participation in this research was significant, with 108 of our 189 sites represented in the data. Because of this high response rate, we are able to effectively compare United Methodist camp and retreat ministries to our ecumenical counterparts. We can also get a clear picture of the full impact of COVID-19 specifically on our UM sites. 


    Several camp and retreat leaders across the country have had a chance to look at this data and have shared some helpful observations. Below are some excerpts from their reflections. 


    Keith Shew (Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries, Dakotas-Minnesota Conferences) observes how the data makes a case for strengthening camp and retreat centers’ relationships with their Annual Conferences:

    The thing that stood out to me the most from this report is the correlation between our UMCRM camps’ ability to weather COVID-19-related challenges and how connected they are to congregations/denominations. This feels significant. 


    For a time such as this (COVID-19) it has never been more important to be connected to the body.  Some highlights:

    • 92% of UMCRM ministries state a moderate to strong emphasis on faith development and connection to our congregations/denominations. 

      • Being clear about our mission and staying closely connected to our stakeholders is something we are doing well, is elevated as key to our ministries, and is extra important for a time such as this. 

    • 83% of our centers received financial assistance through special fundraising campaigns. This was second only to assistance through PPP dollars. 

      • This would not have been successful without generations of committed denominational partners, ambassadors, and champions involved to help extend the message to support camps during this time of great challenge and unknown. Relationships and congregational/denominational investment in camp’s mission made this possible. 

    • 77% of our camps state they are extremely to very confident that their ministries will remain in operation in two years.  

      • This confidence is an illustration of why deep roots in our local congregations, districts, and conferences are mission-critical. Strong buy-in and our work to stay connected and partner in mission allows for this. 

    Camps are part of the fabric/DNA of our congregations and denomination and our leaders’ stories; they do not want us to fail.


    Sara Shaw (Coordinator of Camping Ministry, Great Plains Conference) observes the connection between Director tenure and COVID’s impact on staffing:

    According to these findings from the report, there is such a wide range in care for camp staff financially: 

    • Over half of responding UMCRM organizations (58%) had to furlough, lay off, or reduce the salary of full-time staff members. Almost three-quarters (71%) had to do so to part-time staff members.

    • 23% of Executive Directors took a reduction in salary, with the majority of these having their salary reduced by 10% to 25%.

    • 57% of UM Directors have a tenure of 5 years or less. 

    One could argue that based on the tenure report there appears to be a higher rate of turnover than what other averages may be with Directors who are not in the UMC. Would it be beneficial to have a standard [salary] set for Directors’ pay, like we do for pastors? 

    Kenny Funk (Director of Camp Wrightwood & Interim Director of Camping Operations, CAL-PAC Conference) notes the priority results of the “Philosophy Statements” section as they relate to diversity and a focus on retreats:

    It is clear that diversity is an area for growth for our collective ministry:

    • 17% of respondents disagree with the philosophy statement, “Our camp is a place where people encounter diversity.” 

    • 60% of sites have 10% or fewer of their campers representing a racial minority.

    Even if diversity doesn’t happen at your site, there is importance in including diversity in your philosophy. A simple understanding of preference may be a good place to start. We are finding that older congregants and diverse campers prefer a retreat facility to a camp experience.


    These are just a few snippets of the overall story that this data tells. Within these numbers you will also find the deep commitment to faith formation that is foundational to our ministries, the financial impact of COVID-19 on our sites, and the hopeful future that camp and retreat Directors are striving toward. We encourage you to share the survey findings with ministry donors, board members, and leaders throughout your Annual Conference. Both the full report and the UM-specific data set are tools for all of us to tell the impact story of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries. 

    If you create additional interpretive materials for your constituents and stakeholders, we would like to see them. Contact Jessica Gamaché, UMCRM Association Director. Enthusiastic thanks to all of our community members who took part in the research and to those who offered reflections for this article.

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