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The Story of UMCRM's S'more Mail - Celebrating 400 Issues

06 Oct 2021 9:46 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

400 weekly issues?! Time flies when you’re having fun. 

How did we get here? 

The United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association (re-)formed in 2013 with an expanded vision for how we could collectively “resource, advocate, inspire, and network” to promote the effectiveness and sustainability of camps and retreats in our denomination. It had already been clear to us for generations that the lifeblood of our ministries is its leaders. What did camp/retreat leaders need to grow and thrive? At a time when the internet had astronomically expanded access to information, we saw a need to synthesize and curate content specifically for the UMCRM community. No one has time to sort through every article, blog post, training event, webinar, podcast, book, social media post, etc. on topics from youth development to nonprofit governance, outdoor recreation, facilities management, family ministry, spirituality, creation care, human resources, fund development, United Methodist perspectives and news, and on and on…! 

Smooshing together the ingredients to make something delicious

Could we provide a regular “digest” of relevant news and information for our camp/retreat leaders? The Association had hired a very-part-time Administrator to help coordinate some of the great ideas generated by the volunteer board; this e-news would become a key part of that job. The volunteer Communications team wondered if there would be enough content to put together an issue each week. “We’ll try it,” we said. Eight years later, we still amazingly have never run out of material to share! A team of UMCRM member volunteers reads through each issue and helps to strategize about the issues and topics most relevant to our community in different seasons of the ministry year. One of the features we started early on, the Blessings Report, has become a beloved must-read for those who skip to the bottom for a smile, nod, and prayer of gratitude each week. We have built community as we learned to know new “Faces of UMCRM” and celebrated births, retirements, and new jobs. We have joined colleagues in ministry to delve into tough issues from COVID protocols to racism to financial challenges. We’ve shared ideas for programs, recipes, fundraising, and crafts, and sought to connect with our faith through devotional materials, inspirational articles, and reminders of God’s presence in creation and community. 

S'more Mail for everyone

Our first issues went out to UMCRM Association charter members -- just about 150 people in those first few months. S’more Mail’s readership has grown steadily to over 1000 subscribers, and about 45% of you open that email each week. An average open rate for e-newsletters across industries is about 22%, so we know we’re serving up something that’s working for you. Our readers among United Methodist Camp & Retreat staff have been joined by leaders from other denominations and camp organizations, business leaders who serve our community, volunteers, board members, clergy, and others who care about camps, ministry leadership, and the 7 Foundations values that guide us. Thanks to all who have contributed an idea, shared an article, or written a blog post, and to those who have dropped us a note of appreciation for an issue that was especially helpful to you.

Special gratitude to our current Communications team:

Lu Harding

Lisa Jean Hoefner

Kelley Price

Jeff Wilson

Whitney Winston

and to all the dedicated volunteers who have been part of the S’more Mail project since its inception: Ashley Cross (Holston), Michaela Dotsch (Holston), Cameron Jones (N.Georgia), David Riddell (UNY), Jack Shitama (PenDel), Joan Thorson (PNW), and Mark Walz (KY).

What’s next? 

We’ll keep listening and reading and adapting to remain responsive to the kind of content that matters to UMCRM members. One hope for the future is to create periodic collections of most-clicked items for the busy reader. 

If you have benefited personally or professionally from something you read in S’more Mail, but have never given financial support to the UMCRM Association, please consider making a gift today. 

If you’d like to volunteer with the Communications team, either (or both) as a content advisor or weekly proofreader, please contact Jen to express your interest.

If you know someone who would benefit from a weekly infusion of news and ideas related to United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries, please invite them to subscribe - it’s free! 

Jen Burch has been S’more Mail’s only editor for the past 8 years and 400 weekly issues. She’s laughing about referring to herself in the third person. Jen is a former Director/Manager at United Methodist Camp/Retreat Centers and served two terms on the NCRC/UMCRM board before becoming the Association’s first staff person. She believes deeply in the power of outdoor ministries to transform lives and build God’s beloved community and is regularly inspired by the love and expertise UMCRM leaders bring to this work. You can make her smile by double-checking your spelling and grammar and sending mail, coffee, and/or chocolate.

Questions?  Please contact our Association Registrar

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