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"Results. Outcomes. Impact." Guest post from Dail Ballard

02 Aug 2023 5:42 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

In this world of “give and take,” it seems that the overarching focus is most often on what we can get… from goals to results, mission to outcomes and expectations of impact. I would say that the same might be true regarding our membership with the United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries Association (UMCRM.) “Sure, we want to be a part of something bigger. But, what’s in it for me?”

Well, I am here to give you a first-hand account of my experience with the give and take of being a member of this fine Association. My story begins in my own Annual Conference. For as many years as anyone can remember, the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church (NC Conference) has supported what is now the NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries, Inc. (NCUMCRM), the organization I serve as Executive Director. Heck, the NC Conference birthed our three camps 75 years ago! Over time, the Conference chose to spin off the camps and other extension ministries to establish separate nonprofit entities, yet still be “related by faith.” Through that process, the Conference continued its support of camp and retreat ministries through apportionment giving for many, many years – until the reality of disaffiliations became apparent, bringing about financial anxiety and the need for substantial budget cuts.

We are fortunate in that the NC Conference operates on a budgeting schedule that is two years in advance of the actual budget year. Thus, the Conference recently developed the 2025 budget which was scheduled to be presented at the Annual Conference in June 2023. To our dismay, we learned that NCUMCRM was eliminated from that budget. As the news broke, I sprang into action, reaching out to committee chairs,  cabinet members, the Council on Finance and Administration, and even the Bishop. I also reached out to the Board of Institutions, which is a liaison to the NC UM Conference for the extension ministries. I wrote letters, essays, emails and used as many means of messaging as I knew to request our reinstatement into the 2025 budget. I was also invited to speak at the Annual Conference. What did I share? Results. Outcomes. Impact.

Admittedly, much of my communications were rather anecdotal relative to the impact and value of the three camps of the NCUMCRM. You know, those stories of the transformational experiences that occur at camp. In addition, because of the research that UMCRM promoted and cultivated in partnership with Sacred Playgrounds, [View 2022 Camper Survey Results] I was able to cite objective findings regarding the positive effects of the camp experience. And, let me tell you, those statistics made a difference. When I presented at Annual Conference, I knitted those findings into my short, but informative talk. [View 5 UMCRM Research Facts infographicEach time I mentioned a statistic from the Sacred Playgrounds research, applause broke out from the 1000+ attendees. “81% of campers said they were strengthened in their faith at camp.” The crowd roared! “87% of campers made friends who were different from them and their friends at home.” The laity and clergy cheered! “85% of campers learned more about God during their camp experience.” The enthusiasm was palpable.

Later that day, when the 2025 budget was presented, an amendment from the floor was quickly made to reinstate the NCUMCRM into the budget. After the proper protocols were followed, it was evident from the hands and paddles that were raised in support of restoring this ministry back into the budget that the overwhelming majority of the NC Conference wanted to continue to support our camp and retreat ministries in North Carolina.

Of course, I cried. The emotion from the moment and support was overwhelming and deeply encouraging. Camp does matter. Camp has value. And people know it from their own experiences, from those anecdotal stories of transformation, and from real and trusted data from effective and relevant research. So, what do we “get” from our alliance with and membership in the UMCRM Association? A LOT! In our case, the investment in research, collegial support, and tools for communicating outcomes helped our organization inspire our Conference’s investment in the future of camp & retreat ministries. 

Dail Ballard is the Executive Director of North Carolina United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, Inc. Three camps -- Chestnut Ridge, Don Lee and Rockfish operate under one nonprofit umbrella. Dail also currently serves as Chair of the United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) Association Board of Directors. Dail loves being outdoors, especially by water –  her happiest place being on the beach or a boat on the NC coast.

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