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2020 SEJ Gathering Reflection: Guest Post by Haleigh Davis

12 Feb 2020 4:18 PM | Anonymous

The week of the SEJ gathering was a time of immense learning, wonderful fellowship, and spiritual conversations. It was evident that the sessions were thoughtfully planned and led by extremely competent members of the camping community. I especially found this week helpful as a newcomer to the UMCRM world. I feel as though anyone in the camping field would have really benefited from the SEJ gathering.

In addition to the sessions, I learned much during the time of fellowship with other attendees of the gathering. Then, on top of all the other wonderful experiences offered, the worship time presented us with a mindset on how to approach our ever-changing environment by leaning into God.

During the first whole group session, we were given three points as a takeaway by Jack Shitama, Executive Director at Pecometh Camp and Retreat Center and author of Anxious Church, Anxious People: How to Lead Change in an Age of Anxiety. The points are to 1) remember your camp’s purpose, 2) put your employees first, 3) think big, but act small. All of these points centered around the idea that change is going to happen, but with these three things, we can adapt easier and be more successful. Personally, the biggest takeaway I had was not to let the fear of the unknown keep your camp from growing, which goes along with the "think big, act small" point.  

In our next large group session, led by Russell Davis, Executive Director of North Georgia Camp and Retreat Ministries, there was an emphasis on being an adaptive leader. This session was more of a group discussion rather than just a typical presentation. In small groups, we discussed the differences between varying mindsets of leaders, which allowed us to understand better how we lead and if we should re-evaluate that. 

Then our last session brought a 

more historical approach to help us understand how to make disciples based on biblical examples, which was led by Chris Wilterdink, Director of Young People's Ministries at UM Discipleship Ministries.

In addition to the large group sessions, we were able to attend three different workshops of our choosing. I attended workshops on trauma informed care, volunteer engagement, and experiential activities and how they are used to make disciples.

Amy Foley from Camp Hope Worldwide led the trauma informed care workshop. This workshop brought a unique perspective of how, within the structure of having campers for one week, we can make a lasting impact to help these campers learn to self-regulate. We were presented with many small actions we can take at our camps that would allow our campers who have experienced trauma to feel safe with us at camp.

Jessica Gamache, Association Director for UMCRM, led us in volunteer engagement. We focused on how to get volunteers and then how to keep them. We were given three points for getting them and three more for keeping them. When looking at how to get volunteers, the points are to inform, inspire, and invite. The three points for keeping volunteers engaged are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. My biggest takeaway was always to remember to leave a potential volunteer with a call to action.

Our fellowship time was provided in the form of structured evening events and in free time. We were able to enjoy a silent disco where we all jammed out to our favorite songs while showing off our great camp dance moves. We also saw how talented our peers are in an open mic night. Then my favorite event, game night, allowed us to have some friendly competition with each other. During these times, the leaders of the sessions would also hang around, which provided a great time to ask any follow up questions we had while building a connection with them.

Finally, our worship was a time where God was so clearly present. We were taken on a journey through the seasons of change during the sermons by Joya Abrams, which matched so well with the worship portion. I believe we all left the SEJ gathering feeling refreshed and reassured that no matter what is going on in our lives, work, or even in our denomination, God is still working, and we can still rely on Him and His goodness.

Haleigh Davis has served as a counselor, volunteer, and intern over her time in camping. She served specifically with Camp in the Community (TN) as the intern from 2016 to 2018. Prior to her return as the Assistant Director at Camp in the Community this year, she served at Emerald Youth Foundation as a Youth Ministry Coordinator. We welcome her into the UMCRM fold and appreciate her contributing this post from her experience at SEJ! 

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