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  • 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 

  • 15 Dec 2021 8:27 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Joan Thorson, a longtime volunteer and camp/retreat ministry advocate from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, joined us for the December 6th UMCRM Community Conversation to help us understand ways that a coaching mindset could enhance our camp and retreat ministry leadership. Participants learned definitions, powerful inquiry techniques, and coaching skills to apply to relationships with staff and others.

    View the video recording

    Here are some primary takeaways from the session: 

    • Coaching techniques can be utilized in everyone's leadership. Coaching is an ongoing, intentional conversation that empowers the person or group to fully live out God's calling. 
    • A coach is not the same as a:
      • Supervisor (top/down and authoritative, may not focus on empowerment)
      • Counselor/Therapist (working with the past, may have less future-focus)
      • Mentor (someone sharing their experiences, less about reflecting on recipient's experiences)
      • Consultant (advice-giving and sharing answers, less about assisting someone to discover answers for themselves) 

    Skills utilized in coaching:

    • Listening - Giving the gift of attentive focus (tip: listen 80% of the time, speak only 20% of to time)
    • Inquiry - Asking powerful questions
    • Feedback - Providing useful information
    • Expanding - Increasing awareness and broader perspective
    • Focusing - Designing effective action plans
    • Follow-up - Support

    More on "Inquiry": A good question will provoke insight. Asking questions that gets someone to find their own answers. Their answers might not be the answer that you want them to have, but that is ok.

    Clarifying Questions:

    1. What do you mean by ...?
    2. What does ..... mean to you?
    3. What are your thoughts on ....?

    Moving from "Why" questions to "What-with-an-'S'" questions:

    1. Instead of asking, "Why do you not feel connected to your team?" Ask, "What things connect you to your team?"
    2. Instead of asking, "Why are you frustrated at work?" Ask, "What factors cause you to be frustrated?"
    3. Instead of asking, "Why do you want to learn a new skill?" Ask, "What are your motivations for learning this new skill?" 

    More on "Listening": Notice, Acknowledge, and Explore Emotions. Questions that come from listening may sound like:

    • I'm noticing emotions as you talk; what are you feeling?
    • Where is that ..(fill in emotion).. coming from?
    • What does that mean for you?


    Focus - Ask a clarifying question or two. Example - "What would you like to talk about?" 

    Importance - Notice emotions and ask more clarifying questions. Example - "What makes this issue important to you?"

    Result - Uncover their goal through inquiry. Example - "What result would you like to take away from our conversation?" 

    Evaluate - Determine if you are going in the right direction. Example - "Are we on track?" or "Has this been helpful?" 

    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 the conversations over the past year and a half. The next one will be Monday, January 17th. Hope you’ll join us!

  • 01 Dec 2021 6:49 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)


    Camp & Retreat Executives and Conference CRM Staff gather each year for an annual Summit. This year’s event followed the UMCRM National Gathering. During the first afternoon our group drove to the Healthy Village Learning Institute (HVLI) in an urban neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. We parked our six cars in an area next to a four story brick former school building, the lower level covered with commissioned graffiti art. Inside, we walked through African drums (hundreds distributed throughout the building) and a loosely organized massive collection of historical African, African American, slave-era and beyond art and artifacts, covering tables, the walls and the floor with paths left for us to walk.


    Keith Murphy, founder and Executive Director of the Institute, gave us a tour and told the story of the miracles taking place through his ministry. The Institute serves children in this community with the fourth highest rating for violence per capita in the state of Pennsylvania. The children come to study, to learn, to find peer and adult leadership support, to express themselves through the arts, and to discover the beauty and gifts of who they are as God’s people. Just as week-long camps serve as spaces for young people to step away from society and into God’s Creation, HVLI serves as a year-round space for members of the community to daily step away from the stresses of life and fully focus on God’s call on their lives. 


    In the center of the first-floor room, around 15 tables were set up in a circle with plexiglass protections for Covid. Each table had a laptop, with books on racism and Black literature next to the computers. This clearing was surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of museum-quality artifacts. In this room, we held and hefted various weighty chains and shackles worn by slaves and felt the switches used in various forms of punishment of slaves. Everything in the building is there to be touched and experienced and not just intellectually learned about. Several tables were filled with signs and artifacts from the post-Civil war era which were visible and tangible demonstrations of the prejudice, oppression and racism which continued (continues) to be present across the decades.


    Seeing and touching and hearing the stories was a powerful reminder and awakening of the legacy of racism in which we live. This could have been depressing and overwhelming, except that the stories told by “Murphy” extended our experiences into the hope of his ministry and mission through this institute. The computer tables give the children who participate, access to the internet. However, before they access the computers (or any activity throughout the building), they have to read at least one chapter from one of the books. Many of the walls are covered with pictures of the students (“Murphy” could name them all – and which university or college or school they attend) and with the incredible artwork of some of the students. Students come seeking a place to be and belong and they leave as future leaders made whole by their experiences.


    Each room on each floor has a theme and purpose, from art to science to technology to Black Women and Black Men to culture and on. There are posters with affirmations, quotes from Black leaders and the educational philosophy providing the foundation to the institute, such as: “The Healthy Village Learning Process with four quadrants of Peace, Possibility, Power and Promise” and “MAPS (McKeesport Alternative Policing Strategies) – Goal is to Reduce Gun Violence either by Prevention or Intervention, using P.O.W.E.R (Positive Outcomes With Excuses Removed) by Providing young adults with productive, citizenship-oriented alternatives and Giving at-risk individuals opportunities to become Stakeholders in McKeesport.”


    The youth who participate at the Institute are guided, trained, inspired, and educated with deeply ethical and creatively firm guidelines from their adult leaders. As an example, one room had a circle of around 12 African drums and, at the center, a group of another several large standing drums (all of which in the whole building, Keith Murphy brought back from his trips to Ghana). We sat in the chairs to play the drums while he and his nephew led us in call and response drumming. He then explained that if a child “loses it,” they are often sent to the drum room with an adult. They call and response pound the drums until the child has calmed down; then they can talk – much better than a time out or a trip to the Director’s office.


    On top of all this, Murphy is interconnected with the surrounding community, working tirelessly for justice and opportunity for all. He is a witness to what one person with a faith built on Christ’s love and his own passion and determination to transform our world can do, beginning right where he lives, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. By welcoming us to hear and experience his witness, his ministry of transformation has expanded to each of us who participated in this afternoon tour. We entered the tour as Camp/Retreat Ministry leaders and left with hearts and minds expanded with ideas for how we too might be transforming, faithful disciples in our own settings. Thanks be to God for saints like Keith Murphy and for all who support and participate in his ministry.


    Joy and peace,


    Sue D'Alessio

    Director of Connectional Ministries,

    Ministry and Outreach

    Wisconsin Annual Conference

    (in collaboration with Jessica Gamaché)

    Summit attendees pictured: Kayla Hardage (AR), Chris Schlieckert (Balt-Wash), Nancy Lane (Illinois Great Rivers), Jessica Gamaché (UMCRM), David Berkey (MI), Todd Bartlett (OR-ID), Sue D'Alessio (WI), Arthur Spriggs (SC), Mike Standifer (FL), Gary Lawson (TN-W.Kentucky), Melinda Trotti, Kevin Witt (Susquehanna)

  • 01 Dec 2021 2:09 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Scott Hughes, Executive Director of Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship and Adult Ministries at UMC Discipleship Ministries, recently took part in the UMCRM National Camp & Retreat Leaders' Gathering, where he co-led a workshop on Discipleship, Camp, and Church.  Here, Scott reflects on his own discipleship journey (including faith formation experiences), the workshop, and his time at the Gathering. Our hope is that these reflections will inspire further conversations in local settings around ways camp and retreat ministries and churches can work together to facilitate disciple-making in people of all ages.

    Like many of my pastor friends, I have found camp and retreat settings to be formative to my faith. I still remember confirmation and summer retreats at Epworth by the Sea on Saint Simons Island. I have fond memories as a youth and young-adult leader at Camp Glisson in North Georgia. I also had the privilege of being a theologian-in-residence at Camp Glisson for a treasured week with my family. Camp and retreat settings have been crucial to faith formation across the lifespan for so many church leaders. 

    That’s why, along with my UM Discipleship Ministries colleagues Chris Wilterdink (Director of Youth and Young People’s Ministries) and Kevin Johnson (Director of Children’s Ministries), I was excited to participate as workshop leader at In the Kitchen, the biannual National Gathering for the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Association. The workshop we presented was a time for brainstorming and conversation about how camp and retreat settings can be intentional about the ways they contribute to faith formation while recognizing the unique contributions local churches make, so that we can be better ministry partners. (Yeah, that’s kind of wordy—much like our title for the workshop – “Connecting Camping/Retreat [transformative] Discipleship with Church [formative] Discipleship.”)

    We spent time in our workshop giving participants a glimpse into the trainings we’ve done with churches and conference leaders around intentional discipleship systems, which include: connecting to our ”why” and starting with the end in mind; grounding discipleship in baptism; and noting that salvation is much more than conversion. The participants had healthy dialogue about how to define discipleship and how central discipleship was to their camp’s mission. 

    The highlight of the workshop, for me, 

    was our conversation about the unique contributions camp and retreat settings make to discipleship formation. Before looking at the images (if you haven’t already), try to come up with three to five things camps contribute uniquely to discipleship formation and three to five things local churches contribute uniquely to discipleship formation. Then compare your answers with the images where we brainstormed during the workshop. 

    You can read (if you can read my terrible handwriting) the bullet points from the workshop in the first image. Perhaps you have thought of some additional ways. What fascinated me the most is when we asked participants to list the unique contributions local congregations make to discipleship formation (again, assuming you can read my handwriting, you can see the list in the second image).

    Having served as a pastor for thirteen years, having been to countless district meetings and in many other conversations with pastors, I could discern the distinct perspective these camp and retreat leaders had toward the ministries and activities of a local church. (I really hope to repeat this conversation with pastors. My guess is both lists would be wildly different. What do you notice about the length of the two lists? What do you notice is missing from the churches’ list?) 

    From the workshop participants and in the many other fruitful conversations that we had at the beautiful Jumonville Camp and Retreat Center, I discovered these top takeaways: 

    • There are many ways churches and camp/retreat settings can collaborate. 

    • Leaders from each of these settings have been through a lot in the past two years and can collaborate to ease some of their stresses. Some examples generated among the Camp & Retreat community: Camps can offer space for church leaders to experience sabbath or retreat spaces for church teams. Camp leaders might offer speakers for worship services. Local churches can help with scholarships and offer camp leaders spaces where they can worship without having to be responsible for anything. 

    • Local congregations can be intentional in pointing their participants to the needed transformative (mountain-top) experiences that camp/retreat settings readily offer. 

    • Camp/retreat settings can collaborate with nearby churches for participants to get needed regular, long-term formative experiences that local church communities offer. 

    • While many local churches and camp/retreat ministries are struggling from the events of the last two years, in particular, each setting for faith formation needs the other to collaborate well (in some cases, survival depends on it). 

    Lastly, I’ll note some questions that might help generate collaboration between church leaders and camp/retreat leaders. 

    • When was your last camp or retreat experience? 

    • What does your strategy for discipleship look like? 

    • How can we collaborate to make discipleship formation experiential and more than just acquiring information? 

    • How might we help each other to experience God’s rest as leaders? 

    • How might a camp or retreat experience help you connect in new ways with children and youth in your congregation?

    *For a link to the slides of our workshop: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d5y270je2y2dh1w/Camping%20Workshop.pptx?dl=0 

    * If you’re interested in seeing pictures around the Jumonville Camp and Retreat Center: https://RevScott.zenfolio.com/p395485545

  • 11 Nov 2021 11:59 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    In keeping with our "In The Kitchen" theme, UMCRM hosted a contest for Best Camp/Retreat Recipe, featuring favorites from United Methodist camps and retreat centers around the country. 

    All proceeds from contest voting went to support the Legacy of Leadership Fund. Thanks to all who joined the fun!

    And the winners are...

    Inspiring the most voters: 

    Raising the most total votes ($1 contributions) – $498!

    The real winner, of course, is the Legacy of Leadership Fund. We encourage readers to bake them both and taste test for yourselves – also a win-win situation. Happy baking!

  • 10 Nov 2021 8:19 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    After a fruitful career serving in Camp & Retreat Ministry and 19 years as Director of Pocono Plateau, Rev. Ron Schane sat down with Apryl Miller (Gretna Glen, Eastern PA) to reflect on lessons learned, changes he's witnessed, and words of encouragement for current UMCRM leaders. 

    How were you called into C&R ministry?

    Growing up, my C&R ministry experience was limited to church youth group retreats. I never attended summer camp. However, my parents took our family on camping trips all the time and that’s where I acquired my love of the outdoors. During my high school years, I worked at a summer camp, and felt drawn to pursue a career in C&R ministry upon entering college. But upon graduation, however, God redirected my path into church-based ministry. During my 20 years of youth ministry, I remained connected with the summer camp ministry as a volunteer. Then, as my wife and I re-evaluated God’s will for our own family, the opportunity to enter full-time C&R ministry opened. So, my calling went full circle, remembering that in following God’s will, it’s in God’s timing and not in ours.  

    Where have you served? (years, places, roles)

    I served on the summer program staff at Tel-Hai Camp from 1975-1980 and 1982.  Camp Hebron in the summer of 1981 on the program staff. Then, a volunteer counselor and program director for Jr. High camps at Pocono Plateau from 1986-2001. And of course, as the Camp Director at Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Camp from January 2002 to January 2022. I also served in Youth Ministry at Olivet UMC in Coatesville from 1982 to 2002.

    What significant changes have you seen over the years in this ministry?

    The most significant change I’ve seen is sadly the decrease in our United Methodist Church membership which has a direct effect on C&R ministry. Churches have much fewer children available for summer camp and less participants for retreats. It’s been an alarming trend. The repercussions are enormous. Another change is within our culture – the pace at which people live-out their lives. Everyone is on the go all the time; there’s no slowing down. People need a breather from their nonstop life styles.  They need to take a break from the toxic social media and reconnect with God and one another. The need for spiritual retreats has never been greater and yet it is underutilized.

    Describe your greatest blessings in this work?

    If I were to list my greatest blessings we’d be here all day. So I’ll focus on two. First, I feel blessed that every day I got to experience God’s handiwork. Being outdoors surrounded by creation was a wonderful blessing, but observing our amazing God actively involved in the lives of individuals was truly incredible. To see the growth in others, whether it was campers, staff, volunteers, or retreat guests, was extremely rewarding. The second blessing was watching my two children serve on my summer staff. What can I say, it made me proud as a Director and a father. 


    What's one thing you're looking forward to doing in your retirement?

    Honestly, spending more time with family. As you know the commitment to C&R ministry means working when typically everyone else is not. So, I’m looking forward to weekends off and vacationing during the summer. 

    What's one important thing you've learned that you would like to pass along to other camp & retreat leaders?

    Even though C&R ministry can be rewarding and a blessing in so many ways, it can also be extremely challenging, stressful, and draining on an individual. It’s vital to care for your own health – physically, mentally, and spiritually. No one else is responsible for your health, so you need to do it. 

  • 03 Nov 2021 8:05 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    As my wife Jamie and I headed out to this year's United Methodist Camp & Retreat Leaders' Gathering on the previous Sunday, I kept trying to sort out what I wanted to get out of this conference. Was there an area of camp I needed help with? A new program to explore? To be honest, though, I didn’t want to go on this trip. The prospect of losing a week of office time felt like too much right now. There is so much to do (as there always is) and in addition, there are so many new considerations as we weigh rising costs of goods and labor while trying to project just what next summer might look like. Too much to do…always too much to do…!


    I wasn’t alone in my reluctance. Before the event I heard from two other camp directors with the same concern, and when we arrived, I heard it echoed by several more. The urgency, the anxiousness, the relative levels of burnout we all were experiencing were fooling us, though. In times like this, sometimes the best thing one can do is step away for some better perspective.


    Four days later, I more fully understand the perspective I needed God to bring to me. Or more accurately, all the ways that God found to remind me of who I am, who God is, and where God continues to call me (and many others) to. These reminders didn't come in the ways I expected. Then again, how often does the Spirit move on our schedules or fit into our expectations?


    Keynote sessions, led by Michelle Cummings, were engaging and full of energy. One of her first activities paired us up with a set of question cards with three different levels of "difficulty” from the most superficial to the more vulnerable. The questions likely would feel relatively innocent with a group of campers, but among our participants in this setting each question felt laden with deep emotion. Our room full of professional facilitators could anticipate the activity's outcomes, and many of us were ready to lean into the emotional transparency that might take other groups hours to develop. It was a simple activity, but the value of giving choice to the questions we ask was a useful takeaway.


    Rev. Matthew Johnson led our morning Bible study time in a beautiful old chapel that dated back to 1882. His messages were consistently personal: reflections on his time with family, his youth, and the challenges of ministry. After breakfast, his way of opening the scriptures felt like comfort food each day with warmth and a subtle hint of humor.


    Rev. Tiffany Knowlin Boykin and Rev. Raphael Koikoi preached for our evening worships. Most memorable to me were the words of Rev. Knowlin Boykin as she addressed the condition of our hearts as we have navigated this difficult couple of seasons. While her pastoral ministry context differs from ours, she found words that fit our reality in camp and retreat ministry. It was a good reminder that what we have experienced in our ministry settings is not wholly unique, but rather one facet of a difficult common challenge as we all tried to find new ways to serve people at a distance.


    While the programmed parts of the Gathering provided meaningful applications, perhaps the most profound reminder that I needed to receive came during Wednesday free time. My wife Jamie and I joined our friend James Tresner to play a round of disc golf on the camp's course. Our ability levels were all over the place. I had played a lot of disc golf in college, to the point that on the day before our wedding, I played 72 unique holes with the men in my wedding party, deciding our procession order based on our scores. In contrast, James had only played one other time, but his upbeat attitude outweighed any frustration an errant throw would cause many others. And while Jamie had possibly the best short game of all of us, her long throws were…less than long. Ability levels mattered very little here, though. At the site’s relative elevation, we found ourselves playing in a dense cloud – the thickest fog you can imagine. The weather was like this most of the week, almost as if instead of leading us by a cloud, God had decided just to place us directly in one instead. From the first tee, we looked for the goal basket and despite squinting and some rough maps, we ultimately had to guess. We would throw in a general direction, hoping we were near the target. As we moved towards our second throws, one of us would likely see the goal, sharing with the others how close (or far off) we were. We talked, we laughed, and made our way through each fog-covered puzzle.


    God showed up again through this experience with an important reminder for me. I was reminded that in the last 18 months, things that were once easy had become obscured and seemingly impossible. When I tried to muddle through alone, it was frustrating at best. But when I did the work alongside others, especially friends and colleagues who were looking for similar paths, it was always a better, more successful experience. While today we’re weary of countless Zoom meetings, back when this pandemic began those points of connection helped us sketch a roadmap with crayon as together we did our best to map out a future. God does not wish for us to navigate hard things alone; we are always better together.


    During those travels together, conversations are shared as vulnerabilities come to the surface. As we navigate the fog of this season, our burdens are shared with the hope that solutions can be found. But no matter where the path leads, the balm of a compassionate heart can help us get through.


    Every facet of this conference had a purpose. God used these moments to reach our hearts and remind our souls as well. This time, when many of us felt so beat up and pressed upon by so much beyond our control, the greatest gift was simply remembering how to be the wonderful, messy, human creations that God called us to be. And despite our mess, time in community reminded us that we were never alone, finally close enough to share a meal around a table, sharing the scars of a tough season and the stories of unexpected joy that continue to make it all worthwhile.


    One last note that I can’t forget – Jamie and I both agreed that we haven’t laughed as much in the last year as we did this week. I haven’t laughed very much at all recently. But surrounded by so many who truly understand the complexities of life at camp, it was as though the tightness in my soul finally released so joy could be restored. The greatest gift of events like this is the friends we leave with, scattering all over the country once again. These are not only partners in ministry, but brothers and sisters in Christ who know the beautiful sacrifice that a calling to camp/retreat ministry often requires. May we all return safely to the places we call home and the places we share God’s love. May God bless us until we meet again, keeping us safe, protecting those who come through our sites, drawing both ever closer to the goodness that we felt this week.

    Nick Coenen is Director of Pine Lake United Methodist Camp & Retreat Center in Wisconsin, where he shares life, ministry, and parenthood with Jamie Coenen, Pine Lake's Program Coordinator. Nick has bravely agreed to serve as a co-Chair of the Design Team for UMCRM's next National Gathering. 

  • 13 Oct 2021 8:55 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Tanner reflects: 

    When I first began going to camp as a caregiver for my older brother, who has special needs, I thought it was going to be the worst experience in the world. I couldn’t have been more wrong. By the time I was a freshman in college, I had discerned a significant call to ministry; specifically, to camping and retreat ministry. Coming from the Dakotas Conference, l have been an active camper, volunteer, and summer and seasonal staff at Wesley Acres Camp for the past 12 years, collectively. My staff roles have transitioned from support and hospitality, to maintenance and project coordinator, to counselor and program intern. For the past four years, I have supervised a group home for children with special needs, but have always been looking forward to when God would bring me back to ministry in camp. I intend to continue the strong ministry that is present at Lake Lucerne and provide a safe environment to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! 

    Please pray for Tanner in this new, exciting role in ministry. Look for Tanner at the upcoming UMCRM National Gathering to welcome him in person!

  • 13 Oct 2021 8:28 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Connecting faith with nature has long been a part of the Wesleyan tradition. The possibility of preaching outside first came as a revelation to John Wesley in 1731:

    “In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church."     –John Wesley journal entry

    Have you noticed that the vast majority of faith-based camp and retreat centers are located within or adjacent to natural surroundings?  Even where civilization has encroached, center staff and volunteers plant gardens and landscaping to assure that nature remains. Our commitment to nature isn’t just utilitarian. The historic predecessors to modern-day camp and retreat ministries intentionally sought opportunities to spend time outdoors, including the Camp Meetings, Chautauqua, Scouting, and Epworth League movements.  

    What value does an outdoor setting bring to a person’s discipleship journey? 

    • Society has “othered” nature. Nature is perceived by many that it is something different from “us.” God’s Creation, of course, encompasses people and the rest of the natural world. 

    • When people are asked, “Where have you felt closest to God?”, many name places like a lakeshore, forest, ocean, or scenic mountaintop. Camp & retreat ministries steward places like this and help create opportunities for powerful encounters with the Creator and Creation. 

    • People can see their place in the natural world when they are interacting with their environments. 

    • We don’t grow closer to God by only reading books. We grow closer to God by interacting with God (natural world along with the people in it).

    • Earth is not just a “setting” that we wait in until we get to Heaven. Earth is part of us and we are part of it. 

    Camp provides people the opportunity to learn more about the natural world:

    1 Kings 4: 29-34    God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, ...his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

    We not only learn scientifically from observing nature, we also learn spiritual truths, since all life has its origins in the Source of Life. 

    The United Methodist Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation. From our Book of Discipline:


    All creation is the Lord's, and we are responsible for the ways we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God's creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation.”

    How do we teach respect and care for Creation to our campers and guests?

    • Leaders can allow nature to be the teacher. Let the trees speak. 

    • Environmental education programming

      • It is easy to incorporate faith and environmental education during the summer

    • There is something innately spiritual about gathering around a tree and discussing the natural world.

    • If we listen to the stories of native people we know they had a profound connection to nature. God will reveal God’s self in stories beyond traditional Christian faith lessons.

    • We can teach without speaking. Actions speak loudly.

    • Interpret to your campers, families, and supporters why you are doing what you are doing

      • Create displays about the fair trade coffee you are using and how they can use it at home

      • Talk about how and why your site recycles or composts

      • Invite guests to partner in saving water and electricity and connect it not only to the budget but also to Creation care values

    How do we show respect and care for Creation through camp and retreat ministries?

    • Simple

      • Recycling and Composting

      • Vendor choices – what kind of coffee, tea, paper products, etc., you purchase

      • Use both sides of printer paper

      • Combine trips when going into town 

      • Use intentional language (during communion use “Come and receive” opposed to “Come and take.”)

      • Talk to campers about portion sizes, electric use, and use of disposables. Teach gratitude 

    • Bold 

      • Create a camp garden to use homegrown vegetables in the dining hall.

      • Talk to community organizations about installing solar energy generation

      • Set goals for net-zero emissions. 

        • Install solar or wind turbines

        • Carbon offsets (could we partner with church & community to plant trees on our grounds?)

      • Build LEED-certified buildings for new construction and renovations


  • 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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