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  • 15 Sep 2021 10:16 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Stirling Sims, though connected to a family of “camp people,” never really had the quintessential camp experience until this summer. As a student at Queens University in North Carolina, playing college volleyball and studying Nursing, he was recruited by his cousins—long time camp kids, volunteers, and staff, Kallie and Abby Handlong, to join the counselor intern team at Mingus Mountain Camp (AZ).  

    With over a year of COVID living impacting all of us, this summer started with Stirling and the rest of the counselor interns just figuring out how to be around people in real life again – how to connect with others, see each other for who they are, and how to lead campers in the experience that they needed to re-enter into life. To say this was tougher than it sounds is an understatement.


    With campers “out of practice,” unused to things like lining up, listening to an adult’s (besides at home) instruction, being aware of others, etc., it meant that in many ways, the Mingus camp staff were reintroducing our campers to the basic rules of living in society. Stirling, focused on offering fun experiences in a safe environment, discovered that a lot of his time was spent just reining in campers, redirecting them, and teaching them or reintroducing them to what it means to be together in  community. 

    After a few grueling weeks, he was questioning whether camp was the right place for him, and after some honest and heartfelt discussions with camp leadership, he decided to give it another week. That week was when the camp magic happened. Stirling's group of campers, a Junior High coed group, was a disparate crew with lots of identities, from the traditionally “cool” campers to more unique and marginalized  youth. The week was hard, but oh so good — filled with fun, heartfelt connections, and those moments when camp transformed from being a bunch of different people to an embodiment of loving, accepting community.  

    Just before that transformation occurred, when Stirling was still wondering why he was at camp, he asked God to show to him that he wasn’t alone and that he was where he was meant to be. In turn, using his Bible app, God pointed him to the scripture of Jonah and the whale (which happened to be a primary scripture we studied this summer). In the passage, Stirling encountered Jonah drowning, overwhelmed, afraid, alone, and exhausted. Jonah was swallowed by the giant fish — not to kill him, but to protect him — to offer him a place of peace amid the chaos. Stirling knew immediately that the scripture was meant for him; that God was offering him camp the way God offered Jonah the fish.  

    From that moment, Stirling saw his campers and the camp experience through changed eyes. He was sure that God was with him and that he just had to listen to hear what God was saying. God showed him the beauty of his challenging group, and the night before camp ended, Stirling found himself just watching the campers as they laughed, swapped phone numbers, and shared their final evening in game play and conversation, thinking to himself, “this is the hardest job you’ll ever love.”  

    Ultimately, though the summer had challenges and lots of growing opportunities, Stirling was fulfilled to finish the summer surprised at how much he enjoyed it and sad to see camp come to a close. He’s sure that God is still with him even in the chaos,  and that is something he’ll forever carry with him from camp at Mingus Mountain.

    Special thanks to the Mingus Mountain team for sharing this story! 

  • 15 Sep 2021 8:48 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Peter Mastroianni, Partner and Chief Innovation Officer at Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg, LLP, was our guest at the September 13th UMCRM Community Conversation. Peter shared with us about escheatment and how to retrieve unclaimed assets that are owed to you, your family, your donors, and your camp ministry.


    What is Escheatment?

    "When certain assets are left unclaimed, those assets are transferred to states and other governmental entities in a process known as escheatment. The assets are then custodially held until the rightful owner can reclaim them. Currently, more than $50 billion dollars of custodial escheatment is in governmental possession."

         - Peter Mastroianni  

    Benefits of escheatment

    Am I or my organization owed funds currently held in escheatment?

    Find out if you have assets in escheatment

    Find out if your camp is owed money through escheatment

    This site enables you to search by state to see if you & your family members, your camp/retreat center, or UM churches in your region have unclaimed assets. It is a free resource, so any individual or business can use it. 
    Tips for searching:
    • Click on your state at escheatment.com
    • Search your name, your organization's name
    • Try alternative spellings to your name
    • Try just part of your or your camp's name
    • Search for family, churches, etc.

    How can we create a “Reverse Fundraiser?”
    A "Reverse Fundraiser" is a way to build relationships with your supporters and give back to those who have been generous to your ministry in the past. In most situations, people and organizations do not know that they are owed funds or assets through escheatment. This is an opportunity for your supporters (people, churches, Conference, etc) to make a donation to your ministry with these extra funds that they didn't realize they had in the first place. It will not impact their planned budget.
    Create an event or campaign that teaches donors and supporters about escheatment. Then invite them to give a portion of their claimed assets to your ministry. Here's an example of a "Reverse Fundraiser"
    Another option is to create a video describing escheatment and inviting people to give a portion of their unclaimed funds to your camp. Post the video and the escheatment.com website on your ministry's giving page. 
    We'd like to invite anyone who finds money to give back to UM Camp & Retreat Ministries. Anyone who doesn’t have one favorite camp is welcome to donate back a portion of "found" assets to support our national Association:


    Please contact Jessica if you have any questions. Peter Mastroianni is also more than willing to help -- just click the Contact Us button on Escheatment.com.

  • 15 Sep 2021 4:53 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    During this year's National Gathering, UMCRM will be raising money for the Legacy of Leadership Fund in a couple of fun ways! Whether you are there in person or not, you are invited to participate.

    The Legacy of Leadership Fund provides scholarships for rising leaders to attend professional and educational events like the UMCRM National Gathering, Compass Points, Immersion, etc. These scholarships are vital in equipping the next generation of camp and retreat leaders to build up this beloved ministry. This year, $8,000 was available to distribute in scholarships. However, each year there is more need for assistance in getting leaders to these valuable events. Supporting the Legacy of Leadership Fund means you are directly supporting your colleagues and friends in the ministry that God has called them to.

    This fall, take part in the Destination Silent Auction by offering a stay at your camp/retreat site and/or by bidding on a unique getaway for yourself or as a gift.

    Share the beauty of your destination by donating a 1-, 2-, or 3- night stay at your camp/retreat center at the link below. During the National Gathering, participants will have the opportunity to bid on the destinations at the Destination Silent Auction. 100% of the winning bids will support the Legacy of Leadership Fund.

    DONATE a stay at your Camp/Retreat Center

    Submissions due by Friday, October 15th

  • 15 Sep 2021 4:34 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Every camp and retreat center has one recipe it's famous for! This fall, use your prize recipe to help raise money for the UMCRM Legacy of Leadership Fund.

    Each recipe will be highlighted on a special voting site. Once the site is live, anyone can vote with their dollars: $1 = 1 vote

    At that time you can promote your recipe on your social media channels and among your supporters. The recipe with the most dollars raised and the recipe with the most individual donors will each win an Amazon gift card for the site/ministry!

    Earn your copy of the digital UMCRM Cookbook by donating $5 or more in votes.

    Submit Your Camp/Retreat Center's Recipe HERE

    Recipes submissions due by Friday, October 8th

  • 08 Sep 2021 8:31 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)


    At GSB Fundraising, we get camp! We know the impact you have on the lives of the campers and counselors you serve, and it is our mission to help you strengthen your mission. That is why we have launched the new Center for Generosity, to give you ongoing support and access to valuable resources like storytelling and communications calendar outlines. Telling your impact stories will strengthen generosity and engagement for your ministry. Here is a sample story from Good Earth Village Camp in MN after learning the power of storytelling as a result of working with a GSB consultant.

    A Story Sample

    For most of his life, Miles didn’t understand why he didn’t fit in at his school or community. “Life and relationships were challenging for me,” he shared. “I always felt like I had to try and be something different. I had to put on a mask.” 

    Miles' first summer as a camper was in the 6th grade. He spent a week with his home congregation, Bethel Lutheran. “I just remember really enjoying being here. I don’t really remember what we did, but I remember feeling good.” He came again as a camper for confirmation and then returned three years later to serve as a high school senior helper. In 2019 he served as a Staff in Training. With each new camp experience, Miles remembers feeling like camp was a place where he could be himself. “I could take off my mask.” 

    During the midst of his 2019 summer and throughout the fall of that year Miles was being tested to help him and his family understand why he struggled with fitting in at school and with peers. “I actually found out on Christmas Eve,” he said. “I was diagnosed with Autism. That really answered a lot of questions and it felt good to know and have answers.” 

    Before his diagnosis, Miles lived each day wondering and trying to make himself fit into the mold the world expected, but at camp, he didn’t feel that stress or pressure. “All of the staff are open and accepting. At camp, I didn’t have to try and fit into a box like I normally did at school. I could just be me. That was especially helpful when I didn’t know why I was so different.” 

    Now Miles is sharing his gifts and talents, as well as what he has learned through the challenges of life, during his first official summer as a counselor. Without knowing it, the safe and accepting community the staff create at Good Earth Village gave Miles a place of belonging and security. Your generosity to this ministry makes this holy village possible for all the campers like Miles who need to know they are loved and valued as beloved children of God. Thank you for making this safe community a reality. 

    The Follow Up Thank You Letter Tied To The Gift 

    Dear Pastor Jason and Chuck,

    Thank you very much for the significant and beautiful gift that was recently approved for Good Earth Village. This summer, one of our new summer staff came to us after many summers as a camper and one summer as Staff-in-Training (2019). Miles told me that he had always had trouble fitting in at school, but at GEV he felt welcomed and accepted, and he had authentic and deep friendships here that eluded him outside of camp. While it bothered him that at school he felt an outsider, knowing that he had peers that accepted him at camp carried him through. 

    Last year, Miles learned that he has autism. Suddenly those feelings at school made sense, and the acceptance at camp became even sweeter. He was met and loved where he was, as he was.  

    That's the sort of return on your investment that is priceless. Every project we complete because of your generosity makes it easier for people to participate, and more participants means the world gets to see Miles as we see him: a beloved, perfect child of God. 

    Thank you! We look forward to worshipping with you this weekend!


    Learn more at www.centerforgenerosity.com

    Join GSB as a Business Affiliate Member of the UMCRM Association: Click for details

  • 08 Sep 2021 7:49 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    My first camping experience in the late 1950s was a weekend outing with the Potawatomi Tribe of the Cleveland area YMCA Indian Guides – a father-and-son program that included Native American rituals, respect for nature and solemn spirituality. My name was Morning Cloud, my dad was Flying Cloud (since he traveled a lot) and my mom made his headdress at our dining room table since he was “chief.” We used a drum at our monthly meetings and prayed to the Great Spirit.  

    This experience was a mixed bag for me because I developed a deep respect for Native American culture and ritual, all the while misappropriating it in my white suburban “tribe” of father-and-son Indian Guides. Later, as I studied in college and seminary, I learned how wrong it was for us to borrow the trappings of a culture that wasn’t ours to use. This added insult to injury as those who stole the land of Native people also appropriated their rituals.

    So when it was announced that Michigan Area United Methodist Camping had decided to “do the right thing” and sell Crystal Springs Camp to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (yes, the same name as my Indian Guides “tribe,”) it was heralded as something to be celebrated. We have been thanked, recognized, and congratulated for this decision. This troubled my soul. We are not heroes in this scenario – it is not about us as Michigan Area Camping, Michigan Conference United Methodists, or White leaders selling real estate. We received money in the sale, though less than the market value. It was a gesture towards justice. There is still much work to be done.

    Perhaps we can use this event to reflect more deeply and act more fully towards justice. What Native symbols and rituals still exist in our camp facilities and programs that can be removed now? What can we do to build relationships with Native leaders and churches nearby? What can we learn from Native spirituality that can inform our connection to the camp land we steward, and all that God has created?

    I also grew up in Cleveland rooting for my beloved baseball team with the horribly offensive and cartoonish “Chief Wahoo” logo. In 2022, they will finally (after 120 years) change the name and logo to the “Guardians.” How profound it must be to have sacred rituals, symbols, and land stolen and be constantly reminded of it! Why does it take us so long to learn and change? God have mercy on us.

    Rev. David Berkey is Executive Director of Michigan Area United Methodist Camping. He has served as a Camp & Retreat Ministries executive in United Methodist Annual Conferences in Eastern PA, Florida, and Cal-Pac, and served on the boards of several national camp organizations, including UMCRM. He has long been a leader, teacher, mentor, and friend in the UMCRM Association. He is passionate about discipling young leaders, Christian social justice, and baseball.

  • 01 Sep 2021 11:57 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The "Great Resignation" is the current phenomenon of large numbers of people making job and career changes. Camping and retreat ministries across the country are seeing this play out at their sites and related ministries. 


    Why are folks feeling the desire to move out of camp and retreat ministries?

    • Burnout. Leaders were feeling burnout pre-summer. This summer did not provide relief, and in many cases made stress and exhaustion worse. This has been a factor in some early retirements and career changes.

    • COVID lay-offs. Furloughs and lay-offs caused talented folks to seek work in other industries. They have not returned.

    • Career advancement. Camping and retreat ministries often have few opportunities for "moving up the ladder."

    • Weak support systems. Some leaders are feeling like they are "going it alone." 

    • Salary. Camping salaries and non-profit salaries, in general, tend to be lower than average.

    Strategies for addressing these challenges:

    • Camp/Retreat Ministry is both a career and a "life calling." 

    • Create a culture of growth. Even in ministries that don't have a lot of room for advancement, leaders can adjust job descriptions to bring newness to staff who have been around for a while.

    • Give the gift of time. Offer staff times of renewal and days off that don't count against their PTO.

    • Provide professional development or educational opportunities. Explore staff persons' career goals and help them learn skills to keep them growing. 

    • Encourage staff to grow and move on to wherever God is calling them. Don't hold too tightly to staff who are ready for a new challenge. At the same time, be continually looking at who can step up into year-round positions. Create an intentional and healthy flow of year-round staff.

    • Commit to increasing fiscal health so that can translate into better pay and benefits for your best asset: awesome people.

    • Look for opportunities to show how much your staff matter. Could credit card points go toward gift cards? Does housing need a facelift? Can you add bonuses to base pay? Could retirement contributions increase with longevity at the job?

    • Advocate for your own needs so you can best lead those around you. Don't be afraid to ask the Conference or your supervisor for support when you need it.

    Thanks to all who participated, shared ideas, and articulated your values around staff retention and appreciation. Join us on Monday, September 13th for the next UMCRM Community Conversation! 

  • 01 Sep 2021 10:16 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Wesley Hall at Jumonville

    There’s only so much planning for a National Gathering that can happen remotely, so the Design Team for In The Kitchen was thrilled to be able to gather in person last week at our host site, Jumonville. Between poking our heads into every space that we’ll be utilizing in October and enjoying some incredibly delicious meals, the team focused on all the details that will make the Gathering in October truly special. 

    "In The Kitchen" Design Team group shot: Jeff Wilson, Matt Williams, Becky Valenzuela, Bruce Nelson, Stacey Dickson, Collin Grooms, Allison Doyle, and Ethan Porter. August 2021

    Fellowship is always an integral part of our National Gatherings, but as the team experienced first-hand last week, its role is now more important than ever—and can be done safely even in these uncertain times.

    One of the primary ways we will be able to maintain a safer environment is to place a hard cap of 150 registrations. As of today, this means there are only 24 spots remaining. The not-so-great news is that all the single- and double-accommodations have been spoken for (fortunately, the cabins we’ll be using on site have ample space and there are multiple hotels & motels within twenty minutes of Jumonville.) The good news is that you have until 11:59pm MT on Thursday, September 9th to take advantage of Early Bird Registration.

    We aren’t being hyperbolic when we say “register today!” 

    P.S., The scratch-made Italian Wedding Soup is worth the price of registration alone.

    Matt with gator at 2019 National Gathering in Florida

    Matt Williams is the Director of Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center in Upper New York. He and inimitable co-chair Heather Withrow are herding the cats/ wrestling the gators/ mixing up the ingredients for "In The Kitchen." 

  • 18 Aug 2021 9:25 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Highlights of 8/6/21 UMCRM Community Conversation

    What has been UM camping's history of summer staff compensation?

    • We have been slow to keep up with summer staff raises.
    • Other cost increases, which have been out of our control, became the priority, pushing summer staff raises down the list of things to fund.
    • Typically we struggle every year in hiring enough quality summer staff. This year, all industries were struggling to hire staff.
    • We have been afraid to raise camper rates. It is an important value to keep camp accessible for every child.
    • We know that returning staff are exponentially more valuable the longer they stay, but salary increases do not reflect that value.
    • Bonuses (hiring bonuses or end-of-summer bonuses) have become more popular in recent years.

    Why is increasing summer staff salary base pay important?

    • Higher wages bring the opportunity of working at camp to a more diverse group of people. Affording to work at camp currently could be considered a "privilege." Only those with other sources of financial support can work at a low wage.
    • Increasing wages is the norm in the business industry right now. Increasing the pay rate will make camping more competitive with other industries trying to hire the same demographic.
    • "The experience" of being on summer staff is not enough to get young people to apply for these positions, or may not outweigh the realities of the cost of living and education.
    • United Methodist doctrines and Social Principles support fair pay and justice for workers.
    • Paying more will influence how we are perceived in the marketplace. What we charge and what we pay sets a certain expectation.

    So how do we fund it?

    • Change the camper fee structure; adopt or adjust tiered pricing.
    • Charge the actual cost of camp, front-loading scholarships rather than cutting expenses.
    • Provide payment plans for families to pay for camp throughout the whole year, instead of all at one time.
    • Strengthen fundraising efforts. Consider who benefits from us having excellent, well-compensated camp staff (camper families, churches, local businesses...)?
    • Reach out to civic organizations like Rotary Club to sponsor leadership development through multi-year bonuses.
    • Reach out to larger churches to fund salaries.
    • Invite conferences or other denominational entities to provide support, interpreting the value of camps in culture of call and young clergy recruitment.
    • "Adopt A Counselor" program - donors sponsor a staff salary but also serve as a prayer partner, send care packages, etc. Fun way to engage staff alumni.
    • Change end of summer bonuses and other incentives into a weekly pay increase.
    • Take incremental steps to increase the base salary over several years so your budget doesn't take a huge hit all in a single year.

    Special thanks to UMCRM colleague Nick Coenen (Pine Lake, WI) for initiating this conversation. Many of us came away with a new idea or insight, and it helps to know that other camps struggle with the same challenges. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

  • 11 Aug 2021 3:38 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Image result for laundry fireDid you know that after being washed, towels and sheets left in a tumble dryer overnight can catch fire? This linen can start a fire from spontaneous combustion.

    It may surprise you to know that fires caused by spontaneous ignition are very common. While cooking remains the leading cause of house fires, laundry room fires account for an average of 15,000 fires each year in the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

    “Spontaneous combustion” refers to the gradual increase in temperature of a flammable material to the point of ignition. The process is a chemical reaction in which heat is generated. In laundry, the exothermic reaction occurs from oxidation of oils on fabric. (Source: Kelchner Cleaners)

    It’s possible for fires to start by spontaneous ignition in any type of business. These types of fires usually start late at night and are not discovered until the fire is in full bloom. A fire could damage your premises and even put a halt to your facility operation. This potential liability issue could also endanger staff or guests at your site. 

    Fortunately, there are some simple practices you can put in place to reduce the risk of a laundry fire. Oils are most likely to occur in kitchen laundry. Please review spill management and look at how greasy or oily residue is cleaned up at your site. (Resource from United Laboratories)  Also, review practices with staff who care for laundry to ensure that possibly contaminated laundry is not left in a warm, enclosed space overnight.

    Special thanks to Dale Connell from A1 American Group/ American Associated Companies for alerting us to this important risk management topic!

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