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  • 26 Feb 2014 5:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    As most of you know, United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) formed a member Association in 2013. This year we’ll experience our first Board elections under the new system, so we want to be certain that all of our Members, un-renewed Charter Members, and potential Members are aware of the process. One significant difference from our former system is that the elected UMCRM Board is responsible for the governance of the Association. The Board does not plan the bi-annual National Gathering. That event is organized by a separate, illustrious Design Team of volunteers coordinated by the Event Chair, an officer elected by the Board.

    The most important piece we want to emphasize is that **Only UMCRM Members are eligible to vote in elections or run for Board of Directors**.  

    The South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) has one Board position to be filled immediately, so we are planning to hold an election this Spring. Several other jurisdictions will need to hold elections in the Fall to fill seats vacated by Directors completing their terms in January 2015. All elections will be held electronically to allow for inclusive participation.

    During the transition from the National Camp & Retreat Committee to UMCRM, it became clear that a consistent election process across all jurisdictions was a top priority. Our new bylaws reflect this. Accordingly, we will use the following timeline:

    • Members must be notified of an election 90 days before the date voting will close. At that time, interested persons have 30 days to submit the one-page candidate form.

    • No less than 30 days prior to the close of voting, an email will be sent to eligible Members in the candidate’s jurisdiction with the slate of candidate profiles and the link to cast a vote.

    • Notification of election results will be mailed out promptly after the close of the 30-day voting period.

    Interested in serving on the UMCRM Governance Board?

    1. The first step is to confirm your membership.  Click to access member website.

    2. Next, review the Board Member Job Description.

    3. Fill out the Candidate Application Questions, and submit by email to info@umcrm.org at least 60 days prior to the election date for your jurisdiction.

    4. Watch your email for notice of the election, and be sure to vote by the deadline.

    If you’re a Bundle Administrator for your Center or Conference, please check your member list. If you’ve not yet filled all of your eligible spots (4 individuals for Camps, 7 for Conferences), you’re encouraged to do so, as each of your designated members can run for office, vote, and receive member discounts. Make the most of your membership!  Additional Members are $75, beyond those included with your base membership. If you need assistance editing your member bundle, I am glad to help.

    Please contact me (Jen Burch, your friendly Registrar) with any questions on this process.Thanks for your support of the UMCRM Association!

  • 20 Feb 2014 12:00 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    This Is Your Brain…at Camp

    A couple of weeks ago over a thousand people gathered in Orlando to hear about neurons, synapses, and pre-frontal cortexes. There were discussions of how the brain works, how it changes, and how to influence its growth. It wasn’t, however, a meeting of neuroscientists. Instead it was the annual American Camp Association National Conference. Camp professionals, including more than 20 United Methodist camp colleagues, spent four days exploring a wide range of topics related to camp leadership. A central theme heard frequently at the conference was the growing importance of brain research.

    Over the past decade research on how the brain functions has exploded, driven primarily by advances in technology.  Researchers have been able to map the brain and gain valuable insight into how it works. This new knowledge is having a profound impact in a number of fields including child development, education, and training. New strategies are rapidly emerging to take advantage of this new knowledge.

    At this year’s ACA conference, camp professionals were challenged to begin integrating the new insights on the brain into their work. Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of The Whole-Brain Child, shared the importance of moving beyond the traditional either/or approach to left- and right-brain thinking to adopting strategies for integrating these two different, but complementary areas of the brain. She also provided strategies for promoting the development of the critically important pre-frontal cortex in campers.

    This summer we’ll be looking at integrating Bryson’s work on left brain/right brain thinking into how we do Bible study. We’ll be working to ensure that we engage both the logical left brain and the emotional right brain in how we present and how we discuss the stories from the Bible that we use to support our theme. We want to create a more holistic approach that fully utilizes the entire brain.

    Bryson also highlighted new research showing the direct link between the development of resilience in youth and two important aspects of camp, strong relationships and reflecting on experience. Several camps are now highlighting this research in their promotional materials targeted at parents. Parents looking for opportunities to help their kids grow need to hear the message that the relationships that camp fosters and the reflection-based, experiential model we use build resilience and grit. Measures of resilience and grit correlate strongly with success. “Look, parents, at the ways camp can help your kids succeed!”

    Other conference sessions applied brain research to working with staff. New strategies integrating brain research are being implemented at all levels of the education system and are finding their way into how organizations are training their employees. These new brain-based strategies offer opportunities for camp leaders to significantly improve their training. Using the growing body of knowledge of how the brain learns, camps can accelerate learning, improve the retention of content, and increase the likelihood staff will use what they’ve learned. Knowing that the operation of the brain is all about connections, researchers now believe that linking new ideas to previous knowledge is critical to learning. As we prepare for staff training we’re planning to be very intentional in helping staff make these connections. Each time we present a new concept, our goal will be to link it either to something we’ve already covered or to knowledge that staff members obtained through life experiences outside of camp. We want to help staff members understand and retain new material by creating connections between the new and what they already know.

    Brain based research is also suggesting new approaches to leading summer camp staff. As the understanding of how the brain works evolves, new insights into how to communicate with and motivate staff are emerging. Strategies for coaching and mentoring staff are being adapted to the new understanding of how staff process feedback and change their behavior.

    Over the next several years, camp professionals will likely see an increasing number of opportunities to learn more about brain-based approaches to working with both campers and staff. In addition, a number of resources are under development to provide hands-on strategies for using the new insights into the brain at camp. Camp staff can find some great resources on how brain research is changing approaches to teaching (both campers and staff) on-line at web sites such as Edutopia

    Adopting brain-based strategies at camp offers the opportunity to strengthen the positive impact of the camp experience on both campers and staff. These strategies don’t require us to fundamentally change who we are or what we do. They just help us understand campers and staff (and ourselves) in a way that allows us to tweak what we do to be more effective. It’s an exciting time as we take this new cutting edge knowledge and find ways to use it to help us be more effective in our ministries.

    John Erdman is the Director of Camp Wesley Woods, a ministry of the Holston Annual Conference, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. John has also served as the director of faith based camps in New Hampshire and Ohio. Prior to moving into full time camp ministry, John worked in training and leadership development positions in corporate, higher education, and government settings.

  • 12 Feb 2014 5:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)
    The title claimed it was "More Than Just a Cattle Drive." And it did turn out to be an adventure. Just a small group gathered at Bridgeport Camp & Conference Center in Texas for the mid-January event.

    Josh Pulver from Camp Egan, Oklahoma, wrote to his fellow SCJ'ers:
    We wish all of you could have joined us this week in Bridgeport. We know it is a long trip and not feasible for some of you, but it truly has been a blessing. We have had great conversations, endless laughter, and have learned quite a bit in the areas of hospitality, programming, marketing, fundraising, and using our web resources (websites and social media). 

    Special thanks to Beau Taft for organizing this event and to Beau, Caleb Burk, and the rest of the staff at Bridgeport CCC for their hospitality, great food, and comfortable lodging.

    While there, we also spent time finishing a gazebo for the camp. We worked on a new roof and stained the entire structure as well as stained a ramp into one of the meeting spaces. 
    We are all truly blessed to have such a wonderful group of sisters and brothers to call colleagues. Each of us has our own gifts and talents, and it is just amazing to see what happens when we all get together. Truly, we are doing God's work and I know He is smiling down on each of us! 
    Beau Taft continues: 
    We really did have an amazing time. Our numbers may not have been as strong as we would have liked, but we did learn a lot and got to share a ton with our intimate group made up of staff from Ceta Canyon outside of Happy, Texas; Glen Lake in Glen Rose, Texas; Camp Egan outside of Tahlequah, Oklahoma; and of course here at Bridgeport Camp and Conference Center in Bridgeport, Texas.  I am so thankful for every single person who came to the event, because all shared from their vast knowledge, and even some of us who had only been at our respective posts for a few months were able to contribute and broaden the idea pool for even the most veteran person sitting at the table.  

    We spent our afternoons in sessions about hospitality, marketing, fundraising, and internet presence. We shared our wisdom about the strengths and weaknesses of all our camping facilities, and generated ideas to help us all be better at what we do. I feel blessed to have been the host, and so very thankful to all those who were able to attend for their open minds and willingness to share.
    When we lost power for about six hours on Tuesday afternoon and evening we had a candlelight dinner (not because we were trying to be romantic!)  Looks like some nice ambience...

    Thanks to Josh and Beau for giving a glimpse into the experience. We're grateful for the community, friendships, (and gazebo!) that were built. We hope more SCJ folks will be able to be a part of the next event.
  • 29 Jan 2014 9:40 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Each December, the Camping Executive leadership from Annual Conferences across the country gathers for three days to share in a time of fellowship, collaboration, and visioning. As I reflect back on our time together this past December I have realized that we as a national camping and retreat ministry are at the beginning of a new era.

    Our time at this gathering together started with an inspiring vision shared by Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area. Bishop Johnson is a forerunner in advocating for those whom the rest of the world tends to forget. She has a strong passion for deaf and blind ministries and inspires everyone she interacts with to strengthen their service with “the outcasts.” During her time with us, the Bishop presented a fact that many of us who have been in the camping field for a while try to ignore; that prioritizing our promotional efforts toward the camping demographic of middle and upper-middle class suburban kids can no longer be our primary strategy. For many years, this was the main demographic attracted to and attending summer church camp programs. Today, this demographic is being pulled in so many different directions, church camp is no longer a priority for them or their parents. While it is still important for these young people to have a camping experience, we as a ministry have to begin looking beyond this demographic in order to survive. And more importantly to live out a ministry that models the life of Jesus Christ. The challenge that was put forward by the Bishop was to shift our efforts from the easy way of doing camp (which is really no longer “easy”), to faithfully ministering to the “outcasts,” the “untouchables,” those in society who many times just get passed by. United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries are at the beginning of a new era in ministering to the blind, deaf, poor, those with HIV/AIDS, those who speak a different language, and those who have addictions.

    Our time then shifted into many discussions about what Camp and Retreat Ministry structure looks like in various Annual Conferences across the country. This is always an eye-opening conversation. Year after year, we are finding that more Conferences are losing their conference level camping executive for one reason or another. Some Conferences are choosing to combine this leadership position with other responsibilities: youth ministries, or outreach, for example. This loss of full time leadership is sometimes done strategically, but unfortunately most of the time this loss happens strictly for financial reasons. The reality is that less than half of our Annual Conferences have a full-time camping Executive. This results in Camp Directors taking on extra responsibilities, requiring more resources for guiding them through Conference structure and details of running a camp that they previously did not have to handle. Along with less Conference level leadership there is also the reality that many of our Camp Directors are soon going to be reaching retirement age. Over the next few years there will be a large number of new Camp Directors who will need additional training as well. United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries are at the beginning of a new era in leadership, both at individual sites and structurally as a whole.

    This is an exciting time to be a part of this vital ministry. With the new era that is before us in mind, our time together ended with a number of discussions about how this group of Camping Executives and the newly formed UMCRM Association might successfully lead and resource United Methodist Camp and Retreat Centers. What will it look like for UMCRM to prepare all levels of leadership for a new era of reaching new people, preparing new and young Directors, and filling the newly formed gaps in Conference level leadership? What will it look like for United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries to find its place in this changing world?

    Jessica Gamaché currently serves the church through her position as Camping Coordinator in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. She understands the importance of giving young people a chance to step away from the struggles of everyday life and to be immersed in an intentional Christian community with faith-strong mentors, while surrounded by the beauty of God’s Creation.

  • 19 Dec 2013 10:00 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Tiered pricing has been growing in popularity for all types of summer camps. Pioneered by YMCA camps, the flexible-fee approach has spread to religious camps, recreation department camps, and scout camps. This has been developing for several years, as evidenced by the 2009 NYTimes.com blog post, Pick Your Own Price for Summer Camp. The Times article hints at the moral and philanthropic reasons why this kind of system might be desirable--caring for families with fewer financial resources and giving others an opportunity for generosity. Pecometh offered tiered pricing for the first time in 2013 and had a VERY positive response. We kept our lowest price the same as 2012, added $50 for Tier 2, and added $100 for Tier 1. We excluded certain programs, including our camp for adults with disabilities and day camps. Out of 868 campers who had a choice of tiers, we had the following results:

    • Tier 1: 261 (30%)

    • Tier 2: 157 (18%)

    • Tier 3: 450 (52%)

    The fact that nearly half of the campers chose to pay a higher price is significant. This resulted in $33,950 more in income than if we had we simply charged the 2012 fees. In essence, tiered pricing amounts to a voluntary price increase funded by those who feel able to contribute a little more.

    Tiered pricing gives families the freedom to choose a camp fee that fits their financial situation. The summer camp experience is the same for every camper, regardless of which price tier is chosen. Most camps that implement this model use a three-tier system. While explanations vary, the tiers recognize that some families are able to pay the full cost of camp while others have the freedom to choose a subsidized cost without having to fill out forms. The typical explanation goes something like:

    • Tier 1 (highest price) the full cost of camp

    • Tier 2 (middle price) partially subsidized fee

    • Tier 3 (lowest price) fully subsidized fee

    It’s important to note that we feel a major factor in the results Pecometh experienced was that Tier 1 was the default option. Tiers 2 and 3 were available via the drop-down box. Our registrar did have to spend some more time on the phone explaining tiered pricing to some people, but we literally did not receive one complaint. The closest we got was a woman who asked, “Why should I pay the higher price?” That’s a good question. Here’s an answer:

    Some camps call this an honor system that recognizes that the cost of camp has traditionally been subsidized by an agency or parent institution. The majority of camps, including Pecometh, are now receiving significantly less in the form of subsidies. Rather than raise prices on all families, tiered pricing essentially asks families with greater financial means to subsidize those who can’t pay the full cost of camp. In almost all cases, camps offer additional scholarships for campers who need greater financial assistance.

    The restaurant chain Panera Bread has implemented a similar system with a new cafe concept. Their version of “pick your own price” is called Pay What You Can. The nonprofit Panera Bread Foundation recently opened its fifth Panera Cares ® Cafe in Boston, MA, adding to locations in St. Louis, MO; Dearborn, MI; Portland,OR; and Chicago, IL. The Panera Cares Cafes don’t list any prices and they don’t have cash registers. Instead they have suggested donation levels and donation bins. The menu is consistent with for-profit Panera Bread Cafes. The big difference is that each customer picks what they can pay. Panera calls this a shared responsibility model. Those who can afford to pay more are helping those who can’t pay much, if anything at all. The business model is clearly working, since they continue to open new cafes.

    In the same way, tiered pricing is working for summer camps. It’s helping us respond to changing economic conditions while giving families the chance to pick the option that works for them. Of all the camps that I’ve heard from or heard about, the overwhelming sentiment is that their camp families appreciate having the choice. One camp even switched their pricing from fixed pricing to tiered pricing in the middle of the camp registration season, with no complaints. This business model is realizing positive values and a positive bottom line, both for camps and for camper families.

    Jack Shitama is Director for Camp & Retreat Ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and Chair of the National Camp & Retreat Committee, the UMCRM Board of Directors. He is an ordained elder in the UMC and past president of the International Association of Conference Center Administrators (IACCA). Jack lives and serves at Pecometh Camp & Retreat Center (MD).
  • 18 Dec 2013 8:28 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

                                                                                 Great Thanksgiving

                                                                                                       (Camping On The Edge)

    One:       The Lord be with you.

    All:          And also with you.

    One:       Lift up your hearts.

    All:          I lift them up to the Lord.

    One:       Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

    All:          It is right to give our thanks and praise.

    One:       Thank you for leading us into the wilderness

                    To camp out among your stars that we cannot even see in the city.

                    Thank you for leading us into the margins of life

                    Where we are reminded of our dependence upon your care.

                    It is when we camp among the edges of life

                    That we notice your wisdom among the simple

                    and your delicate miracles often rushed by.

                    We praise you with the bruised reeds that you keep from breaking.

                    We praise you in the light of the small wicks that you keep from going out.

                    We praise you with humbled voices

                    As we find ourselves in awe of your gentle greatness

                    And the brilliance of your simplicity.

                    As we join in spiritual retreat

                    We share in your vision with the blind,

                    And listen intently with the deaf.

                    We are led along your labyrinth by those exquisitely abled,

                    Without your wisdom shared through them,

                    we would be lost.

                    So we have found a need to join with all in this wilderness for our spiritual survival,

                    with angels and archangels,

                    with cherubim and seraphim,

                    with the hosts of heaven and the host of earth,

                    from every nation, tribe and language

                    from every religion, belief and unbelief

                    from every expression of humanity, especially those found least among us,

                    joining together in endless praise, saying:

    All:          Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.

                    Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

                    Hosanna in the highest.

                    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

                    Hosanna in the highest.

    One:       You, O Lord, choose to show forth your glory on the edges of society.

                    Jesus, your son came to live out on the highways and in the byways,

                    among those rejected, and seen of little worth.

                    It is there Jesus still dwells among us.

                    Jesus was born a member of a poor family, not a wealthy one.

                    Jesus was born to a rejected and ridiculed family, not an acceptable one.

                    Jesus surrounded himself with the outcasts of society,

                    The cream of society came to him covertly, if at all.

    It was those with the greatest need,

                    those with stigmatized diseases who embraced Jesus

                    and his freely given salvation,

                    not those who saw their lives as Biblical and holy.


    As an obedient, thoughtful slave to all,

                    Jesus humbled himself and knelt to love

                    the one who would cash in his life for personal gain,

                    the one who would curse and deny his name,

                    and those who would leave him to face on his own all of the hate of the world.

                    Share in the love of Christ.


    As an obedient, thoughtful slave to all,

                    Jesus shared with the world, the bread of freedom.

                    Jesus blessed it and broke it and gave it to free us all.

                    “Take eat, this is my body given for you.”

                    Share in the freedom of Christ.


    As an obedient, thoughtful slave to all,

                    Jesus shared with the world, the healing cup of salvation.

                    Jesus blessed it, and shared it to save us all.

    “Drink from this all of you, for this is my blood, ratifying God’s eternal covenant promise,

                    washing away all the sins of the world.”

                    Share in the salvation of Christ.


    We want to be an obedient, thoughtful slave to all.

                    We want to share the love we find in Christ with all.

                    We want to share the freedom we find in Christ with all.

                    We want to share the salvation we find in Christ with all.

                    We want to join in these mighty acts of Jesus Christ,

                    by offering our lives in praise and thanksgiving

                    as a holy and living sacrifice,

                    in union with Christ’s offering for us,

                    as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

    All:          Christ has died.

                    Christ is risen.

                    Christ will come again.

    One:       Inclusive Spirit, Embracer of the World,

                    infuse these gifts of bread and wine so that they incarnate the living and present Christ,

                    for the transformation of our lives.


    Inclusive Spirit, Embracer of the World,

                    infuse the gift of our lives so that we incarnate the living and present Christ,

                    for the transformation of the world.


    Inclusive Spirit, Embracer of the World,

                    we pray for impoverished children

                    who have no dream of going to camp.

                    We pray for young people

                    who need the quiet of camp to hear clearly your call upon their lives.


    We pray for those lost on their journey in need of a place of quiet retreat.

    We pray for those who need a grace filled respite

                    away from a world of threat and ridicule.

                    We pray for places where all feel welcome and all feel safe in the arms of Christ.


    Allow our camping and retreat ministries to respond to these needs and more,

                    So Jesus Christ may find praise.

                    So the Holy Spirit may move freely.

                    So that the Creator God may be felt deeply.

                    So that our worship may expand to include the voices of all,

                    now and forever.  Amen.


    Now as those who have been accepted by the grace of Christ

                    join the giver of all grace in praying:

    All:          Our Father, who art in heaven,

                    hallowed be thy name.

                    Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

                    Give us this day our daily bread.

                    And forgive us our trespasses,

                    As we forgive those who trespass against us.

                    And lead us not into temptation,

                    but deliver us from evil.

                    For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.


    Prayer after Communion:

                    Thank you for including us in this your holy mystery.  Thank you for stirring our souls to new life.  Now help us to be expressions of your inclusive love, extending ever outward towards the margins of society.  Use us as us instruments of your grace in a hurting world.  Amen.

    Words 2013 Michael C. Johnson.  All rights reserved. These lyrics may be reproduced for worship services and non-commercial use only. You must include the copyright notice on all copies. For any other use, you must contact the copyright owner at Waataja@aol.com.

  • 21 Nov 2013 8:00 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    How did you get started in Camping?

    I went to Camp Lakeside in Scott City, Kansas, where I later served as Director for twenty years. I remember when I was nine years old I went to camp for the first time with my friend JD. Our moms dropped us off at our cabin and put our suitcases under our bunks. At the end of the week when they picked us up, JD’s mom checked his suitcase and it had never been opened. He’d spent the whole week in the same clothes; hadn’t even used a towel or anything!

    I went to camp every year through grade school, junior high and high school, Institutes at Southwestern College. My dad directed camp every summer and served as the camp treasurer, so I often tagged along with him even when I was little. But I didn’t see my role in it until much later. After Diana and I were married and I was teaching school during the year, we were invited one summer to return to Dad’s camp as counselors. And that was really the turning point; we never looked back. We volunteered two or three camp weeks every summer after that.  In 1978 the manager, John ReQua retired, and he invited Diana and me to apply.

    At that time it was all small-group camping. The site had eighty acres, forty of them developed, but the property abutted the 1500 acres of Scott State Park. We developed horsebacking riding trails and hiking in the park. There would be no one in the park during the week, so it became ours. We’d ride around the lake and camp out by their corrals, then ride back into camp the next day.

    In 1998 when the opportunity came up to serve as Missouri Conference Camping Ministry Director, I was ready for a change and a new challenge.

    How did you experience Camping Ministry as a calling from God?

    When we were first at Lakeside, I wondered if I was feeling a call to pulpit ministry. I asked God, “Is this the right place?” After a while I decided to talk to every minister who came on site and ask,“How did you come to ministry?” I heard some amazing stories: things like, “I ran and ran from God till I had to give in,” or the one who was driving a school bus, and the call hit like a bolt from the blue. He resigned and went to seminary. I told them, “You don’t tell congregants enough of these stories!” People don’t know what a call to ministry can be like. I realized over time that none sounded like a career choice or climbing a ladder. They were truly a response to a call, being nudged by the Holy Spirit.

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

    When I first started as a counselor in small-group style camping, we learned that kids have an attention span of 5-10 minutes, so we’d keep them moving and do lessons along the way, looking for teachable moments. We would end up doing a five-mile walk. Now kids wouldn’t walk five miles. Kids are less fit today; they don’t play and run around as much, they prefer being in the air conditioning. Now we have to teach a passion for nature, it doesn’t seem to come as naturally any more.

    Another thing that’s really different is that kids used to know all of the campfire songs. Now there are so many kinds of music, the songs are always new to a lot of campers. But it is neat to see the new kind of passionate worship, with the worship bands, and the words up on a screen so everyone can learn them. It’s different from when we’d just sing around the campfire with volunteers in the small group. Now our camps do a lot more all-camp activities, what I would call institute-style camp, and the small group pioneer camps aren’t as popular as they used to be.

    One thing that’s been a challenge is that the amount of training time for volunteers has decreased tremendously. They used to take two full days to prepare, and we would cover so much: age level awareness, canoeing, outdoor skills, outdoor cooking, faith development.  Now people are busier, the training time feels squeezed, volunteers aren’t willing to take the extra days away from work and family. The videos and webinars are a help, but that doesn’t take the place of face-to-face training.

    Describe your greatest blessings in this work.

    By far number one is the relationships with different people and with God. I have made a lot of wonderful friends, peers, and mentors. There are very few people who stay in this work as a career, most come in to camping to learn their gifts and graces, and move on to express those in other ways. I’ve really enjoyed the career camping people like those who’ve served over the years on the national committee, they really go deep.

    I have been blessed over the years to watch people bloom and grow. One kid came back ten years after camp, after he graduated from college. He was working at a bank and came back with his family to visit. He told me he goes to church now because of his experiences here; camp has been a guide for the rest of his life. In the hard times of life, his network of camp friends have been his support.

    What advice would you offer to other camp and retreat leaders?

    I see a danger in thinking, “I am good at this.” When people keep coming back, just doing the same thing, with the same people, offering the same experience again every year, it becomes ingrown. You are just building a safe place for yourself. I believe that every worship, every human encounter is new. You have to leave spaces in the camp program, because that’s where encounters with God happen.

    What else have you learned that you would like to pass along?

    Well, for the job and for life, it’s important to know where your roots are, and take time to put it in God’s hands. The demands can be overwhelming, and the truth is we can’t handle it all ourselves. But if you look inside and look to God, you will find the resources and strength you need to move through. Don’t get too busy to pay attention to the balance in your life.

    What are you looking forward to, in your retirement?

    This has been so much fun. I will miss it. But I am looking forward to two

    things: Diana and I are going to spend time with our granddaughter and grandson on the way, and I plan to get good at golf, for real!  I am going to balance my life differently.

  • 30 Oct 2013 5:00 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    I called it “The Giving Tree,” partly because of my affection for Shel Silverstein’s book of the same name, but mostly because it gave me a sacred place for spiritual rest. A bulky beech tree with huge low branches, it grew magnificently on the edge of a creek running through our camp property.  A perfect home-in-the-woods setting and a sacred place for those who sought respite beneath its branches. Then it was gone. A raging rainstorm sent its runoff rushing down the creek bed, undercutting at the turn where the Giving Tree had found its strength to grow so perfectly. My heart sank when I discovered it.  My favorite sacred place would never be the same.


    The theory of global climate change was beginning to make its way into the consciousness of nature-loving persons, but it seemed distant from the mission of the churches in the southeast. I fumed.  The annual conference had a work area on just about everything you could think of at the time.  Everything that is, except caring for God’s creation.  God called it “good.”  God placed the man in the garden to “tend it and keep it”, yet the church had no one assigned to give leadership in caring for it. “WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?” was my outcry.


    As I fumed over my self-induced nature lover’s indignation at the church’s lack of ecological faithfulness, God whispered to me. “You’re the camp guy, dummy.  You know – the one called to outdoor ministry. The church has its leader. What are YOU going to do about that?” Ouch! Previously, I had understood my calling as the Caretaker of Sacred Ground. It was how I came to understand my role in Camp and Retreat ministry early in my career.  Suddenly, guided by an environmental conscience I believed to be the work of the Creator’s Spirit, I would now add the role of leading the Memphis Annual Conference as a voice for doing ministry with ecological integrity.


    As should be true of all leadership, it begins at home. Leading with integrity means leading from experience and by example. My heart was moved to be more environmentally aware and active in preparing my own site to be an example ecological integrity in ministry. Lakeshore would become a standing witness to the call to care for creation, or bust.


    We still have a long way to go, but we have come to be recognized by our Annual Conference as a leader in this area over the years since the loss of my beloved Giving Tree. There have been many battles in my faith community as I have sought to be a witness. Resistance to change is always an obstacle when presenting a longstanding culture with new ideas. During a 45 minute debate on the Annual Conference floor over a resolution I wrote to establish a Creation Care Task Force, a woman stood up and announced her love for nature and called herself an “original nature mother.” But she argued that environmental concerns had no business in the church. The church, she believed, should only concern itself with saving souls. It took us two years and two 45-minute debates to establish a Creation Care Task Force.

    We who lead in calling the church to care for God’s gift of creation, especially those of us blessed to be in an outdoor ministry, must persevere in the face of resistance. We have to keep recycling, even when guests continue to throw trash in the recycle containers. We must stay steadfast in washing mugs for coffee, even when Styrofoam remains coffee’s best friend. When we are faced with the argument that the cost of being environmentally friendly is too high, we have to persist in the reality that the cost of not caring for God’s creation is much, much higher.


    Among my many efforts to lead was to eliminate the sale of water in plastic bottles. Such a simple measure was apparently a big deal to our guests who prefer plastic over the water fountain and a reusable bottle as their vessel of choice. We now offer donated reusable water bottles that say “Harlem Globetrotters” on them, and fruit flavored ice water from a dispenser for their drinking pleasure.


    My latest effort was to initiate Meatless Mondays into the life of summer camp.  Oh my!  For many of the summer staff and campers, you would think I had declared an 8 pm lights out.  We are, after all, a meat eating people.  If I hadn’t told them it was meatless Monday, they would probably not have noticed, but then there would have been no witness to the meat industry’s huge impact on our environment.

    From the spirit-led witness of my Giving Tree to the simple installation of Meatless Mondays, the battle to be faithful wages on. Even my own resistance to change requires a lot of grace sometimes.  I am certainly a long way from Wesleyan perfection. I want to invite all my brothers and sisters in outdoor ministry to join in, or faithfully persevere in, the work of caring for the Creation.  We (especially we!) see God at work in the natural world more than most. We are caretakers of sacred ground. What a glorious witness it can be!

    The Reverend Gary D. Lawson, Sr. has served 21 years as Executive Director of Lakeshore United Methodist Assembly (TN). Gary is an ordained Elder in the Memphis Conference. Gary and his wife Vickie share six children and are expecting their eleventh grandchild in December. Gary currently serves on the UMCRM Governance Board.
  • 17 Oct 2013 12:22 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Leanndra Padgett was the very first youth representative on the National Camp and Retreat Committee (NCRC), beginning in 2007. She will complete her term with the UMCRM Governance Board in 2015. Leanndra is now a senior at Georgetown College in Kentucky, and will graduate in May with an English degree, certification to teach English to grades 6-12, and a Biology minor.

    How were you called into C&R ministry?

    I was literally born into camping ministry, as my dad was a full time director at Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center in Kentucky for the first 21 years of my life. I volunteered from a young age and always knew that I wanted to work on summer staff when I was old enough.

    The things that made me want to be a part of camping were the presence of God, people, natural setting and fun! I have felt the presence of God, heard testimony of lives changed and learned lessons from the Lord often while at a campfire or elsewhere during worship and prayer at summer camp. I was also inspired by the wonderful influences of the summer staff who provided godly role models from a young age. They showed me strong, healthy relationships that attracted me and made me want to take part.


    Describe your greatest blessings in this work.

    I love environmental education. It is very rewarding to introduce campers to something new about nature and help them appreciate it. The same is true of horseback riding. There is nothing like seeing a "tough" kid humbled by the power of a horse and then gain confidence as they learn to listen and work together. I am always amazed by the gentleness the animals bring out in the most difficult of campers.


    What's been one of your greatest challenges?

    It can be hard to live at a camp and have to share it with others! Sometimes, you just don't feel hospitable. It is easy to forget that Camp belongs to everyone and is home to others even if they visit less often.


    Where have you served?

    1992-spring 2013, Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center, Ravenna, KY, Camp Kid + Volunteer

    2007-present, NCRC/UMCRM Committee

    Summer 2010, Aldersgate, Creation Sensation Director (environmental education)

    Spring 2011, Tim Horton's Children's Foundation, Campbellsville, KY, March Camp Counselor (1 week camp)

    Summer 2011, Aldersgate, Animal Activities Director + Dean

    Summer 2012, Aldersgate, Counselor

    Summer 2013, Aldersgate, Dean

    She’s ecumenical, too: Once, in middle school, in an effort to broaden my horizons, I went to the Presbyterian camp in the same county as Aldersgate. Despite the differences, I had a great time!”

  • 09 Oct 2013 2:55 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The discussion was almost an afterthought. It was the Gathering of United Methodist Conference Camp and Retreat Executives in November of 2010 at Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The schedule for the Gathering had included a variety of workshops on marketing and management, but at the end there was an open forum discussion to hear the concerns of the group.

    It became clear within a few minutes that there was an incredible amount of energy (anxiety?) around our common concerns. What would the 2012 General Conference and, specifically, the Call to Action initiative, mean for our UM camps and retreats? How long would we continue to have support from the General Board of Discipleship in the form of a support staff person? With so many conferences merging or restructuring, how does camp and retreat ministry fit within the connectional structure?

    Out of that discussion emerged a Strategic Initiatives Task Force comprised of 11 conference camping and retreat executives, as well as Kevin Witt, our staff person at the General Board of Discipleship. One of the priorities that quickly emerged was exploring the formation of a National Association.

    Original Strategic Initiatives Task Force Members:

    David Berkey
    Nancy Deaner*
    Dickie Hinton*
    Anne Horton
    Mike Huber*
    Bruce Nelson
    Kelly Newell
    Jim Parkhurst
    Alan Rogstad
    Jack Shitama*
    Lee Walz
    Kevin Witt*

    *National Association Task Force

    In 2011 a sub-group, the National Association Task Force, was authorized specifically to evaluate options and make a recommendation to the National Camp & Retreat Committee (NCRC). The National Association Task Force developed a concept plan which drew overwhelming support at the Conference Executives’ annual gathering a year later at Lake Huron, Michigan.  After some refinement, the NCRC voted in January 2012 to move the plan forward so its structure and design would be ready to present to the larger community at the January 2013 National Camp & Retreat Leaders Gathering.  The legal structure would be in place by January 2014.  The new association was named United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM).  The action assumed that NCRC, which is a nonprofit corporation, would become UMCRM through a name and bylaws change. The Task Force also proposed a Transition Plan for 2013, a timeline aiming to complete the NCRC’s metamorphosis into UMCRM.

    The NCRC was incorporated in 1991, but had existed less formally for decades. It originated as a committee of United Methodist Camp ministry leaders whose primary work was to present a biennial national event for training and fellowship for the larger UM camps community.  The new UMCRM structure would include an Event Team whose sole purpose was to plan the National Gathering, and a representative Governance Board, who would set the vision for the organization and move forward with strategic initiatives. After the National Gathering in January 2013, the NCRC met in its new bifurcated form. Board members originally elected to the NCRC would finish out their terms on the team of their choice--”Event” or “Governance.”  The Governance Board would serve as the Association’s Transition Team.  

    So far this year the Transition Team has worked to realize the UMCRM vision as outlined in the plan. They articulated UMCRM’s mission:  Committed to the mission of The United Methodist Church, UMCRM resources, advocates, inspires, and networks to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of camp and retreat ministries.

    The communication plan continues to unfold with the development of a Facebook presence, S’more Mail e-news, and the UMCRM blog. Training needs have been surveyed and findings will be incorporated into future national and regional training opportunities, distance learning through webinars and online courses, in-person events like the National Gathering, Sustainable Pathways events, and Certification Courses.

    In May 2013 the UMCRM Association was ready to invite its first Charter Members. It has been so gratifying to watch the registrations roll in throughout the summer and fall as the community pours out its support for this new endeavor. To date, twenty-six Annual Conferences have joined as Charter Members, including their Board Chairs, Site Directors, and Conference Camp and Retreat Ministry Executives.  A handful of Individuals and Centers have also opted to support the Association in its charter year. Thank you!  If you are reading this, you’re likely among the illustrious group of Charter Members. If not, you may register here to join. You may join at any time, but only those who join before October 15 will have access to member purchasing discounts through our partnership with PCCCA. The Association will accept Charter Members for the remainder of 2013. In 2014 we’ll move to a calendar-year renewal cycle.

    Questions? Comments? Drop us a note at info@umcrm.org.

    Jack Shitama is Director for Camp & Retreat Ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and Chair of the National Camp & Retreat Committee, the UMCRM Board of Directors. He is an ordained elder in the UMC and past president of the International Association of Conference Center Administrators (IACCA). Jack lives and serves at Pecometh Camp & Retreat Center (MD).

    Jen Burch is Administrator for the American Camp Association’s Religiously Affiliated Camps Council (RAC). She also serves as a part-time administrator for the UMCRM Association. She was a former Director at Pine Lake Camp (WI) and Flathead Lake Camp (MT), and has served on the NCRC/UMCRM as a representative from the Western Jurisdiction since 2007.

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