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  • 24 Mar 2021 4:38 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Here’s to you...

    Here’s to the dozens of noses you will wipe, the bruises you will ice, 

    and the scrapes you will bind.

    Here’s to the hundreds of songs you will sing,  the tables you will set, 

    and the toilets you will plunge.

    Here’s to marshmallows and sticky fingers

    to G chords and broken strings

    to bracelets and bobbles, beads and boondoggle

    to packing, portaging, and paddling

    to offsides, learning scales, and puddle jumping

    to taking the wet life jacket so your camper can have the last dry one

    to never sitting down to eat when you are counselling the 7 year olds

    and carrying your littlest campers to bed who fall asleep during campfire

    Here’s to washing pee stained sleeping bags first thing in the morning 

    and cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night

    Here’s to being chosen by your camper to disclose their very worst secret

    and to being there to witness their very best moment

    Here’s to disagreeing with your colleague on virtually everything 

    and still figuring out a way to make it work

    To being supervised by a close friend and not getting your nose out of joint

    To being told by a director that you messed up 

    and doing your best to take the lesson from it not just the hurt feelings

    Here’s to wearing your clothes inside out because you missed 

    your laundry day…again

    To remembering to wear your hat, your sunscreen and drink lots of water,

    To putting your best effort forward every time you look into a microscope, 

    shoot an arrow, or head out on a hike

    Here’s to the adrenaline you’ll feel when the horn goes

    to the fatigue you’ll feel when the morning bell rings

    to the relief you’ll feel when your last camper gets in the car

    and the goose bumps you’ll feel when the harmonies at campfire are perfectly tight

    Here’s to the helicopter parents, the bulldozer parents,

    The ones you will put crying into their cars as they leave their baby for the first time,

    Here’s to the pastors who support you and those who don’t get camp at all

    Here’s to board members, alumni and family camp die-hards who will spoil you, write to you, and pray for you

    Here’s to the health inspector who will show up at the most inconvenient of times,

    the church groups who generously give of their time

    and the parents and families who love to hear your singing most of the time

    Here’s to throwing pots, shooting shots, and making stained glass

    to counting your campers at every activity to make sure you have them all,

    to gaga ball pits, cooking lessons, and ukulele classes

    Here’s to dressing up as magical characters  

    and to the giggling campers who always buy into the magic

    Here’s to children who would prefer to wear nothing but their bathing suits and rubber boots for a entire week

    to those who cover their ears during loud songs and thunder storms

    to the ones who cling to Mummy on the first day of camp 

    and to you on the last

    Here’s to the Chapels, Bible Studies and Vespers that make you question 

    and the songs of praise that give you answers 

    here’s to having a spiritual moment or two every day that gives you pause

    and at least one this summer that makes you realize how truly small you are and how big God really is

    Here’s to a summer that leaves you so tired, you had no idea that kind of

    tired even existed,

    to a summer filled with sunsets and star gazing, late night chats and early morning paddles

    to singing until you are hoarse, and playing until you are sore,

    to laughing ‘til you cry and crying ‘til you’re spent

    Here’s to knowing the importance of apologizing

    and seeking first to understand before being understood.

    Here’s to letting go of all you don’t need

    and holding on tight to all you do

    Here’s to the friendships that will last you a lifetime

    to those who became your university roommates,

    your bridesmaids, your birth coach, 

    your spouse.

    To watching their babies grow up and them grow old.  

    Here’s to never being ashamed to admit you were wrong

    and knowing it shows you are wiser today than yesterday.

    To not waiting for opportunities but creating them.

    To never trying to influence the world by trying to be like it.

    And to knowing that it’s not what you do for your campers but what you teach them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.

    Here’s to your heartaches, your frustrations, your ‘end of your rope’ moments

    and to coming out the other side

    stronger, wiser, and filled with gratitude

    Here’s to becoming a true leader...and to remembering true leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

    Here’s to cherishing every moment you are given in your place

    To giving away love and grace like you’re made of the stuff

    to being inspired because that’s pretty great

    and to inspiring others because that is ubba-awesome

    Here’s to serving with honour and grace

    here’s to you, the staffs of 2021

    to you who have taken up the torch

    of those who have gone before 

    and who will keep it burning brightly until you pass it on to those 

    who will come after 

    Here’s to making a difference and changing the world

    Here’s to you...here’s to you

    Here’s to Camp

    – Beth Allison, Go Camp Pro

    (Shared at UMCRM Community Conversation, 3/22/21. Beth gives permission for you to customize to your setting and share with your own staff.)

    The Camp Song, by Peter Katz, with #thankstocamp moments from Canadian camps

  • 03 Mar 2021 8:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Have you been outside lately? Are you thinking of warmer days and time spent in the great outdoors? John Muir, the “father of our national park system,” knew well how deeply the outdoors affects our lives. Muir wrote ecstatically about the outdoors one hundred years before we had an iPhone to stare at while our eyes glazed over. His words remind us today that the removal of the constant distractions of life, social media and an abundant workload, can refocus our view and deepen our faith. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life” (Common English Bible translation). This passage from the creation story reminds us that we are enlivened by God's breath and formed from the “dirt.” Our scripture informs us that the dirt path is part of our experience of God’s goodness.

    While we are taking a few dirt paths in life, Jesus and, similarly, the mission of the United Methodist Church, commands us to “go and make disciples.” Through discipleship we are called to transform the world. Making disciples is at the heart of who the church is.

    In January 2021, the “Basics of Faith Formation” series was launched by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. The five-session series is designed to equip local churches for disciple-making by understanding the role of the church in forming faith. The course aims to help church staff and volunteers gain more clarity about discipleship and the role of the church/extension ministry settings in forming disciples. The fifth session of this new series was designed and written by United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry leaders and delves into the significance of camping and retreat ministries and their important role in faith formation.

    UMC Discipleship Ministries “Basics of Faith Formation” course is open to all as either a free or a Continuing Education Unit version (same content, just with CEU credit for a nominal fee). Pastors, children’s ministers, local church leaders, camp and retreat leaders, and others are participating and sharing their learning about ways to be more intentional in faith formation in the church. These leaders are becoming more strategic in forming disciples who are then forming other disciples. 

    Each of the five sessions in the course series is accompanied by a video segment that includes a diverse set of practitioners from across the connection, along with suggestions for “action steps” and questions for reflection and response. Sessions include the two dimensions of grace, purpose of the means of grace, the importance of context, and a session on camping and retreat ministries. In addition, this teaching series has an online forum where participants share their challenges, hopes, and celebrations in ministry. 

    More than 340 people have registered for the “Basics of Faith Formation” eLearning teachable course in the first month since its release. The facilitators of the course have enjoyed the comments and interactions with the participants through this teachable platform. Participants’ comments about what resonates within their context or challenges them to do ministry in new ways is inspiring and encouraging to those who teach the course.  

    The instructor team wanted to share with the UMCRM community some of the comments from participants who have chosen the “dirt path” at various times in their ministry and faith formation. 

    I have volunteered at our nearby (sort of) United Methodist camp/retreat center for many years, and it has definitely been a faith-building experience for me. I love working with the kids and helping them grow in their faith. And their questions make me think and grow in my faith! The natural setting allows more freedom to talk about things that are more challenging.

    I also have participated in retreats at another nearby United Methodist retreat center. They have two labyrinths there that I enjoy going to walk. Sometimes I do nothing else but go there to walk along the lake or walk the labyrinth in the woods. I feel closer to God there in nature and can pray and meditate more freely. The veil seems thinner there.

    It was at the retreat center that I heard the call to become a spiritual director, and then I followed up on the two-year training to become one. And now I go back to the retreat center for more retreats - virtually at this time, unfortunately, although I can still go there for my walks.

     – Bonnie-Jean M Rowea

    Walk to Emmaus - Being afforded this opportunity was amazing. The fellowship, worship, and the spirit of the Lord moving in this place was unreal... God's presence and love is felt more due to being one with nature, being around other Christians, and those with the desire to further their walk, the love shown by everyone, the genuine concern, and the fellowship.     

    I found it left me wanting to grow more in my walk and eager to learn more in order to share with others.

    – Cassandra Justice

    I have participated in the Walk to Emmaus retreats a number of times, first as a pilgrim, then as a worker during the retreats— a wonderful experience for all involved. I also have participated in retreats of another type at a nearby United Methodist retreat center. These have most often led to times of prayer, grace, and worship; they have greatly impacted the spiritual growth of a large number of people. They are always a great growing experience.

    – Marvin Moore

    I was blessed to be a participant at the Upper Room two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation that was held at Camp Sumatanga in Alabama. It was a true camp retreat setting. With contemplative and creation as my spiritual pathways, this nature setting offered me the environment for a change of place and pace that just nurtured and refreshed my soul - a place to pause, calm down, lay my routine aside, and just be with God. 

    For me, it definitely was the natural setting that soothed my soul - the walk around the lake, the trees, the streams where I could reflect, and sense and see God. The intentional teaching, reflection, sharing as a community - growing in faith together. The various ways we were encouraged to stretch ourselves to try new avenues and new practices – were like waves enveloping all of us. For me, it was the freedom to leave my every day, routine, somewhat structured life with its responsibilities aside - to come just as me. It was truly one of the most life-changing experiences that has led me on the journey to write and facilitate classes on individual spiritual formation.

    – Lisa Rosea

    What comes to mind when I think of camp and retreat ministries? Fun! Indeed, fun for all ages and not just children. Belonging also comes to mind. When my son was a youngster, we decided to spend a week at family camp. We didn't know any of the people there, but nearly all of them knew one another. We were loved into that community. My conversion to Christ came during one of our stays. Camps and retreats can collaborate with local churches by connecting their unique role to the mission of the local church. They will not take the place of the local church but will enhance that role. Persons of all ages come to an awakening when they get away, and that awakening is to be nurtured in the worshiping community.

    – Kevin Hugh Seymour

    Camp & Retreat Ministry leaders, be encouraged that you are part of the church's larger story of forming faith over the lifespan. Consider taking and recommending this course as you grow in understanding of our ministry's role in the church's mission. Connect with others from across the United Methodist connection to share your challenges, hopes, and celebrations in ministry. The course will spark new ideas and give leaders from all levels of experience a renewed energy and solid foundation for discipleship formation.

    Join the “Basics of Faith Formation” teaching series or share the link to invite someone else to participate in the course

    Rev. Kevin Johnson is the Director, Children’s Ministries for Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Kevin’s hero Fred Rogers suggests that we, “listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.” This quote defines Rev. Kev’s approach to ministry. Kevin, an ordained elder of the Kentucky Annual Conference, has over fifteen years of ministry experience in which he has thought of the children first. Prior to ministry, Kevin worked with children in the hospital setting and in group homes for emotionally and physically abused children. 

    This article was also published by UMC Discipleship Ministries: Connecting Faith Formation To Camping & Retreat Ministries

  • 03 Mar 2021 4:03 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)


    Every two years, our UMCRM community joins camp and retreat leaders from several other denominations through the Outdoor Ministries Connection (OMC) to conduct a massive research project that measures trends and impact of faith-based camp and retreat ministries across the US and Canada. Sacred Playgrounds, Inc. conducts the research via a thorough Directors’ survey. We began collecting data in 2014 and are now able to see insightful trends over time. In 2020’s survey we are also able to see the significant impact that the pandemic has had on our collective ministry. 


    The United Methodist participation in this research was significant, with 108 of our 189 sites represented in the data. Because of this high response rate, we are able to effectively compare United Methodist camp and retreat ministries to our ecumenical counterparts. We can also get a clear picture of the full impact of COVID-19 specifically on our UM sites. 


    Several camp and retreat leaders across the country have had a chance to look at this data and have shared some helpful observations. Below are some excerpts from their reflections. 


    Keith Shew (Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries, Dakotas-Minnesota Conferences) observes how the data makes a case for strengthening camp and retreat centers’ relationships with their Annual Conferences:

    The thing that stood out to me the most from this report is the correlation between our UMCRM camps’ ability to weather COVID-19-related challenges and how connected they are to congregations/denominations. This feels significant. 


    For a time such as this (COVID-19) it has never been more important to be connected to the body.  Some highlights:

    • 92% of UMCRM ministries state a moderate to strong emphasis on faith development and connection to our congregations/denominations. 

      • Being clear about our mission and staying closely connected to our stakeholders is something we are doing well, is elevated as key to our ministries, and is extra important for a time such as this. 

    • 83% of our centers received financial assistance through special fundraising campaigns. This was second only to assistance through PPP dollars. 

      • This would not have been successful without generations of committed denominational partners, ambassadors, and champions involved to help extend the message to support camps during this time of great challenge and unknown. Relationships and congregational/denominational investment in camp’s mission made this possible. 

    • 77% of our camps state they are extremely to very confident that their ministries will remain in operation in two years.  

      • This confidence is an illustration of why deep roots in our local congregations, districts, and conferences are mission-critical. Strong buy-in and our work to stay connected and partner in mission allows for this. 

    Camps are part of the fabric/DNA of our congregations and denomination and our leaders’ stories; they do not want us to fail.


    Sara Shaw (Coordinator of Camping Ministry, Great Plains Conference) observes the connection between Director tenure and COVID’s impact on staffing:

    According to these findings from the report, there is such a wide range in care for camp staff financially: 

    • Over half of responding UMCRM organizations (58%) had to furlough, lay off, or reduce the salary of full-time staff members. Almost three-quarters (71%) had to do so to part-time staff members.

    • 23% of Executive Directors took a reduction in salary, with the majority of these having their salary reduced by 10% to 25%.

    • 57% of UM Directors have a tenure of 5 years or less. 

    One could argue that based on the tenure report there appears to be a higher rate of turnover than what other averages may be with Directors who are not in the UMC. Would it be beneficial to have a standard [salary] set for Directors’ pay, like we do for pastors? 

    Kenny Funk (Director of Camp Wrightwood & Interim Director of Camping Operations, CAL-PAC Conference) notes the priority results of the “Philosophy Statements” section as they relate to diversity and a focus on retreats:

    It is clear that diversity is an area for growth for our collective ministry:

    • 17% of respondents disagree with the philosophy statement, “Our camp is a place where people encounter diversity.” 

    • 60% of sites have 10% or fewer of their campers representing a racial minority.

    Even if diversity doesn’t happen at your site, there is importance in including diversity in your philosophy. A simple understanding of preference may be a good place to start. We are finding that older congregants and diverse campers prefer a retreat facility to a camp experience.


    These are just a few snippets of the overall story that this data tells. Within these numbers you will also find the deep commitment to faith formation that is foundational to our ministries, the financial impact of COVID-19 on our sites, and the hopeful future that camp and retreat Directors are striving toward. We encourage you to share the survey findings with ministry donors, board members, and leaders throughout your Annual Conference. Both the full report and the UM-specific data set are tools for all of us to tell the impact story of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries. 

    If you create additional interpretive materials for your constituents and stakeholders, we would like to see them. Contact Jessica Gamaché, UMCRM Association Director. Enthusiastic thanks to all of our community members who took part in the research and to those who offered reflections for this article.

  • 17 Feb 2021 9:16 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The forward-thinking philosophy and inspired generosity of one individual continues to impact lives for Christ. Throughout his life, the Reverend Solomon Graydon Cramer could see that the ministry happening at United Methodist summer camps across the country was preparing the church’s young leaders for lives of impact through discipleship. As a testament to his belief in the power of camp, Rev. Cramer built up his legacy by endowing a portion of his will to ensure young people could attend camp for years to come. Since 2017, the Solomon Cramer Fund has been sending young people to camp by granting scholarship funds to individual conference camp/retreat centers. Through these grants camps have developed innovative programs that reach new people in new places, widening the circle of leadership and campership.

    Scholarship grants from the Solomon Cramer Fund encourage us to consider the breadth of our ministries by focusing on the following four priorities: 1) Experiences that minister with youth living in poverty 2) The intentional development of young people for spiritual leadership and/or leadership with Camp & Retreat Ministries 3) Camp experiences that collaborate with local churches and agencies in processes of faith formation and 4) Providing opportunities for diversity within ministry participation and leadership. Special consideration is given to Camp & Retreat Ministries that focus on more than one of those priorities and that are launching new programs/opportunities related to the priorities. 

    Some of the 2020 grant recipients were not able to operate due to the pandemic and opted to defer their grant until 2021. Several were able to pivot their planned program to adapt to the needs of an unusual season. Five Solomon Cramer Fund grant recipients were able to utilize the grant in 2020: 

    • Flathead Lake Camp (MT) Rising Leaders Social Justice Through Anti-Racism Retreat:  Last summer, 20 teen and tween campers experienced a safe weekend retreat focused on systemic racism, white privilege, and intersectionality through the lens of Christian social justice.

    • Camp Chippewa (NE) Traveling Experience: 113 participants were reached with a traveling day camp experience, building community and fostering relationships among staff, churches, and youth during a difficult season, exposing current and future campers to a taste of what Camp Chippewa offers.

    • Camp Lakeside (KS) Camp In A Box: In a summer season when a regular camp experience was not possible, grant funding made it possible for 300 children in 119 families to receive a box with camp activities, devotionals, camp gear, and a reminder of the love of Jesus.

    • Ozark Mission Project OMP Connect online program: 156 campers and 81 adult volunteers incorporated Neighbor Care, Worship, Construction Skills, Fellowship, and more in a week-long daily online program.

    • Next Generation Ministries (Greater NJ) Camp Transform online day camp: Throughout the month of July, young people engaged in activities focused on racial justice and the creative arts through an online camp program. Young leaders of color served as counselors.

    The application deadline is March 19th for the 2021 round of Solomon Cramer Grants. Apply today!

  • 03 Feb 2021 7:56 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Why Compass Points?

    Camp people are my people. It took me a long time to figure that out. For years I thought ‘basketball’ was my community, Carolina Tar Heel basketball to be specific. Then it was volleyball, where I located my identity among a group… then university, then teaching, then young clergy. At one point or another I could say with lukewarm confidence: “yeah, those are my people.” I never really fit in, though. 

    I landed my first camp job as a college graduate looking for a place to crash during the summer between my undergraduate degree and beginning work on my master's. It was only meant to be temporary; a summer breathing the fresh mountain air before returning to the academic world in big city life. And I just never left. Summer turned into fall which turned into more than two years before I moved back to the ‘real’ world and reapplied to that master's program. 

    While my vocational discernment led me to serve the local church, I missed camp. Camp people understood the unique intersection of theology and play, discipleship and creation care: renewal, shalom, koinonia, and adventure are the liturgy of camp life, and I thrived there. 

    When I discovered the Compass Points program I was five years into my pastorate and already feeling the effects of burnout. Taking Eugene Peterson’s call to renewal and retreat seriously, I registered for the first course, bought a plane ticket, and felt the weight of responsibility lift off my shoulders when our plane took flight. Not knowing at all what to expect, I found the class a welcome mixture of academic excellence, professional development, wisdom of the collective, and community. Much like the experience of resident camp, my fellow students and I began the course as strangers and parted as friends, transformed and renewed by our time together. Our shared learning experience and shared passion to see camping ministries prosper was a balm to my soul. The community I found within my cohort challenged me to carry the best of camp back into the local church. I took the courses under the guise of “continuing education,” but it functioned more practically as a source of renewal for me, a reminder of my call, and an affirmation of my own identity. 

    Camp people are my people, and the Seven Foundations of United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries are the bulk of my work, even in the local church as a pastor. Now, more than ever, this new COVID-reality of our existence begs more attentiveness to the authentic connections which come so easily at camp: connections with God in sabbath, silence, and prayer; environments of genuine grace; sensitivity to other’s needs; embracing life’s teachable moments; learning from the wisdom of the natural world and soaking up the goodness of God’s creation; breaking barriers and redefining boundaries; doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. 

    Compass Points was a path of renewal, healing and inspiration for me. It provided the education, affirmation and community I needed to continue on in faithfulness to the Kingdom of God.

    Rev. Jennifer Bingham Hampton moved to Casar, North Carolina in May 2019 to serve as the first Director of Tekoa Foothills. She is an Ordained Elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and has served as the Associate Pastor at Broad Street UMC in Statesville and the Senior Pastor at Sunrise UMC in Lewisville. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke Divinity School, and the Compass Points Certification Program with Columbia Theological Seminary. With son Edwin, and husband Joseph, Jennifer can be found hiking, building fires, floating down rivers, and exploring their home on 117 acres in the foothills of North Carolina.

    If Jennifer's story inspires you to consider embarking on the Compass Points journey, learn more at CompassPointsProgram.org or contact UMCRM's Compass Points liaison, Russell Casteel.

    The next courses, "Articulating Our Mission, Role, and Value," September 12-15, and "Nonprofit Business Management," September 15-18, are registering now! They may be taken a la carte or as part of the Compass Points Certificate Program series. Register here

  • 27 Jan 2021 8:30 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    At its January meeting, the UMCRM Association was blessed to welcome two new board members for the 2021-'25 term. Let's meet them!

    Josh Shaw is the Director of Children & Family Ministries at St. John’s UMC in the Memphis Annual Conference. Josh is an Enneagram (2) enthusiast and a Ravenclaw. His diverse interests include teaching choreography, spending time with German Shepherd/Chow Chow mix Queen, and hanging out with nieces and nephews. 

    Josh began his camp journey as a counselor for a local theater camp, which inspired him to seek out his own camp experience. In the fall of 2010, his youth group went to a retreat at Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center. Josh says, "Being in that space allowed me to feel free to be my most authentic self. I returned to camp the summer of 2011 for my first summer camp as a camper. I immediately fell in love and knew that camping was a part of my future."

    Josh has been a volunteer counselor at Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center for many years (2012-2019). His team has led Jr. High 3 for 4 years (and hopefully many, many more). He also serves the Memphis (soon to be Tennessee-Western Kentucky) Annual Conference’s Conference Youth Leadership Team, training students to lead retreats for their peers. Since 2014 Josh has led retreats for older elementary students, confirmands, junior high, senior high, and young adults/college students. 

    Through serving on the UMCRM governance board, Josh is excited to bring a perspective for young people, people of color, and lgbtqia+ people who aren’t often invited to the table by the church. 

    Other fun facts to share with the UMCRM community? Josh mentions:

    • I lived in Romania for a summer.
    • My granny is my best friend.
    • My dream job would be being Bruno Mars’ key dancer in everything!

    Dail Ballard has been serving as the Executive Director of the NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries since 2011. They are a separate 501c3 nonprofit organization related by faith to the NC Conference of the United Methodist Church. The organization includes camps Chestnut Ridge, Don Lee and Rockfish. Prior to serving as Executive Director, Dail served for several years as the Fund Development Director for all three camps. She is a life-long Methodist and has been involved with camping almost as long, starting out as a camper at Camp Don Lee.

    Dail was drawn to serve with UMCRM by our mission-driven focus and our commitment to the vitality and impact of United Methodist camps and retreat centers. A Speech-Language Pathologist by trade, Dail founded and led a corporation of allied health professionals across North Carolina before entering Camp/Retreat executive leadership. She brings this business acumen, organizational and processing skills, and a passion for inclusion and diversity to the work of UMCRM.

    How were you called into Camp & Retreat Ministry? Dail recalls:

    Before foot surgery, I enjoyed running almost everyday. I would often pray during my treks through the neighborhood. During one of those runs in the middle of one of those prayer times, I literally stopped in my tracks hearing God nudge me that it was time for me to do something else with my life. What that was was not clear at the time. So I began having conversations with friends and colleagues. A position with the NC UM Camp & Retreat Ministries had just come open. I was thrilled. I was nervous. I was leaving a career that had required post graduate schooling and one that I had enjoyed for years. Thrilling and chilling all at once, I tell you! But God was at work. I trusted, and here I am.

    What would you like the UMCRM community to know about you?

    It should come as no surprise that I love being outside. I am a coastal girl through and through and enjoy everything about the flat lands of eastern North Carolina. Winters are challenging for me - even in the south. I much prefer a warm, bright summer day. I will get up for a sunrise and chase an open vista for a sunset. And a full moon?! I will make my way to the shore for a moonrise no matter the temperature! I have three beautiful and bright children who are making their way in this world in their own unique ways. They are my greatest accomplishment on this planet.

    I delight in meeting new people while relishing time with close friends. And, I can laugh at myself as heartily and happily as others do with me. I look forward to serving the UMCRM community and getting to know more people who share a passion for camp and retreat ministries!

    We are grateful for these remarkable individuals' willingness to help guide the UMCRM Association in a governance capacity, sharing their depth of experience and insight while bringing their passion and a spirit of fun to our shared work. Please join in praying for them and for our Association's leadership as they envision a thriving future for United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries.

    Drop them a word of welcome and encouragement at their new UMCRM email addresses: 



  • 27 Jan 2021 8:06 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    What is the BDC?

    Aren’t acronyms just so UMCRM? Of course, and we would not want it any other way! In this case, the “BDC,” or Board Development Committee, is a burgeoning team that will replace the old school “nominations” committee. The biggest difference is that the “BDC” works independently from the Board while keeping their fingers on the pulse of the Board work, its initiatives, and the needs and the vision of the United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries Association.

    The BDC will consist of 6-8 members who are gifted with a deep understanding of systems thinking and who appreciate and are committed to the people of the United Methodist Church. This team of leaders will be vision- and value-driven and have a strong understanding of board development. Additionally, these folks are recruited for their lasting connection to our Association, as evidenced by the respect they have in our community and the relationships they have built with a broad base of people. Because of the important nature of their work, each member must be able to participate assertively in conversation.

    Working together, the BDC will identify Board members and an officer slate to be lifted for the Board’s approval. As Jody Oates, of Kaleidoscope Inc. and outgoing UMCRM Board member, has described it,

    “A Board Development Committee will work independently of the Board of Directors to recommend candidates for the Board. With intentional training, review, assessment, and outreach, the Board Development Committee helps assure a fair and equitable process so that the UMCRM Board has the best leaders to serve.”

    How will it work?

    The first BDC will be tasked with establishing operating procedures; however, there are several pieces already in place that were put into practice in the recruitment of UMCRM's two newest Board members:

    • The BDC performs a gap analysis using several methods: interviews with Board members, reviewing strategic initiatives, assessing current gifts/needed gifts, etc.
    • The BDC issues a call for nominees.
    • Nominations are considered. Additional nominees are recruited as needed.
    • Nominees are interviewed.
    • A slate of members and/or officers is brought to the Board for approval.
    • Approved nominees are invited to serve on the Board.

    Establishing the Board Development Committee is another important step for the UMCRM Board as it seeks to address future needs of our Camp & Retreat Ministries community. We are looking forward to working in this way and pray that each of you feels seen and served through this process. Contact Cat Holbert to discuss further.

  • 16 Dec 2020 6:33 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    In a “normal” year, most camps have a marketing or promotional timetable that they lean on. That timetable typically starts not in November or December but reaches well back into the previous summer as we take the photos and video clips that will be the raw materials to promote the next summer.

    But…what if there wasn’t a summer?

    What was likely an odd thought exercise that site directors would process over a cup of coffee or a conference workshop has become reality for many camps. Pulling the thread of that reality reveals even more missing pieces. Not only do we not have the raw materials we are used to having, but the photos we do have don’t show campers and staff using the precautions we are likely to still need in summer 2021, modeling the use of masks and social distancing.

    And what about distribution? With many churches not meeting in person, do our materials fit the situation? If you hang a poster in an empty church, does it make a noise?

    With all of these questions piling up in addition to all the other questions we are facing about the actual operation of camps in 2021, I did what any overwhelmed Site Director would do…I asked Facebook. My social media following probably looks like a lot of United Methodist camp professionals’. What started with personal family and friends has morphed over time to include my camp family and friends; alumni, summer staff, pastors, and families that have grown close to me as they have grown close to the site I serve. In many ways, they are the perfect focus group.

    So I asked them this:

    “Pastor Friends: Thinking about camp promotional materials for summer 2021 today. In your current (and near future?) worship situation, what is the best tool I can give you to promote camp?”

    The responses were almost immediate and quite helpful:

    • “Social media images and videos”

    • “I share info with our church and could use something I would email directly to families.”

    • “Maybe a bulletin insert/blurb as we still hand those out for drive-in worship as well as email out.”

    This feedback wasn’t unexpected and it helped confirm my hunches about how to promote camp in meaningful ways this year. In a typical year, our conference makes a printed camp catalog that is sent to all previous campers as well as a collection of materials that is sent to churches (a poster, bulletin inserts, etc.). What our Facebook feedback told me is that we need to align our promotion strategy with the ways our churches are gathering, and that we need to reach our camp families where they are in this moment.

    For us, that means a shift from a printed catalog to a heavier emphasis on our website. The additional benefit of that decision is that it allows flexibility as the pandemic changes through the spring. A printed catalog commits us to programs and schedules that we are hoping to offer when we lay out the pages in December. This year, those ultimately may look different as the summer season approaches.

    This shift will require additional communication, though. Just because you update a website does not guarantee that your audience is checking in regularly enough to register. So as we make this shift, what is the flare we launch to let people know when it’s time to register? Email blasts? Do we need to send a physical postcard? How can we integrate camp messaging into virtual church services?

    The majority of comments I received to my original question were requesting video. If we can make a concise, 2-4 minute commercial that invites people back to camp and also puts minds at ease about safety, I think it can be easily added to even more churches today than would have likely shown it in previous years. To make it usable for as many as possible, we’ll include a quick note about how to play a video through “share screen” in Zoom. Most churches will have mastered this skill by now, but our goal is to remove any barriers that would keep our message from getting out.

    Most camps are already immersed in the world of social media, varying on which platforms they participate in by the audience they serve. If Step 1 of our 2021 promotional plan is to create a better website, and Step 2 is a library of videos to explain changes and improvements we’re making to our site and programs, perhaps Step 3 is our social media plan. In my view, social media success is about frequency even more than content. What information do our camp families need to hear going into this summer camp season that will help them make a decision? What trust will we need to build in new ways to overcome our new challenges? What parts of camp do we need to remind them of, that they may have forgotten?

    This year has been difficult, frustrating, and exhausting. However, there is something life-giving for me in doing this planning. For me, as we prepare to send our message out in hopefulness for the 2021 summer season, it reminds me that God continues to walk with us as we do this work. While it still feels uncertain and scary at times, I trust that God will continue to give me the strength and the wisdom to endure, finding the messages that need to be delivered so we can gather around campfires once again.

    Summer 2021 likely won’t be exactly like summer 2019, but we will be closer. The faithful steps that bring us closer to gathering once again at camp feel like acts of hope.

    Nick Coenen is Site Director at Pine Lake Camp and Retreat Center in the Wisconsin Conference. His 2020 has included creating virtual camp programming, discipling a small cadre of summer staff, raising many thousands of donor dollars to sustain the ministry, fostering stray kittens, helping to lead UMCRM's Bridge Event, and catching and recovering from Covid. 

  • 16 Nov 2020 5:31 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    At camps and retreat centers, summer and the spring and fall “shoulder seasons” are usually wonderful times to enjoy outdoor activities on our waterfronts, fields, and trails. Worship is held in outdoor chapels and open-air shelters host meals and crafts. When cold weather arrives, as it does for the majority of us in the U.S., many centers have traditionally shifted programming indoors to cozy fireplaces and heated, electric-lit gathering spaces. However, in this pandemic year, even those sites that can safely and legally open are having to re-think the use of indoor spaces.

    As an appreciator of winter, I want to encourage you to “think outside” the buildings! Winter is an amazing season for outdoor adventures in serene snowy landscapes with less sweating and no bugs. You might even get some much-needed vitamin D from the sunshine and happy neurotransmitters from invigorating exercise. I hear some of you whining already, though. I want to encourage you to practice the skills of regulating your body temperature so you can help yourself and others experience God’s creation through this winter season. Don’t let the pandemic get you down— fresh air and wide open spaces are still out there for us to enjoy.

    Layering – not just a fashion statement

    One key to staying warm while active in cold-weather activities is, ironically, not getting too warm. Overheating leads to sweating, which can lead to chills or even hypothermia. If you’re active in the cold weather environment, you need layers you can strip off and add back to keep your body in the comfort zone. I see you, Floridians, trying to just wear your same summer t-shirt and pop a big heavy winter coat on top. Better to start with a thin, wicking layer that’s not cotton. Synthetic workout clothes or wool base layers work great. Not just the top, but bottom, too—long johns or leggings. Next, add a light fleece or other mid-weight shirt. Then a warm jacket (but not too heavy or bulky if you’re going to be active). This is a great use for those down or synthetic puffy jackets that squish down small. Wear or pack a waterproof or water-resistant outer layer for the very top – you’ll be glad to have it in case of wind or precipitation. Again, not just for your upper body—you’re done if your legs and behind get cold and wet. Even if you don’t need them when you start out, throw a pair of snow pants or rain pants in your pack to be prepared.

    Hydrate or die-drate

    When it’s cold you might not feel thirsty like you do in warm weather, but your body needs hydration as much or more than ever. Cold temps can be drying both to exposed skin and to your insides. A thermos with warm tea or cocoa can be a welcome treat that’s worth the weight. And bring plenty of water – nestle it inside your pack or use an insulated bottle if you’re concerned about freezing.

    Fuel the fire

    Bring lots of snacks, as those calories help your body generate heat. Bonus—things won’t melt, so you have more options than your usual hot-weather fare (yes, please, more chocolate and cheese!) If you’re in sub-zero temps, beware of freezing – hard granola bars and Power Bars may become an inedible brick, so nut mixes or bite-size items might be a better bet.

    Don’t pack too light

    You might need a bigger pack in the winter. If you’ll be in a remote area or out for the whole day or (for the brave!) overnight, you’re going to need more stuff. Make sure you have one more warm layer than you expect to use in case the weather shifts unpredictably, a layer gets wet, or you need to sit still. Leave room for layers you’re wearing that you might want to shed once you get moving.

    2020 Immersion students skate at YMCA of the Rockies: Emilie Schoettger, Sam Richardson, Audrey Jordan, Katie Pryor, TayLa Fugate Take it easy

    If you are going to be hiking, playing active games, sledding, skating, or skiing, start slower than your ideal pace. You want to be warm but not sweating profusely. Adjust your layers once you get going.  Make sure the layers you shed get put somewhere safe (like back in a pack) so they’re dry and easy to find when you’re ready to put them back on. It’s no fun to look for the lost mitten once it’s getting dark and your fingers are cold.

    Head…and Toes

    Give special attention to cold-weather protection for your head and extremities. A warm hat like a fleece or wool beanie is essential (not optional; your hairdo is less important than your health and warmth!) A balaclava and/or neck gaiter can be a face-saver in sub-freezing temps or windy conditions. Gloves are also a must—I like a warm fleece pair with waterproof mitts on top, but regular snow gloves will work if that’s what you’ve got. Even if you don’t plan to get them wet, have a backup plan. You never know when you might need to make a surprise snowball. I like a two-layer approach to socks, as long as my boots still fit comfortably (air space is an insulator, so don’t squeeze your feet with socks that are too thick). Itch-free smartwool is wonderful, but most types of hiking socks work well (remember, no cotton!). Stash a backup pair of socks in your pack. If you (or your campers/guests) don’t have waterproof boots and your winter wonderland is wet, consider a plastic produce bag or bread bag as a waterproof liner between sock feet and sneakers. Not ideal, but neither are cold, wet feet.

    Rest assured

    For rest breaks in summer, we can often plop down on the ground or find a handy rock. In winter a little more planning is needed. For a quick snack or water break, you might want to stay on your feet. If you’re taking a longer rest, sit on your pack or make an insulating seat with a tarp and your spare layers. Don another layer of clothing, too, as it’s easy to get a chill once you stop moving.  

    This same principle applies if you are doing a “sitting still” activity outdoors in the cold, like a worship service, lesson, or meal. Lawn chairs, outdoor chapel benches, or picnic table seats need a layer of insulation to sit on—foam sleeping pads, blankets, or an extra jacket can work; just make sure your participants come prepared. Some may also want a blanket for their shoulders or lap. Older adults and very young children tend to chill faster, so let their comfort be your guide and bring extra items to care for their needs.

    Sun still shines

    If you are lucky like me to live in a place where the sun shines in the winter, you will need to remember your sun sense. You may have seen those ski-goggle sunburns – sun reflected off of snow or ice can be intense. Wear sunscreen on your face and lips, and protect your eyes with sunglasses or goggles. You may want to pack a ball cap or other brimmed sun hat to trade out if your beanie or hood gets too warm. Because of the low angle of winter sun in our hemisphere, adjust your schedule to maximize your daylight. Once the sun sets, everything gets a LOT colder. Where in summer you might prefer an evening worship or shady green cathedral, in winter you’ll want to relocate outdoor events to the sunniest (warmest) spot and schedule for maximum daylight.

    Plan for quitting time

    Head homeward before you (or your group’s most vulnerable member) get too tired or cold. Don’t wait until you’re hours down the trail or it’s getting toward dusk before making your return plan. Even if your group will disperse for the ride home, consider offering warm beverages and snacks with a quick closing prayer back at base camp so everyone can head home content and happy.

    For our physical and mental health this season, we’re going to need to spend more time outside. I hope these tips will help you enlarge your zone of comfort to embrace a new outdoor adventure.  Regardless of climate zone, I hope more of us will consider a hike on a peaceful gray winter day or a socially-distanced outdoor worship in our site’s sunniest spot.

    Jen Burch is the UMCRM Association’s Administrator, which is pretty much a sedentary desk job. Many years ago, though, she graduated from a January course at the Colorado Outward Bound School (including 9 continuous days in the same base layers and a two-night solo in a quinzhee snow cave.) Jen still loves snow and hopes to spread appreciation for the unique treasures of the winter outdoor environment.

  • 28 Oct 2020 6:37 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    After what has seemed like an eternity, the UMCRM community finally had the opportunity to come together with the intention to reconnect and refresh. The morning of the first event in our Bridge Event Series started with the Camp in the Community (Holston Conference) Worship Band, followed by devotion with Rev. Gary Lawson (Lakeshore, Memphis Conference). Gary shared from the book of Job specifically about suffering and the fear that accompanies it. Gary emphasized that our God doesn’t promise a life free of pain or suffering in exchange for our faithfulness. Not everything in life is fair, and what we learn from pain and suffering builds and shapes us. We were encouraged not to "waste the pain" but to use what we go through to grow, in turn using those experiences to encourage others.

    Following our morning devotion, people from across the country poured into our round table discussion virtual space. With fearless leader David Weber (Riverside, Florida Conference) greeting folks as they entered the virtual room, it was obvious how much we all treasured the opportunity to reconnect. From discussing the weather to the inspiring moments in our own communities, the true UMCRM-style camaraderie we all know and love was ever so present. We closed the session praying for one another in small breakout groups.

    After lunch, participants joined one of the five virtual workshops. Ranging from philanthropy and development to camp in a pandemic, there was an option for a variety of interests. Jennie Dickerson from Lakeshore shared her insight on creating a culture of philanthropy at your site. Jeff Parsons of Bay Shore Camp and Family Ministries (Michigan) dove into the details of camp operations in the midst of COVID-19. Marlene Urban-Funk from Camp Wrightwood (Cal-Pac) helped us reconnect with our bodies through mindful breathing and being. Jody Oates with Kaleidoscope, Inc. shared the importance of effective governance and ensuring those important positions are filled correctly. Lawrence Jay from Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center (MA, New England Conference) provided insight on how to lead meaningful and spiritual online retreats. The educational opportunities provided a little something for everyone, whether program staff, board members, volunteers, or executive leaders.

    Our keynote speaker for this first event was none other than Michelle Cummings, the Big Wheel and founder of Training Wheels and a known leader in the Team Development industry. One great thing about our UMCRM community is that everyone fits in and all are welcome. From the start of Michelle’s keynote it was clear that she is “one of us.” She gets the passion we all have to build community through experiential learning. Michelle not only made every person feel welcome and included, she truly connected with our group. She shared strategies to engage your virtual audience while she effortlessly modeled that by keeping us all engaged. While she elaborated on ways to creatively use the Zoom platform, our chat box was full of people commenting on how their minds were blown by her ideas. Michelle showed a group of people who are professional team-builders and ice-breakers how to take it to the next level and embrace the virtual world we are currently living in. Following the keynote, there was competitive hilarity as she led several teams in a Virtual Scavenger Hunt experience. While engaging us in play, Michelle also gave participants the tools to design and implement similar activities in our own settings.

    To close out the day, the Camp in the Community Worship Band and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi (Western PA) led worship with beautiful song and a message from the Gospel of John. Bishop Moore-Koikoi elaborated on how Jesus challenged traditions and the norm in order to save lives, encouraging listeners to practice out-of-the-box faithfulness within our ministry. “There are people all around us who need us to dare to break the traditions and norms and do something extravagantly creative and outrageously unconventional in order to reach them where they are and to bring them to a place of wholeness.” She went on to say that this is not a call to ignore the state guidelines regarding COVID, rather that this is a season where we have to challenge our status quo, asking ourselves if anything we are doing is standing in the way of someone experiencing the healing and empowering love of God. 

    One participant in this first event said, “At the end of the day, I had a feeling of contentedness that I don’t often have. I’ve been feeling really disconnected from people and from the mission, and some of that was reconnected in a meaningful way.” If you attended the event but didn’t share an evaluation, we would love to hear your feedback: Evaluation form

    As the design team, our ultimate goal was to give people a space to “Be Whole, Live Well, and Come Together.” We truly hope that goal was accomplished and we absolutely cannot wait to bring you a new Bridge event in November. If you missed this event, you can still get in on the experience. Register today for access to the next 3 live Bridge events (November 18, January 20, and February 17), plus the recordings from all four events in the series. Special thanks to all those who bravely dove in to experience the first Bridge Event. Hope to see many more of our community members at the next one!


    Reflection by Paige Helms, for the Bridge Event Design Team:

    Sarah Ratz (Beersheba Springs, TN), Chair

    Nicole Armstrong (NY & Lazy W)

    Nick Coenen (Pine Lake, WI)

    Sharon Godbolt (Cal-Nev)

    Paige Helms (SC)

    Cat Holbert (DSW)  

    Apryl Miller (Gretna Glen, EPA)

    David Weber (Riverside, FL)

    Whitney Winston (CITC, Holston)

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