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  • 27 Oct 2020 4:50 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The events of 2020, including the protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the growth of #BlackLivesMatter, have made many of us examine the cultures of our camps and retreat centers as we relate to race and racism. Recognizing this need, UMCRM created a monthly gathering for camp and retreat professionals to have a place to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values and practices in our ministries. Using this knowledge, this group will develop tools and strategies to help all UMCRM ministries grow in DEI literacy and practice.

    Earlier this month, 20 UMCRM professionals met with Dr. Carmen Phelps, the lead DEI and Racial Equity Consultant for Project 986 Consulting. Dr. Phelps comes to UMCRM through support from the Legacy of Leadership Fund. She brings over 20 years of experience partnering with various organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion values. She will walk alongside this learning/volunteer group over the next six months or more.

    The most recent educational session with Dr. Phelps was a starting point for our future discussions. As an introduction to anti-racism work, participants reviewed key terminology and concepts so everyone would have a shared language for future conversations. Dr. Phelps then led the group in a gallery tour of the history of the cultural, societal, and economic status of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States. The overview spanned from the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the British colonies, through Emancipation and Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, up through current social justice movements. Dr. Phelps also provided a framework of levels of racism and ways we interact with these in our everyday life, including examples ranging from microaggressions to structural racism baked into systems of government, education and housing policies, and the church. The exercise helped the group tap into both the facts and feelings surrounding white racism in our society. 

    Meeting monthly, this group of professionals will continue to grow in our work to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in UMC camp/retreat ministries. No matter where you or your program is on the journey, you are invited to engage in this work and join this group. The next steps include developing shared principles, solidifying a vision and mission for the group, and focusing our efforts in the short term so we will have concrete action steps to implement  for summer 2021.

    To join this group of colleagues in dedicated time for learning and creating sharable resources for the whole UMCRM community around anti-racism, email jessica.gamache@umcrm.org to express your interest.

    John Spelman is Executive Director of Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center in Rhode Island, where he has integrated a social justice focus into the center's programming. This summer John and the Aldersgate summer staff created an amazing Anti-Racism Series of educational videos on their YouTube channel. 

  • 21 Oct 2020 8:12 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Before the dark times, before the empire, for over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice. Over 10,000 Jedi – padawans, knights, and masters – roamed the galaxy, from the core to the outer rim, and even to the mysterious reaches beyond.

    In their shared mission to defend and protect all sapient life, these thousands of Jedi mutually relied on the expertise and wisdom of just a few masters chosen to sit on the Jedi High Council. Five masters (including Master Yoda) accepted a lifetime commitment to the Council; four masters were chosen as "long-term" members of the Council, to serve until such a time as they felt they should leave; and three masters were chosen to limited-terms; creating a High Council of up to 12 members.

    Not every Jedi aspired to sit on the Council, of course. Quinlan Vos and Qui-Gon Jinn were less interested in discussing and discerning diplomacy as they were in being actively involved in missions across the galaxy. While certain diminutive masters might emphasize that a Jedi craves not adventure or excitement, there were definitely those in the Order who preferred such to sitting in council meetings! But the Order found the centralized leadership of the Council necessary, so a group of masters who were wise and/or willing to learn were chosen to serve.

    A summation of the Order's core values dating back to texts as ancient as the Rammahgon and the Aionomica, the Jedi Code was a critical guide to the administrations and leadership of the Council. Though it was less than perfect*, the Code provided direction to any Jedi looking for guidance in a galaxy in turmoil...

    We may not be in that galaxy far, far away, but I hope you can identify yourself as a Jedi of Camp and Retreat Ministries! Thousands of us roam the nation in our shared mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, particularly through our passion for, and expertise in, camp and retreat ministries. 

    A few weeks ago, Russell Davis shared a blog post about the organizational changes to our UMCRM Board. UMCRM Association Structural and Legal Changes Russell shared a great amount of detail therein about the changes and the history leading to them. I wanted to add one particular emphasis to what he has already shared. 

    Like the Jedi Knights of the Old Republic, there are thousands of us in national Camp and Retreat Ministries who are gifted, talented, and called to minister in a great variety of ways, but we are not all the same. We all have areas of particular interest, passion, and strength. As an organization, our Association wants to best empower our members to be the best CRM Jedi Knights we can be. We want to Resource one another, Advocate for our ministries and their powerful impact upon Christian discipleship, Inspire transformative leadership, and help one another to Network together, for stronger ministry and greater impact. (Capitalized words reference UMCRM’s mission statement.)

    Every organization needs leadership. Some models of board leadership, particularly for small organizations, invite people to join the board in order to empower them to volunteer, lead, and manage the organization's efforts while also being responsible for the "fiduciary" responsibility of a board of directors. Being on such a board grants some degree of authority and responsibility, and board members endeavor to fulfill a function equivalent to volunteer staff: coordinating events, managing members, handling finances, tracking resources, etc. I often hear such boards called "management" boards, as they work to manage the work of the organization.

    However, as an organization grows – perhaps not as large as 10,000 Jedi! but, still, "larger" – a single board cannot effectively manage and maintain all the activities of an organization while also maintaining accountability for its fiduciary responsibilities. In such situations, roles become more delegated: boards are tasked with governance/leadership, taking responsibility as a board of directors, while staff work to manage activities, often with the direct involvement of a larger number of volunteers. One form of such leadership is "policy governance," such as the model described by John Carver that our board is using as inspiration as we implement a new form of governance.

    In the end, in switching to policy-governance we hope for the same result as the Jedi Council. While a smaller number of 8 to 12 will meet to do the work of governance – directing our shared mission, creating strategies to accomplish our hoped-for ends in the world, evaluating the impact of the organization, essentially refining “the Code” of our organization – we hope that far more of you Jedi will be empowered to join together in accomplishing the Association’s mission to strengthen camp and retreat ministries nationwide. 

    A core principle of Carver's model of policy-governance is that the small number of board members cannot possibly oversee all the activities of an organization. That's the point! While board members focus upon governance, the organization's staff works with many, many more capable, passionate, and excellent volunteers to accomplish the mission in the world.

    As we work to make the shift to implement this policy-governance model, it is our great hope that Jedi like you who may not feel called or passionate about being on a board will find yourself instead excited about and volunteering in ministry with UMCRM in other ways. We hope to empower many more of you to consider getting involved: from national event planning, to creating and providing services to Association members, to creating resources for leadership development, to making testimonial videos about the power of camp, to sharing effective camp resources, to any other number of activities that UMCRM may pursue in our mission to "resource, advocate, inspire and network to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries."

    *The code, as written, is clearly too absolute and contributed to the fall of the Jedi: "There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge." During the years immediately preceding the Fall of the Order, Jedi younglings learned a variation of the code during their initiation that some Masters, such as Depa Billaba, rightly found more accurate: "Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge." Such an alternation does not try to negate the existence of one thing, but does identify another as preferable. Perhaps, had the Council been more adaptive in its leadership, it might have discovered that elimination of emotion was not the ideal; even the brash Anakin Skywalker laid out that compassion was at the heart of a Jedi's mission! Teaching one another to find peace in the mist of emotion might have helped bring Anakin peace, might have brought greater fulfillment to another Jedi in love with a Duchess, and could have prevented both the fall of the Order and the Republic! But the imperfections of the Code aren't the main topic here.

    Rev. (Obi)-Ron Bartlow is Vice Chair of our UMCRM Board and an overly enthusiastic Star Wars fan.

  • 20 Oct 2020 2:07 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    I’ve attended the sessions at conferences where our colleagues encourage us in the methods, meaning, and practices of donor development. In all of these sessions I’ve heard something along the lines of, “You can do this! State your need and folks will give.” It all seemed very Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come,” to me. To extend the movie metaphor, I relate most to that girl in the stands choking on a hot dog, because the idea of me asking someone for their hard earned money has always been a bit terrifying.  

    Enter COVID-19, a cancelled spring retreat season, a summer without campers, and a fall retreat season full of cancelling groups. Suddenly the financial need was very real, very evident, and very much needing the attention to get over my own fears of making an ask. 

    In the Susquehanna Conference, our camp and retreat centers operate as one camping ministry together.  We share budgets and resources, and collectively we knew that this pandemic meant we would need to make spending cuts, dip deep into reserves, make hard operating decisions, and ask our community of supporters to give financially so that these sacred spaces could weather this unexpected storm.  The latter of these action steps was quite intimidating as, honestly, we’d never done more than send out an end of year appeal letter to raise money. Suddenly in 2020 we were facing the reality of needing to raise $100,000 in order to sustain the ministry. If, like I was, you are still metaphorically choking on the Field of Dreams hot dog, I am here to encourage you. 

    Quickly and methodically, we formed a small Donor Development Team that included two board members, a conference staffer with donor experience, our conference Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries, and myself as a representative of our center director team. Next, we identified two obvious initial tasks: we needed a reliable way to track donors and our online giving platform needed an overhaul. Our dormant donor management software was rebooted and organized, and we secured a new user-friendly online giving platform that we added to our website. Finally, a campaign plan was laid out and we created a designated campaign page for the website to transparently explain what we were asking for and why we were asking for it. 

    We launched our Camp Comeback Campaign on June 13, the day we should have been kicking off our 2020 summer camping season. Four months later, we are only a few thousand dollars away from that $100,000 goal. How have we done it? We’ve asked, and people have given. It really is that simple.  Maybe that’s why our donor development pro colleagues keep saying it!  

    It has been humbling and deeply encouraging to see the support come in. From the spare change a six-year old camper sent in a hand-addressed envelope, to others giving thousand dollar gifts in honor of the life-changing personal experience they had at camp decades ago – every gift reminds us that amidst this challenging season and a summer without campers present, people continue to need, love, and radically support camp. In truth, fundraising in this season has been a major motivator to me. Camp was way too quiet this summer, and I was deeply missing the summer faces, memories, and experiences. It was hard to remember why I do what I do when my summer tasks had turned from afternoon slip-n-slides and campfire worships, to cutting brush and clearing out the depths of the dreaded camp closets. Every gift that has come in during the Campaign has been a reminder of why I do this. Each giver was a witness to the fact that camp continues to matter, even when we can’t gather. We will come back after this pandemic ends, and it will be because people who love camp got us through a really challenging time. 


    One of the most unexpected and highly successful methods we’ve found for raising funds has been the use of matching gifts. The Campaign kicked off with Matching Monday, a simple social media driven event over the course of seven weeks. We asked folks to put up matching gifts starting at $50, gradually increasing to the final amount of $5,000. With the seven weeks of giving planned and the donors to offer the matching amounts secured, we knew we could raise $18,800 over the course of the campaign event. Every Monday on our centers’ Facebook pages we announced the matching amount with a Canva-created graphic, and every Monday our community of supporters donated any amount they could to help us meet the match, understanding that their gift was doubled as soon as they gave it because it was a matching gift. We assumed it might take us several days to reach some of the matching amounts, but our community showed up week after week and met the matching amount in mere hours every Monday. After seven weeks we had raised well over $20,000, we had stayed engaged with donors over a significant span of time, and the donors started off the Campaign with the knowledge that they could make a significant impact by giving together.

    Take it from me, as a complete fundraising novice who was massively uncomfortable with the thought of asking people for money: you CAN do this! The donor pros are totally right – you just have to ask people to give. Truly, it’s as simple as picking up the phone to connect with a volunteer, staff alum, camper parent, retreat leader, local church leader, or family member, and asking them to support the missions of these sacred spaces. 


    We are camp people. We are a creative bunch!  We are also often pressed for time, money, and resources. Surround yourself with a team of other creatives willing to develop and lead mini giving events, tap into free and available resources (hello, Canva! hello, colleagues with donor insight), and get your plan in place. Make the ask, and as each donor gives, may you be reminded that your ministry is needed, beloved, and important….and that seriously asking folks for money isn’t nearly as terrifying as it sounds. 

    Emily is the Center Director of Wesley Forest Camp and Retreat in central Pennsylvania. A longtime camp person, Emily’s favorite camp activities are campfire worships, building relationships with summer staff and campers, and eating Gushers from the Snack Shack. She’s a big fan of backpacking, Dolly Parton, and baking. She lives at camp with her husband, their two Springer Spaniels, and a few chickens.  

  • 14 Oct 2020 3:05 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    This summer, Camp Alta Mons launched Camp @ Home—a 100% online and free-to- all camp program created to help connect kids, families, alumni, and supporters to a summer camp experience. It ran for 9 total weeks and was a huge success. Here are my top 10 pieces of advice that I learned from my summer creating, producing, and publishing this online content. 

    As a baseline: We utilized Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and our website to spread our message. All of these platforms are free or low cost. If your camp doesn’t have all of these, make sure to create accounts ASAP! Your campers are looking for you online and they want to see your content. Make sure to connect with them in as many ways as you can!

    1. Make A High Quality Video

    This one is mega important, so it has 3 parts!

    Can you hear me now?

    Make sure you use a microphone or stand close enough to the camera to capture sound well. No one likes videos where you can barely hear the person speaking or where there is a lot of background noise. Do your best to film in quiet areas where the speaker can be heard clearly.

    What to film on?

    Using a DSLR camera will produce a higher quality product than a phone camera (in most cases and depending on the type of phone you have.) Whatever device you choose, make sure to utilize a tripod. Shaky videos are distracting and mistakes like fast zooming, blurry transitions, and uneven pans take away from the overall quality of your video. If you do decide to film on a phone, make sure to film landscape (side to side) and not portrait (up and down.)

    Taylor with milk and cookies from a Camp@Home episodeFOCUS!

    Make sure you focus. Blurry videos are hard to watch and if you’ve invited guest speakers/surprise guests, you likely only have one opportunity to capture the footage. Make sure to check if someone is in focus before they begin speaking. Also, remember to mentally focus! It can be easy to take filming lightly and brush off the impact that you are having. Standing alone in front of a camera can be sad, but your message matters! Make sure you focus and get into the correct headspace before speaking. Pretend like the campers and staff are right there in front of you and give it your all.

    2. A Pretty Preview

    When filming a video, make sure to take a “thumbnail” photo for both Instagram TV (IGTV) and YouTube. When you upload videos to these platforms, they auto select a thumbnail if you don’t add one. These images can often be blurry and seemingly random; your video will look much better with a thumbnail that you chose. 

    3. Be Descriptive

    For both IGTV and YouTube, utilize those description spaces! Include Bible verses referenced and names of those speaking. Type out as much information as you can to make it as easy as possible for folks to connect with your content. Pro Tip: When uploading videos to YouTube, make sure to check “YouTube for Kids” so that your campers with restricted access to YouTube will be able to see your camp’s content!

    4. Schedule & Save Time

    At Camp Alta Mons, I use Buffer.com to schedule our Facebook and Instagram posts. Buffer does not work well for videos, but it is a great resource for posting photos. You can schedule things ahead of time and check your daily posts off your to-do list in one day. It’s a free resource that offers paid plan upgrades. You can also “premiere” videos on YouTube at a specific date/time. 

    5. Name It & Promote It!

    Create a campaign. Draw people in! Title things in an organized fashion and follow a consistent structure. Post every Bible Study every Monday at 10 AM or campfire livestreams each Wednesday at 6 PM – whatever works best for you. Create a hashtag for your followers to use when they connect with your content. Do as much as you can to build excitement for whatever it is that you are advertising. The buzz will generate more interested individuals. 

    6. Campy & Consistent

    Patterns in imagery and design help create a consistent look that folks will recognize and connect with week after week. Reach out to your staff to see who has a knack for graphic design and utilize their talents and skills. It’s fun for everyone to follow along with graphics that speak to the heart of camp.

    7. Be Authentic

    Represent your camp brand well and honestly. Be true to who you are and what your camp represents. For my camp, this includes enthusiastically singing songs with hand motions and doing everything with the goal of letting campers know that they are loved by God. 

    8. Film Advice

    Learn to edit your films and practice several times before uploading your first one. You can make short teaser videos or promo material for something else. In your videos, utilize music (follow proper copyright protocols!) and B Roll (supplemental video footage; think shots of a campfire while someone talks about a campfire) to create the best video possible. And most importantly, keep it SHORT. Long videos lose engagement from parents and campers alike and are hard to follow along with. Be concise and to the point! A 5 minute song or dance is way too long. 

    9. Instagram Specific Advice

    Instagram can be a bit difficult to work with—or at least to understand. Make sure that you have a link in your bio and that link directly correlates with what you are promoting at the time. Typing out URLs in the text of a post is NOT a good idea because followers cannot click on and follow that link. Always make sure your “link in bio” is up to date! Also, IGTV is not editable. Proofread your caption/description and title before you hit post! There’s no going back unless you delete and re-post.

    10. A Final Word to Camp Folks

    Take a shower before you go on camera. Look clean and neat. If you're like me and you're living at camp during a pandemic, your day-to-day vibe may not be camera-ready. Have some fun showing off your collection of camp t-shirts or other fun “you” accessories. Plan ahead so your outfit will work well with your background. Put your best foot forward as you do the most that you can to help camp reach as many people as it can.

    If you’re interested in checking out what Camp Alta Mons did this summer, head on over to www.altamons.org/camp--home to see all of our online content and the details of our Camp @ Home Box delivery!

    Meredith Simmons is the Program Director at Camp Alta Mons in southwest Virginia. Meredith graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in physics, which we're sure has deeply guided her work at camp. She enjoys the natural beauty and hiking opportunities of living onsite. An avid hiker, backpacker, and Girl Scout, Meredith hopes to one day thru hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Like many of us in 2020, she's learned a lot of tech skills the hard way. 

  • 08 Oct 2020 11:40 AM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The past eight years (has it really been that long!?) since the launch of the UMCRM Association have flown by, pandemic time notwithstanding! It’s more difficult to see through “Covid lenses” a time when the biggest threats to camping ministries and our United Methodist camp and retreat community were the possible elimination of the camp staff position by Discipleship Ministries and the actions of a divided General Conference.

    From Event to Association

    I began my service on the board as the association was launched. Initially under the leadership of Jack Shitama, and followed by Kelly Peterson-Cruse and me, the board has spent the last eight years transforming an organization established in 1991 as the National Camp and Retreat Committee, Inc. (NCRC). The incorporation of the NCRC was pursued by active volunteers who had been working together since 1976. The NCRC’s original purpose was to plan and implement a national event every two years. Over the years that work expanded as passionate board members saw and addressed ministry needs in coordination with the camp staff person at Discipleship Ministries. The NCRC board has functioned as a management board, volunteering to implement programs on behalf of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries across the country.

    The move to reorganize as an association was a natural evolution acknowledging, 1) the expanding and essential work that had been done for years, and 2) the possible elimination of Discipleship Ministries staff support for that work. It was a prescient decision by those board members who preceded us, especially former chairs Mike Huber and Jack Shitama, and I/we owe them a debt of gratitude. The volunteer board, operating out of a management model, expanded its scope of work, recruiting and coordinating the vast talents of the new membership association to broaden the impact of the organization. As our mission says, we sought to “resource, advocate, inspire, and network,” to “RAIN,” on behalf of camp and retreat ministries. And though we began doing completely different work, we believed there was no need for structural change for NCRC, Inc. We assumed that with a change of name to UMCRM, a couple of bylaws tweaks, and some new policies and procedures, the board could continue its new work.

    That assumption changed in the winter of 2019 as we were invited to submit a grant request to a family foundation for funding a full-time director for the Association. In truth, we began to feel the challenges of the decentralized nature of the recruitment and nomination process of jurisdictional elections as early as the departure of Ian Hall, our Treasurer, years before, when we realized we had no one on the board with the skill set to replace him. At-large positions allowed us to recruit for expertise, and we found ourselves able to operate fairly well, even though our desire for expanded operation continually outstripped our ability as a management board to ever feel “on top of things.” But as we anticipated the funding to be able to hire our first full-time Director, we realized that the board would have to change from its management model or risk falling into micromanagement and conflict. 

    “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”Matthew 9:17 NRSV

    A New Model of Governance, and a New Structure to Support It

    For the sake of clarity of responsibility, authority, and accountability – for ourselves as a board and for the Association Director we planned to recruit and hire – we decided to adopt a model of board policy governance. Knowing that we would always have members who would bring vision to the board table, we made the decision not to follow Carver-style policy governance strictly. Instead, in addition to developing policies to guide both board and staff operations, a la Carver, we chose to retain authority with the board to set “strategic direction” (but not strategy - this is an interesting and intentional choice, call me if you’d like to know more!) in partnership with the Director, and to delegate authority for finalizing and implementing strategic plans to the Director. This clear delineation of authority and responsibility would allow for the board to focus solely on the association’s governance and visioning work, and for the Director to assume responsibility for moving the association in the direction of vision set by the board.

    We decided to include additional funding in our grant request for the director’s salary that would enable us to hire a nonprofit lawyer to manage the name change process for us. The lawyer advised us that the prospect of successfully acquiring a separate letter of determination from the IRS would be difficult for several reasons, including: the change of the nature of the organization from a committee to an association, the NCRC's previous inclusion under the UMC IRS letter of determination, and our desire to move the new organization to a less-restrictive state. He suggested that we establish a new non-profit organization with the UMCRM name and then apply with the IRS, simplifying the process and making the case for the IRS more compelling. We decided to go that route. While we were at it, we streamlined the bylaws and established governance policies to reset the structure and operations of the board.

    The New Structure, a Lot Like the Old Structure

    The most significant structural change is the number of board members. We’ve reduced the size of the board membership range from 15-17 down to 8-12. The move from full day-to-day operational management by the board to a staff-led organization governed by a policy board has allowed us to downsize, and we were further motivated by travel and meeting cost savings of thousands of dollars per year. In addition, though the board is authorized by its bylaws to establish committees, it currently has no plans or needs to do so. The operational volunteer committees that previously worked for the board (Education, Development, Membership, and the Event Design Team) will work for the association under the supervision of the Association Director. Streamlined board governance frees up more volunteer time and talent to accomplish the association’s many projects and initiatives.

    While reviewing our bylaws, we learned from our attorney that while as an association we have “association members,” that the NCRC, Inc. was not organized as a “membership corporation.” So our annual meetings of the association to vote to set budgets, to elect board members, and other official board business were held without legal standing. They weren’t illegal, they just weren’t necessary to accomplish organizational goals. Running an organization with “members of the corporation” and ensuring that membership status, quora, and proxies were in place would add a layer of complexity unintended by this or any board. The new UMCRM, Inc. has been organized as a nonprofit corporation “without members,” even though we are a membership Association. It is the responsibility of the board to represent the fiduciary and missional interests of its owners and membership.

    So, What Does This Actually Mean?

    The board and staff are working hard to ensure that the transition to the new UMCRM, Inc. corporation goes smoothly enough to be unnoticed by our association membership. I want to list some of the more important and interesting implications of our organizational changes below. If unanswered questions remain, I invite you to contact me at russell.davis@umcrm.org, or to contact any of our board of directors.

    Transition Process

    • UMCRM, Inc. is established and currently inactive
      • We received our separate IRS 501c3 status this summer!
      • Its initial board members and officers are the same as our current board for NCRC, Inc.
    • The Association will continue to operate as we have been as NCRC, Inc. through the end of the year
      • NCRC, Inc. will be dissolved effective 12/31/20
      • All NCRC assets, contracts, and records to be transferred to UMCRM, Inc. effective 1/1/21
      • Closing by year’s end will ensure that our 2020 990 filing can be NCRC, Inc.’s last
    • UMCRM, Inc. will have its inaugural annual meeting (the board meeting at which it elects officers) on January 7th, 2021

    Board Membership and Nominations

    As we pursued the goal of a smaller, more nimble board of directors, we sought to honor, to the greatest extent possible, the 

    nominations of jurisdictional representative board members, the established operational and communication expectations of 

    the association, and the service of all board members. Once we began meeting again in September, post Covid summer, we realized that we have neglected to reevaluate the nomination process for our at-large membership. That work is underway, with the goal of establishing a recruitment and nominating process that is transparent and external to the board for use this fall as needed.

    Our current board of directors and officers for NCRC, Inc. is listed below. They are also the initial board for UMCRM, Inc. as it begins operations on 1/1/21.

    Current NCRC, Inc. Board

    Abi Fuesler At-Large Class of 2020 1st Term

    Russell Davis SEJ Class of 2021    2nd Term

    Brant Henshaw At-Large Class of 2021 1st Term

    Cat Holbert WJ Class of 2021 2nd Term

    Jody Oates NCJ Class of 2021 1st Term

    Sam Richardson NEJ Class of 2021 1st Term

    Sharon Godbolt At-Large Class of 2022 2nd Term

    Jeff Parsons NCJ Class of 2022 1st Term

    Ron Bartlow WJ Class of 2023 1st Term

    Sarah Ratz SEJ Class of 2023 2nd Term

    Arthur Spriggs At-Large Class of 2023 2nd Term

    Joel Wilke SCJ Class of 2023 2nd Term

    Initial/Current UMCRM, Inc. Board (named in 1023 filing)

    Abi Fuesler -- Director 

    Russell Davis - Director 

    Brant Henshaw – Director

    Cat Holbert -- Director

    Jody Oates -- Director 

    Sam Richardson -- Director 

    Sharon Godbolt -- Director

    Jeff Parsons -- Director 

    Ron Bartlow - Director 

    Sarah Ratz - Director 

    Arthur Spriggs -- Director

    Joel Wilke – Director 

    Initial/Current UMCRM, Inc. Officers (named in 1023 filing)

    Russell Davis - Chair

    Ron Bartlow - Vice Chair

    Sarah Ratz - Secretary

    Brant Henshaw - Treasurer

    Jessica Gamache - Executive Director

    • Board size range defined by bylaws changes from 10-15 to 8-12.
    • The reduction in board size has happened with natural attrition and board members’ decisions not to pursue additional terms of service.
    • Members completing their terms of service in January will bring the board into compliance with the single “elected” representative per jurisdiction as proscribed by the NCRC bylaws amended in January of 2019. (Those bylaws also prevented the early termination of “elected” jurisdictional reps, leading to the short-term non-compliance with a specific provision of the NCRC bylaws.) The revised UMCRM, Inc. bylaws maintain representation of the “historic” UM jurisdictions by one board member each. The maximum number of at-large positions allowed is reduced from 10 to 7, with the minimum number reduced from 5 to 3.
    • The revelation by our lawyer that our jurisdictions have no authority under either the old or new bylaws to elect members of the board leaves us with undefined nominations processes for both Regular and At-Large board members. The board is currently at work defining new processes for both types of board members that will be transparent and handled by a group external to the board.
    • The board is committed to the pursuit of diversity in its membership. By its nature, a governance board represents the interests of the association’s “moral ownership” (those whose interests are served by the association). Board members, therefore, do not “represent” any region (jurisdiction) or subgroup. But the unique experiences, perspectives, and understanding each board member brings to the work of governance enables their decisions to better serve the association, making diversity a critical priority, both in board membership and across all the volunteer work of the association.

    In Closing

    As previously mentioned, we anticipate that most of these changes will be enacted without being noticed by the association membership. In large part, that’s the motivation for my writing this blog. So many changes have occurred in recent years in the way our association operates, always with a view to serving our mission effectively and sustainably. In a little over a month we’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary of our Association Director! One big change we’re introducing this fall is Association membership for everyone in United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, abandoning membership dues for what we hope is generous donated support from all of us. 

    This collection of board-related structural and operational changes all in one spot is for your convenience, explained as fully as your attention might allow(!?), and offered with invitation of your comments and questions to ensure understanding. Please feel free to contact me at russell.davis@umcrm.org.

    With gratitude for the opportunity to serve you,

    C. Russell Davis, Chairperson

    UMCRM Association Board of Directors

  • 23 Sep 2020 12:21 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Many in the UMCRM community are familiar with Michelle Cummings and her fun and innovative facilitation style. Whether you are a seasoned team-builder, experiential teacher/learner and game leader or someone newer to the field, time spent with "Big Wheel" Michelle Cummings will energize you with new ideas and fresh skills. 

    As founder of Training Wheels and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Personify Leadership, Michelle is a well-known expert in the Team Development industry. She is an accomplished author and sought-after speaker on leadership, team-building, and experiential learning. Michelle's wide variety of facilitation tools and activities have collectively changed the way trainers and educators work.

    Cummings holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Kansas State University and a Master's in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University at Mankato. She lives in Littleton, Colorado with her husband, Paul, and two sons. In a non-COVID year Michelle travels extensively to deliver innovate programs for camps and nonprofits, and to train professional associations, corporations, universities, and more. 

    Register today for the "Be Whole, Live Well, Come Together" event series, and be sure to attend the first one on October 21st when we will hear from Michelle Cummings.

  • 09 Sep 2020 12:46 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    We are in the middle of a time where some togetherness is exactly what we need.

    As camp and retreat leaders, we thrive off of what we do best: cultivating

    community and spaces set apart for people to grow.

    UMCRM has created a virtual Bridge Event to do just that.


    This is a call to all camp and retreat leaders who are craving community.

    This Bridge Event is specifically designed for our fellow camp folks to be whole, live well, and ultimately come together.

    A group of UMCRM volunteers has worked to put together a monthly virtual event series for any and all camp/retreat leaders who are interested in joining. These four events align with each other, offering different keynote speakers, worship leaders, and workshops for each event.


    When will the monthly events take place?

    The Bridge Event will include four virtual events held on Wednesdays, October 21st, November 18th, January 20th, and February 17th. Participants will be able to tune in from the comfort of home, office, or personal space. Different sessions will be available at several times throughout the day.

    General Schedule: (times shown in Eastern Standard Time)

    7:00am    Morning Devotion (recorded for later viewing)

    12:00       Vendor Hall Open

    2:00pm    Workshops (up to 1.5 hrs)

    3:00          Vendor Hall Open

    4:00pm     Special Guest Speaker, Breakout Sessions following

    7:30          Evening Worship (later watch parties in various time zones)


    How much will this cost?

    The cost per participant is just $60 for the whole series. This includes all four virtual events and access to recordings of each event. There will also be a virtual vendor hall to connect with UMCRM-friendly businesses and services. Wait, there's more! Registrants will also receive worship boxes by mail, available while supplies last. Times are financially hard right now, so in order to ensure that everyone is able to attend, scholarships are available upon request. Even if you missed a previous event, register now to get access --it's still a great deal.


    What is the worship box?

    While supplies last, registrants will be mailed a box of materials curated by our leadership team. These hand-selected items are meant to inspire you to create your own sacred space to worship during our virtual events. Share your inspirations by posting a photo of your worship space using the hashtags #umcrm and #UMCRMtogether on social media.

    Where will these events happen?

    Our leadership team has created the events within PheedLoop, a virtual conference platform. This platform will allow us to offer a virtual vendor hall, keynote speakers to broadcast their presentations, worship leaders to share, and workshops to happen. Once you register, you will receive more details on accessing the events, including a "what to expect" video. 


    What if a participant is only able to attend some of the events and not all four?

    Recordings of each session will be made available to all registrants. The registration fee is the same whether you register in September or in February, because it includes all-access to the 4 events. However, we hope community members will be able to join in person as much as possible --the networking chat feature, live Zooms, and lunch table conversations really help it feel like we are together in person. Come as you are and join live as you're able!

    Still have questions? Drop us a line at bridge.event@umcrm.org

    Register now!

  • 04 Sep 2020 4:09 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Committed, adaptable, creative, faithful, hardworking, generous, compassionate. The staff and volunteers of United Methodist Camp/Retreat Ministries (UMCRM) demonstrate so many of the qualities that define effective leaders. This season, those attributes were tested in familiar ways and new ones that stretched even the most resilient among us.

    Of the nearly 170 United Methodist Camp/Retreat Ministries in the United States that offer summer camps, the majority (about 90%) did not offer traditional summer camp for the 2020 season.1 Directors, Executives, and boards of directors led painstaking decision-making processes which took into account guidance from the American Camp Association, CDC, and Association of Camp Nurses, local pandemic regulations and conditions, church and organizational values, priorities and finances, and site and staffing concerns, all filtered through prayer.

    Even while sacrificing the service, fun, engagement, and revenue that are part of summer camp, many camp/retreat site staff and volunteers were able to keep on in ministry, sharing God’s good news of love and actively serving as hands and feet of Christ in new ways in their communities. Some offered virtual camp experiences online and through Camp-In-A-Box activities campers could experience from home.2 Some welcomed small family retreats to the holy grounds of camp to provide respite, connection, and experiences of God’s creation.3 Some utilized commercial kitchens to cook for hungry neighbors.4 A few sites created monastic residential communities with young adults exploring their faith and call.5 Others repurposed camp/retreat buildings as quarantine housing6 or distribution sites for food and supplies. Some were able to offer short-term day visits to help people find renewal through safely-distanced hiking, fishing, swimming, horse riding, or service projects. Many reached out to support families and children who needed to remember someone cares about them.

    The few (about 12) UMCRM sites that were able to offer residential camp in the 2020 summer season did so with trepidation, thoughtfulness, and humility. In a recent UMCRM Community Conversation, several leaders from around the country shared trials, joys, and lessons learned from summer 2020. All of the UMCRM sites that operated this season took a rigorous, layered approach to COVID-19 safety protocols, including low-contact camper drop-off and pickup, increased cleaning and sanitizing of spaces and equipment, dividing campers and staff into discrete and non-mixing “cohort” small groups, daily health screening, decreased capacity and time in indoor spaces to allow for physical distancing, wearing masks, increased hand-washing, eliminating off-site activities, and adapting food service systems. This summer season demanded new inventions like creative hand-washing stations and adapted games that incorporated physical distancing. Staff created new practices, new forms, new communication and record-keeping strategies, new systems for managing the flow of people in our spaces. Counselors became experts in managing masks and hand sanitizer in addition to the usual sunscreen, appropriate footwear, and bug spray.

    Some of the COVID guidance provided to camps changed as the summer progressed, so resilient leaders worked hard to stay abreast of local regulations on practices like mask-wearing and group sizes, sometimes needing to adapt operations in the middle of a session. Communication with camper families before, during, and after camp felt graver, less light-hearted than it usually would. A few Directors noted that even our youngest campers were remarkably adaptive and resilient with all the new rules and changes. Families were even more grateful than usual for their children to be able to experience camp and were supportive of all the measures our camps put in place to make it work.

    One unexpected blessing that Directors reported from this strange summer was a marked decrease (and even absence) of the usual illnesses and injuries. Maybe everyone was just that much more careful this year? Maybe all of that hand-washing really does make a big difference to our health?!

    Perhaps it should come as no surprise that camp, in its simplest form, still works. Even stripped of fancy off-site trips, guest speakers, specialty programs, and other bells and whistles, building community and having fun in a “sacred place apart”7 are truly the core of the camp experience. For young people who spent much of the spring and early summer quarantined at home with limited social interaction, time at camp this season felt like an especially welcome joy and adventure. For those who spent way too many hours inside in front of screens, a week of fresh-air activity in a slice of God’s beautiful Creation was especially sweet. When church and youth group activities had become virtual or nonexistent as a result of the pandemic, relevant Christian faith formation among a small group of peers was more needed than ever. For the thousands of campers who missed out on United Methodist summer camp in 2020, our ministry leaders missed you terribly, and they are hard at work to find ways to provide camp and retreat experiences for you just as soon as we can do that safely.

    Leading summer camp in a “normal” season always involves late nights, early mornings, surprises, challenges, lots of preparation and stress. Those features were multiplied many-fold in this pandemic summer, and the relief and gratitude for a successful camp season cannot be overstated. When asked whether, if they could go back and decide again whether to hold summer camp, the majority of our Directors who ran camp said a resounding “yes.” They said “yes,” even knowing the financial strain of operating with limited capacity, “yes,” fully aware of the extra work and rigor and sleepless nights that were part of leadership in a COVID summer. Camp staff and volunteers do what they do because they believe in the power of the camp experience to live out God’s love for every child, to be places of safety, fun, learning, acceptance, challenge, and joy. Both those leaders who operated summer camps this season and those whose wisest choice was to remain closed, were guided by those commitments.

    Many donors who contribute to Camp/Retreat Ministries have witnessed the power of camp and are committed to making sure those experiences are still around for future generations of children, youth, and families. In places where camps remained closed in 2020, many families who could afford to donate a portion of their registration fees generously gave back to support their camp through the financial loss of the summer season. Donors have stepped up to help these vital ministries to weather this unprecedented year when camp and retreats are not able to offer our usual programming and host the groups that sustain our operations. We salute the wonderful supporters of United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries who give time, talent, treasure, and prayer to sustain these sacred places and their dedicated staff. If you have not had the opportunity to give to your favorite camp this season, please reach out to see what their current needs are and how you can help.

    The UMCRM Association brings our nationwide community together to be a resource and advocate for those amazing staff and the generous volunteer deans, board members, and others who support their ministries. Together we are learning how to serve in the midst of a pandemic, mitigating risk and caring for God’s people and sacred grounds to the best of our abilities. If you would like to join the Association or support our mission, find us at UMCRM.org.

    1  Based on estimates by the UMCRM Association.

    2  Camp in the Community, TN Doorstep deliveries: 1,400 kids experience church camp at home and Camp Alta Mons, VA Montgomery County camp finds way to send camp experience home are just two examples of UMCRM camps that used this model.

    3  Camp Wanake, OH Wanake Camp & Retreat Center and Buckhorn Camp, CO Summer Family Camping were among the sites that provided experiences for small family groups. 

    4  Camp Magruder, OR is one example: https://www.facebook.com/104908182943341/videos/273571057177382/

    5  Two examples are “YAISC” at Camp Wrightwood, CA Young Adult Intentional Spiritual Community (YAISC) and the intern program at Camp Dickenson (VA) Summer Interns ​2020

    6  See Alton L. Collins Center (OR) Eagle Creek facility gives COVID-19 patients space to quarantine

    One of the “7 Foundations of Camp & Retreat Ministry”: http://umcrm.camp/about-us/7-foundations/

    Jen Burch (M.Div.) is Association Administrator for UMCRM and edits weekly S'more Mail e-news. Jen is a former Director of several United Methodist Camp/Retreat Centers and youth-serving nonprofit organizations. She's staying physically-distanced but virtually connected from her home in Colorado.

  • 26 Aug 2020 7:55 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    “Mecan has been an excellent youth leader in GNJ, leading a growing, successful youth retreat ministry in the local church. Mecan has the passion and energy to bring people together which she balances with the administrative gifts to bring projects from vision to completion. We are in a season of great opportunity to rebuild camping and retreat ministries and I’m thrilled that she will be taking the lead.” 

     – Eric Drew, Executive Director, Next Generation Ministries of the Greater New Jersey Conference

    Mecan (pronounced Mc-Can) Payne and her husband Corbin have been serving in ministry together since the moment they met in college, and they can’t imagine their journey taking any other direction. They have one rambunctious toddler and two crazy pups that keep them on their toes 24/7. Mecan and Corbin are both often described as coming in “like a wrecking ball;” they are passionate and very energetic in their calling to ministry!

    Mecan’s passion for empowering younger generations has led to the creation and growth of multiple youth and young adult programs in several local churches in the Greater New Jersey Conference. Mecan holds a degree in Youth Ministry, with concentrations in Psychology and Theology, from Eastern University. Her experience in developing programs, leaders, and powerful worship experiences has led her to a new role as Camp Program Director at The Pinelands Center in Browns Mills, NJ. Mecan is excited to reach children, youth and their families through the ministry of camping and is soaking in every moment, lesson and resource that relates to her new position.

    When not serving in ministry, Mecan enjoys spending time outside with her family, drinking hand-crafted coffee, reading true crime books and teaching Christian yoga.

    Ryan Clements, Youth & Camping Ministry Coordinator, writes, "We're excited to have Mecan on board and to represent GNJ camping. Together with [Camp Operations Director] Ed Figueroa, we feel that camping and retreats in GNJ are in good hands."

    Welcome to UMCRM, Mecan!

  • 12 Aug 2020 3:27 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Across the UMCRM community, we share a drive to grow and learn. Take your leadership to the next level by tapping into a supportive network of like-minded colleagues and friends. The 2020-2021 season of UMCRM Intentional Leadership Groups (ILGs) will focus on finding inspiration and progress through connection with others who are seeking to grow in similar areas. This year, ILGs will meet as open discussion cohorts; convened by an individual but guided by the group as a whole. Each ILG cohort will meet once a month for 9 months; September through May.

    In a time of constant change, when adaptive leadership is utilized every day, this model of open discussion cohorts will allow you and your group to discuss the topics that are relevant to you. Two cohorts are currently open for you to join:

    • Retreat Center Directors’ Connection

      • First Thursdays of the month at 1pm ET / 10am PT (starting September 3rd)

      • Convened by Lawrence Jay from Rolling Ridge Retreat Center, this cohort will discuss topics and issues impacting leaders at retreat centers. If you lead a year-round retreat center and/or would like to strengthen your retreat ministry, this group is what you are looking for.

      • Sign up for the Retreat Center Directors’ Connection cohort

    • Camp & Retreat Fundraisers

      • Second Thursdays of the month at 1pm eastern / 10am pacific (starting September 10th)

      • Convened by Jennie Dickerson from Lakeshore Camp, this cohort will spend time sharing ideas and resources aimed at ensuring our ministries remain as fiscally solvent as possible. We will be stronger and more creative together for our own ministries while also identifying ways to help our neighbors who do not have existing fundraising programs.

      • Sign up for the Camp & Retreat Fundraisers cohort

    Are you interested in spending intentional time each month with others who are interested in the same area of leadership growth as you?

    Suggest a cohort theme and/or mark your interest through this form.

Questions?  Please contact our Association Registrar

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