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  • 24 Mar 2021 8:52 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    The email announcing that the 2023 InsideOut design team would be creating our summer camp curriculum over Zoom wasn’t surprising because, well, everyone knows all meetings are over Zoom now. I quickly responded, letting the team know I would do my best to be available again, even if it was through my laptop screen and not at a beautiful camp setting as it traditionally has been. My life as a furloughed Camp Director still managing camp while staying at home with my three year old daughter doesn’t leave me much bandwidth for additional undertakings, but this is one I wanted to show up for. 

    I am one of two United Methodist representatives on the ecumenical team that sets the annual themes with scriptural daily focus for a Christian camp resource used all over the country. Each spring, I have the pleasure of gathering for a handful of days with representatives from other mainline Protestant denominations for this creative process. Together we land on a theme, break it into days, connect it to scripture, then try to explain what’s in our heads for program writers to flesh out into activities and lessons. Because this generally happens with camp people at a retreat center, it feels like a three night camp with long, intense working sessions. 

    The team gets input from United Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and Baptist backgrounds. I’ve always appreciated these people, but over the years I’ve also developed a deep trust in them and our ability to work together and push each other to get at the heart of what we hope each year’s resource teaches. Everyone cares deeply about the finished product, the process of getting there, and each other. I like to think of myself as a new kid on the block in this group, but I walked on in 2013 and have been a part of it most years since. 

    We put this resource together with care for many considerations. We want a curriculum that is somewhat evergreen, yet pertinent to the specific times we’re in. We want an even sampling of scripture from Old to New Testament to attempt to get at the whole story of the Bible. We lean towards story-based scripture because it tends to be easier to work with from a program perspective. We aim to choose stories from the Bible that feature relatable figures for as many people as possible. This has us conscious of how many women have voice, how often the poor have voice, and how much the outsider gets a voice, in addition to the major protagonists. We are mindful of how the presence of Creator, Jesus, and Spirit show up in the theme. We set a goal not to repeat scriptures from previous curricula for at least four years, to cover more of the Bible and stretch ourselves. These considerations keep the team poring through scripture and soul searching. The project is ambitious, which is what we show up for, but wow, it leads to some head-pounding-on-the-table kind of moments to get where we want to go. 

    We discuss, break into smaller groups, take lone walks, talk one-on-one at meals, and have late night epiphanies to bring back to the group the next morning. We have impassioned debates about which scripture best matches a specific day we’re considering. We scrutinize the flow of each day, whether to put the most introspective sessions in the beginning, middle, or end of the week. We worry over how scripture can so easily be used as a crutch or weapon for something that isn’t intended. We get frustrated, we hold on hard to the concepts that resonate deeply with each of us, we explain ourselves – often multiple times – and eventually we let go of some ideas. 

    We all bring strengths, knowledge, and personality to the team and consequently the resource we produce. I see myself thinking often of the young generation’s longings, particularly those campers who are unchurched or struggling with their faith. I play devil’s advocate frequently (though everyone generally gets a turn at some point). I hear my skeptical campers frequently holding me to a higher standard, wanting themes that speak deeply to their questions, their frustrations, their disillusionment, their joys and passions. Everyone on these teams brings with them their social and theological location, and we are constantly tugging each other towards some sort of center. Our hope is, in the end, the Spirit has guided us to a center that includes the perspectives and needs of many different types of people. 

    What we always marvel at by the end of the process is how we manage to come out of the several day meeting with a fully formed theme. We come with nothing on paper and by the end we have a description of the overarching theme, each day with a thought-out progression based on the rhythms of summer camp weeks we all know, a scripture to go with each theme, bullet points outlining what campers will explore in each of those daily themes, and an idea for artwork. All this will be passed on to a team of hired writers to make into a full week of lessons, worship ideas, activity, and many other resources, divided into multiple age groups all with unique lessons. Apply to be a writer

    There’s more than enough for the novice counselor, dean, or Director to have a detailed outline of everything they might do. Even for the more seasoned camp leader who wants to inject their own creativity, this saves weeks, possibly months of work. We know people will tinker with it when they get it. We camp leaders will second guess some of the scripture choices. We know some will switch days around or drop a day altogether and insert a preferred theme there. In fact, we hope people customize the curriculum product to their camp. We hope it can be many things to different camp leaders, but always be inspiring and grounding as summer leaders imagine and plan camp. As it inspires conversations and sessions all over the country, there’s this potential to unite hundreds of mainline Protestant campers in considering a similar set of questions in the same summer. There is such opportunity for discussion and input in this digital, shareable, connected world our campers and staff inhabit. 

    When our Zoom planning concluded this year, our design team still marveled at how we’d managed to cram so much thought and careful planning into a matter of days. Due to the production and publication cycle, we come up with the theme two and a half years prior to its release. I am still amazed at the theme of deep longing experienced as a faith community called “This is Our Prayer,” planned in 2017, that ended up being so timely as the summer 2020 theme. Future themes coming down the mail chute focus on creation reflecting God, naming and identity, and the Fruit of the Spirit. 

    I hope when you use the InsideOut summer camp resources you will catch a glimpse of the ways they have been so thoughtfully and lovingly written. Our ecumenical team of volunteers does what we do because we love it, of course, and because even the act of making it and putting it out into the world is something like camp. Like most of you, I’m stoked to rely on Zoom less in the coming years, to go to a beautiful camp setting, recreate with wonderful people, and be touched by the Spirit through all that. My fingers are crossed that our next planning will be more like that. It’s what we were imagining as we put together the resource. But, we also know from this past year, all our future plans will need to reach far beyond the conventional and be able to meet a changing world. We’re prayerfully seeking that vision as we put these themes together.

    Check it out– I hope it resonates with you, too. I hope the resource helps you in the great task ahead of planning our summers, rooted in our great tradition, while always changing and growing in our faith and understanding. If you use the resource, remember that the design team treasures your evaluations and input so that each successive year is even more useful to you.

    If you want to know more about the process or would be interested in any aspect of the writing team, shoot me a message at troy@campmagruder.org. I’d love to answer deep burning questions, do some storytelling, or nerd out. Many blessings on your thoughts, meditations, and planning for the coming summer and beyond.

  • 24 Mar 2021 7:48 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    My name is Becky Valenzuela, and I am your Childcare Coordinator for the 2021 National Camp & Retreat Leaders' Gathering, "In the Kitchen." This will be my second time serving on the Design Team for the Gathering (I met many of you "At The Table" in Florida in 2019). It is UMCRM's goal to make the event accessible to families and enable caregivers and kids to all have a great educational experience. One way we commit to that is through offering a free childcare program.

    By trade, I am the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at First UMC Torrance in the Cal-Pac Conference, and a teacher. I have spent over 20 years teaching all levels of education from infants & toddlers through high school seniors. 

    This year, with the state of education varying from state to state, we are looking at childcare through a new lens. If your children are still in virtual classrooms and will be attending the event, we will be working to set up a classroom type environment for them to complete their needed school work. If your children are not yet in school, we will still be providing a dedicated, safely supervised space to play, explore, create, and rest so that parents can participate fully in the conference.

    Our host site at Jumonville will partner with us to make your children welcome, too. The lodging facilities offer a variety of cabin options that will work great for families, and there are high chairs available in the dining space. There's a discounted rate for kids' room and board depending on age, and little ones under age 3 stay free of charge.

    We will customize age-appropriate activities for the children registered. Please reach out to me via email (and/or we can set up a time to talk) to discuss your family's needs, and we can plan together to care for your children during the Gathering. I'm looking forward to seeing you all "In the Kitchen" this October! 

  • 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. 

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