Meet Cat Holbert
How were you called into C/R ministry?
The summer I finished high school, Mom said I should go be a camp counselor since I liked working with kids. I fell in love with it by surprise. My second summer as a counselor (after a year in college working toward a journalism degree) I clearly remember being in the camp director’s office and seeing degrees in Recreation and Park Management on his wall. I asked if he really went to school to learn to do that. It was the beginnings of the Holy Spirit nudge towards being in camping full-time. I fought it, but kept going back to camp year after year. At some point I stopped going to college but kept going to camp every summer. The first year I wasn’t full-time at summer camp, I took a week off from my job to go work at camp. The curriculum included the story of the talents, where one guy grows them and makes them bigger through using them. I very, very clearly heard God say “This is your talent and not using it is sinning.” So I went back to work, turned in my notice, and got a job working with children and youth. Every door was opened from there to get back into camp as a career. (I got my degree in Parks and Recreation!)
Where have you served?
Only two places. 1994 was my first summer as a counselor at Westview on the James in Richmond, Virginia. I left there in February 2014 as the Assistant Director to move to my current location at Lazy W in California.
What significant changes have you seen during your time in CR ministries?
Evolution of the helicopter parent. Parents seem more fearful of leaving their children at camp.
Social media, both in the way it has become used for building and maintaining relationships and the very high expectation of quality in its use.
Children have gotten less comfortable being in the outdoors.
Greatest blessings being in this ministry?
#1 The transformation that occurs in some of the campers– they arrive uncomfortable and unsure but by the end of the week grow into an understanding of what it means to be the person God has called them to be. I am blessed to see them feel good to be who they actually are.
#2 The relationships that develop between campers and even between retreat guests. As they share space and change their routines, they connect on a higher level and a bond develops. People just seem to rise to higher relationships at camp and embrace people who are different from themselves and outside their “normal” comfort zone.
What’s one important thing you would like to pass along to other C/R leaders?
The importance of flexibility. It is so important to have a good plan in place. Be prepared really well. But if things don’t go like you thought they were going to go, be flexible. Whether it is working with people, buildings, spaces, or budgets, be willing to adapt and change if you need to — go with the ultimate flow. It might turn out better than what you had planned.
One word to describe yourself? Dedicated
Favorite Camp game/activity? One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish* (directions at end of article)
Something people don’t know about you or would be surprised to learn? I would love to have dog ears and a tail if I could get away with it.
As the Design Team Chair for the 2017 National Camp & Retreat Leaders Gathering, what would you say to people about why they should plan to attend that event?
It’s got some great components. New this year is the Wednesday afternoon fun time schedule. Instead of the optional outings when people usually leave the host site, the fun is coming to us. There will be a big Texas barbeque, a bull riding machine, music jam, fishing, hayrides, ropes course, games, storytelling, and a square dance.
Another reason to be excited about the Gathering is our featured speakers. Bob Ditter will share challenges that face us and practical responses that will empower us for ministry. Rev Cedrick Bridgeforth really believes in camping ministry as spiritual transformation and will inspire us. His preaching will be good for the soul!
*Learn to play Cat’s favorite camp game:
One Fish, Two Fish
Group Size: 12-20, Ages: 7 & Up
Supplies: an object about the size of a water bottle
Before You Start:
- Players line up on a starting line.
- An object (such as a water bottle or rubber chicken) is placed at the end line near the leader.
- Explain that the object is what the team is after and as leader, you are in charge of protecting that object.
- Explain the object of the game: to get the object from the leader and back across the starting line as a team.
- Tell players that while your back is turned and you are saying “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish,” they may move, but once you finish and turn around them must stop. Like “Red Light, Green Light.”
- Check that everyone understands the rules.
How To Play:
- The leader stands behind the object facing the players.
- The leader turns around and loudly says, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”
- The players may only move while the leader is turned the other way and is speaking/yelling the phrase.
- When the leader finishes “blue fish,” s/he turns around and all players must freeze. If anyone is moving after “blue fish,” that person or persons goes back to the starting line. If no players are caught moving, the leader turns around again and loudly says, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and the players get to move from their current spot.
- Once players get close enough to take the object from behind the leader, the players need to hide it and they must still possess the object (i.e. no putting it on the ground).
- Players still only move during the phrase, but once the object is taken the leader gets to guess who has it.
- If the leader guesses correctly, the object is returned and the players begin again at the starting line.
- After incorrect guesses, the players continue moving from where they are during the phrase.
Set a number of how many people must hold the object (to promote inclusion and community).
No throwing the object (to increase complexity).
Thanks for being you, Cat. And speaking of “dedicated,” Cat has already agreed to chair UMCRM’s next National Gathering in 2019! Special thanks to wonderful UMCRM Communications Team volunteer Lu Harding, who collected this interview.