When was the last time you went to camp? Not went to camp, like every day walking out your back door across the soccer field to get to your office, but truly went to camp— packed up, headed off to a different site where you’re not responsible for leadership of the program or the logistics of the experience, having a vague understanding of what activities might happen while you’re there based on a short brochure description, and going to meet and live with completely brand new people for a week.
For me it had been over ten years since I headed off to my last session as a summer camper. Since that time, I’ve spent every summer as seasonal staff and then year-round staff and somewhere along the way, I somewhat forgot what it was like to go to camp. As a participant in the recent UMCRM Immersion Week, I got to go to camp again. Remember that unique combination of excitement and nervousness of the first-day-of-camp, driving down the main camp road and finally meeting your cabinmates and counselors?Remember the joy of having someone you just met a few days ago call you over because they want to make sure you are included in experiencing an awesome sunset? Remember the feeling of pride from words of affirmation from a trusted camp leader? Remember the swing of emotion that occurs in sharing a first meal with strangers and then a few days later sharing a final meal with dear friends? These are the experiences we all lived for as campers and helping facilitate these growth moments was almost certainly part of what drove us into camping ministry as a profession. Not only did the UMCRM Immersion Week remind me of what it’s like to be a camper, but that reminder refueled my passion for why I am called to this incredible ministry.
We all know that archery, swimming, crafts, and low ropes are the experiences we’re facilitating for campers, but the actual goal of those activities is much deeper— community building, development of self-confidence, and other growth edges we work to find. So too, with the Immersion Week. Sure we learned all about the teachings of John Wesley, the ministry of administration, and the complexity of United Methodist polity, but actually we were building community, developing self-confidence, and discovering growth edges for ourselves personally and professionally. I learned a lot of information from the UMCRM Immersion week, and I learned a whole lot more from the community and personal edge-work surrounding the content of the week.
One of the pieces of practical advice from the Ministry of Administration session was that it is important to sleep in every type of lodging at your site so that you can have an understanding of what your guests are experiencing. I’m going to add to that advice that you should go to camp so you can be reminded of the highs, lows, and everything in-betweens of being a camper. The UMCRM Immersion Week is a perfect opportunity for that reminder. Led by caring, knowledgeable and passionate instructors and attended by caring, understanding, and passionate peers, the Immersion Experience will benefit anyone in any stage of their career in camping ministry. The content learned creates a richer understanding of the foundations of our United Methodist camping heritage and the community that is built is uniquely suited to be supportive and compassionate towards the joys and challenges of the calling we all share.
It is my prayer that each successive iteration of this program will continue to build community and learn together in ways that ripple out throughout the rest of our Association and into the lives of God’s people. Special thanks to the UMCRM Board and Education Committee for committing to making this program a success.
Collin Grooms is the Site Director at Lake Lucerne Camp and Retreat Center in Neshkoro, Wisconsin. Spouse to Katie and dad to Owen, Collin thought he was being asked to attend UMCRM Immersion Week because he had made one too many jokes about being Lutheran and wanting to hold raffles to fundraise for camp. He left Immersion Week honored to be considered a colleague to an incredible group of faithful disciples of Christ.