United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries has seven foundations that lay the groundwork for all we do. These range from providing intentional places apart to encounter God, to developing Christian leaders, and inspiring guests toward love and justice. (View all Seven Foundations.) These foundations were evident as over 75 camp leaders from around the West from Southern California to Colorado and Alaska, gathered at Camp Magruder in Rockaway Beach, Oregon from March 10-13, 2014. Camp directors, board members, maintenance staff, kitchen managers, program directors, volunteers, workshop presenters and more came together for a time of retreat, learning, and fellowship.
Kevin Witt, national staff for Camp and Retreat Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship, spoke to those gathered about developing spiritual leaders. Leaders are born out of great camping programs because they put leadership into young people’s hands early, often, and naturally. These young people grow into leaders while they are at camp, sharing these new skills when they go back to their local churches. As they become older they share their gifts and God’s love with more young people, and the cycle of Christian leadership and discipleship continues. Witt challenged those gathered to consider camps’ role in supporting and transforming the changing church in the 21st century.
When Bishop Grant Hagiya spoke to the group about the need for change and innovation in ministries, the leaders were listening for ways their camps and retreats might collaborate with the United Methodist Church and all its ministries to make disciples. The Bishop also highlighted the role of “early exposure to deep faith” in setting people on a path of lifelong faith formation. Gary Forster, a specialist in camp management and design, drew on wide-ranging experience with successful camps to pinpoint hallmarks of the best ones, sharing characteristics and practices like marketing to moms and teaching friend-making.
The Seven Foundations were again evident as the camp leaders broke into workshops on topics ranging from board governance and donor relations to food service challenges and facility makeovers. Other topics covered in five different workshop sessions included supervising staff, working with volunteers, how camping can help new faith communities, and how to make hospitality synonymous with camp and retreat ministries.
The gathering’s full schedule included time set aside for enjoying the beauty that God provided. The sun shone brightly (a rare treat for March on the Oregon Coast) as participants took time to enjoy fellowship with old and new friends and breathe fresh sea air. Conversations were heard all over camp as leaders walked along the beach, took a boat out on the lake, or enjoyed a cookie and cup of coffee.
Karen Benson has been involved in camping for her entire life, starting with church family retreats. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and three sons. She currently serves as program division chair on the Oregon- Idaho Camp and Retreat Ministries Board.