The discussion was almost an afterthought. It was the Gathering of United Methodist Conference Camp and Retreat Executives in November of 2010 at Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The schedule for the Gathering had included a variety of workshops on marketing and management, but at the end there was an open forum discussion to hear the concerns of the group.
It became clear within a few minutes that there was an incredible amount of energy (anxiety?) around our common concerns. What would the 2012 General Conference and, specifically, the Call to Action initiative, mean for our UM camps and retreats? How long would we continue to have support from the General Board of Discipleship in the form of a support staff person? With so many conferences merging or restructuring, how does camp and retreat ministry fit within the connectional structure?
Out of that discussion emerged a Strategic Initiatives Task Force comprised of 11 conference camping and retreat executives, as well as Kevin Witt, our staff person at the General Board of Discipleship. One of the priorities that quickly emerged was exploring the formation of a National Association.
Original Strategic Initiatives Task Force Members:
*National Association Task Force
In 2011 a sub-group, the National Association Task Force, was authorized specifically to evaluate options and make a recommendation to the National Camp & Retreat Committee (NCRC). The National Association Task Force developed a concept plan which drew overwhelming support at the Conference Executives’ annual gathering a year later at Lake Huron, Michigan. After some refinement, the NCRC voted in January 2012 to move the plan forward so its structure and design would be ready to present to the larger community at the January 2013 National Camp & Retreat Leaders Gathering. The legal structure would be in place by January 2014. The new association was named United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries (UMCRM). The action assumed that NCRC, which is a nonprofit corporation, would become UMCRM through a name and bylaws change. The Task Force also proposed a Transition Plan for 2013, a timeline aiming to complete the NCRC’s metamorphosis into UMCRM.
The NCRC was incorporated in 1991, but had existed less formally for decades. It originated as a committee of United Methodist Camp ministry leaders whose primary work was to present a biennial national event for training and fellowship for the larger UM camps community. The new UMCRM structure would include an Event Team whose sole purpose was to plan the National Gathering, and a representative Governance Board, who would set the vision for the organization and move forward with strategic initiatives. After the National Gathering in January 2013, the NCRC met in its new bifurcated form. Board members originally elected to the NCRC would finish out their terms on the team of their choice–”Event” or “Governance.” The Governance Board would serve as the Association’s Transition Team.
So far this year the Transition Team has worked to realize the UMCRM vision as outlined in the plan. They articulated UMCRM’s mission: Committed to the mission of The United Methodist Church, UMCRM resources, advocates, inspires, and networks to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of camp and retreat ministries.
The communication plan continues to unfold with the development of a Facebook presence, S’more Mail e-news, and the UMCRM blog. Training needs have been surveyed and findings will be incorporated into future national and regional training opportunities, distance learning through webinars and online courses, in-person events like the National Gathering, Sustainable Pathways events, and Certification Courses.
In May 2013 the UMCRM Association was ready to invite its first Charter Members. It has been so gratifying to watch the registrations roll in throughout the summer and fall as the community pours out its support for this new endeavor. To date, twenty-six Annual Conferences have joined as Charter Members, including their Board Chairs, Site Directors, and Conference Camp and Retreat Ministry Executives. A handful of Individuals and Centers have also opted to support the Association in its charter year. Thank you! If you are reading this, you’re likely among the illustrious group of Charter Members. If not, you may register here to join. You may join at any time, but only those who join before October 15 will have access to member purchasing discounts through our partnership with PCCCA. The Association will accept Charter Members for the remainder of 2013. In 2014 we’ll move to a calendar-year renewal cycle.
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Jack Shitama is Director for Camp & Retreat Ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and Chair of the National Camp & Retreat Committee, the UMCRM Board of Directors. He is an ordained elder in the UMC and past president of the International Association of Conference Center Administrators (IACCA). Jack lives and serves at Pecometh Camp & Retreat Center (MD).
Jen Burch is Administrator for the American Camp Association’s Religiously Affiliated Camps Council (RAC). She also serves as a part-time administrator for the UMCRM Association. She was a former Director at Pine Lake Camp (WI) and Flathead Lake Camp (MT), and has served on the NCRC/UMCRM as a representative from the Western Jurisdiction since 2007.