Alan learned about the importance of a camp/retreat ministry association early in his career. In 1991, as a new Program Director, it was through the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Association (LOM) that he met mentors who showed him how to react and act in that staff role. At his first association conference, he arrived tired and burned out, feeling overwhelmed and overworked, feeling no one understood what his job was like. He was amazed to meet people there who were dealing with exactly the same situations and challenges. There were colleagues who truly did understand what his job entailed, because they were serving in similar roles at their own sites. “These are my people!,” he recalls thinking. Those relationships became keys to staying and growing in camp ministry.
Fast forward to 2009, Alan returned to camp ministry, this time as the Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. Once again, he was in a role where he knew he had a lot to learn. This time, though, Alan knew to seek out the denominational association and connect with other colleagues. It felt like a confirmation and a relief to discover that UMCRM had a tight-knit and supportive group of Camp & Retreat Ministries Executives who met regularly. Kevin Witt, serving as the Camp/Retreat staff at UMC Discipleship Ministries at the time, was there for long walks and sound advice. Alan watched peers who had been in their roles for a long time, observing the skills and processes that helped these leaders succeed and persist. Alan says, “If not for them, I don’t know if I would still be doing this work. The connections formed through our Association have been the key to my longevity in this ministry.”
More recently, Alan faced a difficult Director transition at one of the sites in his charge. He reached out to UMCRM to inquire about potential Interim Directors who might be able to help while the board conducted a search. Through that resource, he was blessed to connect with a retired Director who brought wisdom, experience, and positive energy to the ministry, enabling the site to continue operations during the interim time. Having an interim allowed a less-anxious search to find the camp’s next permanent Director. UMCRM’s job board helped that person to connect with the opportunity, and it has been a great match.
Alan reflects that the associations have been part of his camping leadership journey all along – from the very start, through nurturing him as a leader, and now continuing to provide priceless support as he continues to evolve professionally.