When Rev. Shea James’s role was created in 2016 to support Youth & Camping Ministries in the West Virginia Annual Conference, she felt fortunate to inherit an existing positive connection with the UMCRM Association. She had been involved in camp as a volunteer in the Kentucky Conference, but, new to this Exec role, she found deep value in connecting with her peers in other conferences who brought a depth of knowledge and broad experience. Shea acknowledges, "Without UMCRM, I would have just been making it up." Fortunately, UMCRM provided her with strategic guidance, sample documents, diverse ministry models, and, crucially, a network of knowledgeable individuals who understood the Executive Director role firsthand. Working alongside passionate leaders in camp ministry, Shea felt supported and encouraged to succeed.

It was during the COVID pandemic, however, that the value of the UMCRM Association’s resources and support were, as Shea says, “ten times proven.” In the uncharted territory of that time, being connected to other leaders grappling with similar challenges and uncertainties was invaluable. The Association offered timely resources and supportive fellowship, making the challenges feel more manageable.

Over the years, the UMCRM Association’s resources have been a source of inspiration and encouragement in various situations. Shea felt empowered to effectively communicate the impact of camp and retreat ministry. The Association provided a broader perspective as she navigated decisions regarding the potential sale of district camps. When a flooding event devastated nearby communities, a Solomon Cramer Grant provided timely financial support so that camps could respond to the needs of local families.

UMCRM has been instrumental in interpreting the value of accreditation through the American Camp Association, encouraging West Virginia UMC camps to maintain accreditation by offering the special UMCRM member discount. In addition, the annual Execs Summit has been a vital platform for Shea to be renewed in ministry, learn, and strategize alongside like-minded leaders.

Despite modest budgets, Shea and the WV Conference Camp & Retreat Ministries prioritize annual support for UMCRM. Shea emphasizes that UMCRM "fills a need that no other organization provides," expressing gratitude for its resources, advocacy, inspiration, and, especially, the relationships with its supportive network of peers-in-ministry. Through her journey, Shea's leadership has been profoundly enriched by her interactions with UMCRM, embodying the transformative impact of robust resources and connection.