Camping Board
Announces New Direction for Conference Camping

After two years of information gathering, conversations, visits
to all camp sites, a financial and property analysis and prayerful discernment,
the Missouri Annual Conference Camping and Retreat Board will be shifting how
we facilitate the vital ministry of camping in the Missouri Annual Conference.

One of the new directions will be a new partnership with Central
Methodist University. Some future camp programming will take place on the
campus of CMU in newly remodeled facilities which will allow for additional
campers and new spiritual formation experiences. In addition to making use of
the large indoor pool, gyms, turf arena, performing art stages and outdoor
sporting facilities, land near the campus has been designated for unique rugged
experiences where outdoor camping, campfires and groups can experience
bonfires. The large lake nearby will provide opportunities for campers to
engage in fishing, boating, canoeing and nature exploration.

In addition to the camping spiritual formation experiences at
Central Methodist University, the office of Next Generation will be expanding
the camping program and resourcing local congregations by offering day camps.
The Next Generation Day Camp program will make it possible to bring a camp
experience right to your local church to strengthen your outreach to the next
generation in your own community. Each unit will come with trained staff to
facilitate dramas, dynamic worship and engaging activities including a rock
wall, water slides, archery, and bungee jump activity system to engage the
local community and create a bridge to children and youth into the discipleship
efforts of the local church. While day camps will be accessible to all of the
churches in our conference, this will help make a camping experience even more
accessible to some of our rural churches. Camping will go where the children
are rather than asking children to go where the camps are.
The Missouri Annual Conference has an average of 2,075 United
Methodist campers per year (about 20% of our churches in the annual conference
send one or more campers) that use one of our four properties for summer camp
programming. The conference receives on average about $435,000 in
apportionments to subsidize the four properties in our conference. Even with
all of our camping apportionment being used to subsidize these properties we
ended this year with a $48,428 deficit. Our camping and retreat ministry staff
has worked tirelessly to rent our facilities to corporations and non-profits to
subsidize what is not received through camp tuition. Even with the additional
income received from usage fees, the financial and property analysis project
that in two years our operating budget deficit will exceed over $175,000 and we
will no longer have the financial resources to maintain the properties.
Additionally, our site directors reported to the Camping and
Retreat Board earlier this year a projected need of $2,607,000 in property
improvements in order to remain competitive for the next five years. If we
continue to use our existing four properties, we will need an additional
$2,770,000 in the next two to five years in addition to the $435,000 that we
are already receiving in apportionments making a combined financial need of
over $3,205,000.
After prayer and a call to fast from the members of the Camping
& Retreat Board, a unanimous decision was made to move forward in ways that
are different but will strengthen the conference camping ministry that has
touched the lives of so many children, youth, college-age and adults throughout
the years. The Cabinet was briefed on the conclusions of the Camping &
Retreat Board along with members of the Mission Council.
As we move forward, a publication outlining camping and other
spiritual formation experiences provided by the office of Next Generation
Ministries will be made available in December of this year and in January
registration for camp in 2015 will be opened for children, youth, and
college-age students across our conference to register.
Summer conference camping programs for 2015 will not be
conducted on our four traditional camping sites, although arrangements are
being made to accommodate many of the existing reservations for groups using
our sites this fall.
In light of the decision to chart a new course for camping for
the Missouri Conference, the Camping Board has advised site directors that
their positions will not be continued. The Board values the work and leadership
and commitment of all the site directors, several of whom have served
faithfully for many years. The board solicits the prayers and support of laity
and pastors from across the conference for the directors and their families who
are affected by the changes. The Board has offered generous support packages
and transition periods for site directors to seek other positions.
During the months to come, the Camping Board will meet with the
Mission Council, the Conference Board of Trustees, and the Conference Finance
Committee to present more details of their analysis, discernment, and
In response to the report from the Camping Board, Bishop Schnase
has said, “I appreciate the hard work of the Camping Board over the last two
years, and I know that these decisions have not been easy. Personally, my life
was changed by conference outdoor ministries when I was young. Retreat
ministries provided the setting where I discovered my call to ministry, and the
place where I met my wife. The members of the Camping Board love camping and
have led camping, but they have concluded that to reach more young people
requires dramatic changes. I hope those who love and value camping will open
their hearts and minds to some of the creative ideas the Camping Board are
bringing to us.”
The Camping Board is chaired by Rev. Ron Watts, pastor of
LaCroix United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Other members include Rev.
Jon Spalding, Betsy Vicente, Lee Smith, Rev. Ann Mowery, and District
Superintendent Bart Hildreth. Conference Staff related to the Camping Board
include Rev. Garrett Drake, Next Generations Ministries; and Rev. Sherry
Habben, Director of Connectional Ministries.
For questions or
comments you may contact the Conference office.