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Group evaluates role and future of PNC camps

By Cory Maclay, Youth/Young Adult task force convener

Twelve people involved in Outdoor Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, the Personnel Committee, camp managers and the conference minister spent a recent Saturday thoughtfully and prayerfully taking stock of the role camps play in faith formation in the conference in these post-modern days. A thirteenth added helpful input via email.

Kaila, Kristen, Sharon
Kaila Russell, Kristen Almgren and Sharon Linton review ideas noted on paper.

They evaluated the effectiveness of PNC camp programs and anticipated what God might have in store for the conference camps in the coming years.

The day-long conversation included appreciation for what is working well—with camps located in beautiful settings, financially in good shape and staffed by a multitude of committed volunteers.

It also included “A-ha!” moments about what could be done better. For example, long before a camper ever steps foot on a site they, and often their parents or grandparents, are—and sometimes aren’t—experiencing the level of hospitality we would like to extend through in-church testimonies, brochures, online registration and pre-camp letters.

“A-has” were also grounded in gratitude for everyone who makes an effort to invite and help people get to camp.

Sharon Linton, outgoing Outdoor Ministries Task Force convener, guided the conversation. She helped the group connect their hearts and heads.

Butcher paper filled the walls with responses to these questions:

1) What are the top three things the Outdoor Ministries camping program does well for all the ages participating?

2) What might we say to someone—a family with children and youth, a young adult or an older adult—asking about our camps? What might convince them to go to N-Sid-Sen or Pilgrim Firs instead of a YMCA camp?

3) What are the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats of conference camps?

4) Who are the potential camp “customers”? What are their needs?

The group looked at dates of camp usage both by people in the conference and by non-church users. This type of data is invaluable when looking ahead to determine how to collectively steward the gifts of our campsites.

Kathie Forman and Randy Crowe
Kathie Forman and Randy Crowe share their thoughts

Camp managing directors, Deeg Nelson at Pilgrim Firs and Randy Crowe at N-Sid-Sen, have kept camp attendance records of use by conference people and those outside the conference. Linton presented the 20 years of data in graphic form. This information, along with other data, shows our camps can handle an additional 30 to 50 percent in attendance.

The Rev. Mike Denton, conference minister, shared some demographic shifts, highlighting the decrease in children and youth in smaller communities around our state.

Many in the group also shared changes and patterns they have noticed, such as that grandparents are often the ones bringing children and youth to camp, either because the parents don’t attend church or the grandparents are the primary caretakers.

One said whether children and youth live with parents or grandparents, camp is often a respite week for the adults.

Some noted that some families are unable to attend family camp because they cannot miss a whole week of work.

This information provides pointers for a sustainable future of these sites and their programs.

Throughout the day, it was clear there is much more good news to share with the conference. For example, the cost of PNC camps is low compared to most others, because of a large group of committed volunteers who are passionate about how camps complement local churches in faith formation. Most other church camps hire seasonal staff, which increases the cost for campers.

It’s also good news to know that without having to make any physical changes, the camps are ready for more campers. We have room to grow!

Participants were Kristen Almgren, Kathie Forman and Kaila Russell of University Congregational UCC in Seattle; MaryLu Hubbe of Shalom UCC in Richland; Gale Peterson, of Kirkland UCC; Sharon Linton of Bellevue First Congregational Church; via email, the Rev Emily Tanis-Likkel, associate pastor of Eagle Harbor Congregational UCC; Mark Boyd, youth pastor at United Churches in Olympia and Pilgrim Firs staff; Cory Maclay of Plymouth Church, UCC; Judy Anderson of Wayside UCC; plus Nelson, Crowe and Denton.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © Summer 2011





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