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Annual Meeting 2017

Camping Ministry Grows Through New Organization

Over 75 people gathered for dinner and to celebrate camping ministries June 3, 2017 during Annual Conference for the Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church. The conference took place June 1-4 at Grand Traverse Resort and Convention Center in Acme, MI.

There was a strong sense in the room that all present have an appreciation for the power of camping and its role in ministry. From the energetic singing of camp songs to the compelling personal witness of how Camping Changes Lives, it was clear that Michigan Area United Methodist Camping plays an important part in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Board Member Rev. Sherry Foster called the official Annual Meeting to order with prayer. The Rev. Paula Timm, also a Board Member, got everyone on their feet singing camp songs – with all the motions! It was the perfect audience for 100% participation!

Rev. George Ayoub, Executive Director, explained that the Board and staff have been busy over the last two years establishing practices and policies for organization that was created from conference action in 2015 – combining all the camp properties from the West Michigan and Detroit Conferences into one separate entity. The conferences are responsible for appointing a minimum of 60% of the Board of Directors.

Those present helped celebrate the accomplishments of the past year by reading off these highlights:

  • We saw a 5% increase in campers over the whole state. A total of 1,859 summer youth campers. We served over 22,000 persons through our retreat ministries.
  • We granted scholarships for 287 campers amounting to $35,705.
  • Only 26% of capacity was used in 2016. National average is at 52%. We have plenty of room to grow!
  • Took steps to formally separate the accounting process from the annual conference offices. Following the plan for development of our new ministry together, the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences began of transferring funds to Michigan Area United Methodist Camping.
  • The trustees of the West Michigan Conference transferred the deeds for Wesley Woods, Crystal Springs, Lakeview Family Campground, and Albright Park properties to Michigan Area United Methodist Camping. The Detroit Board of Outdoor and Retreat Ministries transferred the deeds for Judson Collins Center, Myers Lake Campground, and Lake Huron Retreat Center to the new corporation.
  • Negotiated the sale of the residence at Camp Conely, bringing this last piece of the Conely property back into the hands of the Conely family.
  • Began the process of establishing new banking systems. Negotiated new contracts with insurance companies. Researched and contracted the best health insurance for staff. Researched and implemented a new payroll system for the new corporation.
  • Sent our directors and two board members to a national camp leaders training event in January 2017.
  • Hired a business manager and marketing consultant.
  • Developed a plan to replace site committees with “Friends of Camping” at each site to support the ministry of the camp.
  • West Michigan Conference’s Changing Lives Campaign completed the year and closed the fund drive having received $232,376 in gifts from generous donors across the state and the country.
  • The Wesley Woods Dining Room Construction project received enough funds to begin building ($516,124). The complete project was dedicated by Bishop Bard this spring. This new room benefits the ministry by providing additional dining space for 99 people, flexible program space, and the ability to host multiple groups at the same time.
  • We suspended the building of a new lodge at Judson Collins after realizing it was not addressing the most pressing needs for the camp.
  • We purchased and installed a new reservation system for summer camp programs. Our new system is more user friendly and allows us to track data more efficiently.
  • We said good bye to: Ken Brown, Jeremy Strait, and Dennis Dull – and give thanks for their years of service to the ministry of Christ at Wesley Woods, Albright Park and Lake Michigan, respectively.
  • We celebrated the retirement of Fred Elmore and the 16 years of ministry he provided in our wilderness camp setting at Camp Kinawind.
  • We appreciated the 23-year ministry of Jon Lawrence at Myers Lake Campground, as he moved to a new position at Potter Park Zoo.
  • We thanked Debbie Steed for her six years of ministry at Lakeview Campground, and wished her well in her retirement.
  • Established a process for mobile-device donations through MobileCause – enabling donors to give easily. We are now redesigning our website and it will be launched soon.

Aside from the singing and sharing of progress, the most powerful part of the evening came from the guests who shared from their hearts what camping has meant to them.

Rev. Paula Timm, a dean at Camp Kinawind and Board member, described the sharing of deep, intense feelings that can happen around the campfire. “They recognize what it is to embrace one another with their hurts, their baggage … That’s camp. That doesn’t happen other places,” Rev. Timm said.

A young woman shared how she grew up going to Lake Michigan Camp and that beach — and specifically sitting on the deck watching the sunset — was her most favorite place in the world. While saying she is not an “outdoorsy” person, she exclaimed, “I really love what being at camp and in nature does for people of all kinds. And so that’s when I feel closest to God.”

Pastor Rap Posnik (Portage Prairie UMC) shared that last year was his first time at camp. He was so impressed with what he saw: children engaged in fun, sharing and Bible learning throughout the week.

“At the evening fire bowl one group would do a skit on the Bible verse they studied. Every group would do a skit through the week. I can’t think of any better way to make disciples. If every church could find one child – a child that does not know Jesus that is not a member of your church, whether they become a member or not. We are seed planting. And in being seed planters together, they will never forget the wonderful memories — not only of camp and fellowship, but of Jesus Christ,” Pastor Posnik explained. “This is a ‘no-brainer.’ And we need to push that.”

During the four-day conference, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping provided a snack bar for attendees. Over $8,600 was donated for camp scholarships. Many donors stepped up and sponsored a camper for a day with a $70 gift. They received a special button and were invited to free snacks throughout the event.

To support the entire ministry, the Board has established a new Camping Changes Lives Annual Fund that will help contain the cost of summer camp and help maintain all the camps and retreat centers for the enjoyment of all. Your support makes a difference.

Donate online or text CHANGINGLIVES to 91999.

Stay in touch and receive our enewsletter by texting campnews to 51555.

Registration for summer camps continues and fall/winter retreat scheduling is taking place.