Camping and Retreat Ministries will be topic of 'listening session'

May 05, 2015

Over the past six months, a team has been meeting to develop recommendations for the future of the New England Conference Camping and Retreat Ministries (CRM).

The changing landscapes of culture, church, and camping present opportunities and challenges. We realize that we cannot continue to do things the way we have always done them and expect our camps and retreat centers to remain viable.

During this process of discernment, the team, which includes CRM executive directors, the Conference Treasurer, Dean of the Cabinet, Director of Connectional Ministries, a lay member of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), and a camp staffer at Discipleship Ministries (formerly the General Board of Discipleship) has been working to propose concrete next steps leading toward missional expansion and future vitality of our CRM program.

The value of outdoor and retreat ministry has been affirmed by this process, as has the reality that major changes to camping and retreat ministry will be needed to ensure a vital future.

The team’s preliminary findings have been shared with each camp or retreat location’s site board, CFA, the Cabinet, and the Trustees for their input and feedback.

The proposed plan includes:

  • development of an agency for oversight of the CRM program,
  • elimination of currently carried deficits,
  • creation of a reserve fund,
  • setting benchmarks for four of the five sites,
  • missional expansion and diversification, and
  • shifting  from a site-based program in Vermont, to alternative year-round programming

Honorably retiring the summer camping program at Covenant Hills in Cabot, VT, is by far the most painful and difficult of all the proposals.

The primary factor in this decision is the limitations of the site, which cannot meet the missional needs of the Conference in a sustainable manner. The demographics of the state also play a role. 

With the goal of providing camping and retreat opportunities more cost-effectively to more people in Vermont, the team is exploring how our resources can have a more far-reaching impact; options may include urban and rural programs, new partnerships, and new models of outdoor and retreat ministry. The team believes this constitutes the best stewardship of these resources.

In order to give people a chance to discuss the team’s findings and ask questions, the team will hold a listening session at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at the Barre-Hedding UMC, 40 Washington St., Barre, VT.

Process background

The Bishop's Financial Summit of 2012 charged the Conference with conducting a review of the Camping and Retreat Ministries and facilities.

Professional consultants were hired in 2013, and presented their findings in 2014 during the height of the strategic planning process. Upon review, there was not consensus on how their recommendations would fit into the strategic plan.

In the fall of 2014, the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), at the request of Bishop Devadhar, sent a team to conduct a full review of the Conference’s administrative and financial systems. GCFA staff presented their findings to leaders of the Conference Board of Trustees, CFA, Cabinet and extended staff, and other Conference leaders. At the gathering, the CRM team was designated, and charged with the task of assessing the situation and reporting its findings and recommendations at the 2015 Annual Conference. 

Listening session

In order to give people a chance to discuss the team’s findings and ask questions, the team will hold a listening session
at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2015
40 Washington St., Barre, VT.