By Fred Koenig
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 they 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 football and baseball fields, land near the campus has been designated for unique rugged experiences where outdoor camping, campfires and groups can experience bonfires.
About one mile from the CMU campus is D.C. Rogers Lake. This is a 185-acre lake cooperatively managed by the city of Fayette and the Missouri Department of Conservation. The lake provides 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 Ministries will be expanding the camping program and resourcing local congregations by offering mobile camps. The Next Generation Ministries mobile camp program will make it possible to bring a camp experience to the local church to strengthen outreach to the next generation in the local 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. Camping will go where the children are rather than asking children to go where the camps are.
Camping event directors are also being encouraged to continue offering their camps through alternative locations, such as Boy Scout Camps, YMCA camps and individual retreat sites. The Missouri Conference is hiring a facility logistics coordinator to assist event directors with finding locations and scheduling their camps for 2015.
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 the conference to register.
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