Episode 117: Camp Ministry with Jared Rendell

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There is evidence out there that kids feel the impact of church camps long after the campfires go out.  According to the Effective Camp Research Project, a survey of 1000 campers and 300 parents showed that while there is a temporary “camp high” there are positive long-term effects as well including the relevance of faith in everyday life and increased interest in spiritual practices like Bible Study and church attendance.

Today, I’m talking with Jared Rendell.  Jared is the Director of Communication and Innovation at Sacred Playgrounds a kind of “think-tank” and research and development organization geared towards camp ministry.  Jared is a communications and web consultant, a musician and also the host of the Sacred Playgrounds podcast.

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Sacred Playgrounds website

Sacred Playgrounds podcast

The Lasting Impact of Christian Church Camp

The Boundless Power of Camps (Dakota and Minnesota Conferences UMC)

Jared Rendell’s website



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The benefits of church camp. This is episode when seventeen of Church and Maine. Well, hello and welcome to Church and Ma in the podcast that is at the intersection of faith in modern life. And I'm Dennis Sanders, your host. Well, this is the week of Thanksgiving, and it's my favorite holiday. But like many of you, are busy trying to get a lot of things ready ahead of time. UM, trying to plan for worship and get bulletins printed so that I can relack on Thursday and Friday. UM. Just a reminder that I hope that you try to take some time to rest this holiday week. UM. Make sure that you have time to enjoy this holiday. So when I moved to Minnesota in the late nineties to start seminary, one of the things that amazed me, UM was the emphasis that was placed on the camp ministry. I saw that among my Lutheran classmates. I went to luther Seminary in St. Paul, and they would speak in many ways about how, in many ways the decision to pursue a call to church ministry came primarily because of church camp. UM. Even within my own denomination, the Christian churches up as a christ my region the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest UM. Their camp ministry is strong, it's popular, and it is also UM has probably produced a lot of future ministers and other church leaders. Now, I went to to church camp a time or two when I was a kid, but camp for me was never as formative experience UM. But what I've learned over the years is that it is incredibly important to the lives of many people, both young and old. And there is evidence actually out there that kids that feel the impact of church camp long after the campfires go out. According to the Effective Church Camp Research Project, survey of a thousand campers and three parents showed that yes, there is a temporary camp high, but there are also positive long term of facts as well, and that includes seeing the relevance of faith and everyday life and increase interests in spiritual practices like Bible study and church attendance. So today I'm talking with Jared Rendell. Jared is the director of Communication and Innovation at Sacred Playgrounds and Sacred Playgrounds is kind of a think tank and slash research and development organization geared towards camp ministry. Jared is also a communication and web consultant, a musician and he is also the host of the Sacred Playgowns podcast. So I hope that you will join me in listening to this engaging conversation as we talk about the future, the importance and the future of camp ministry. Let's listen as we talk to Jared Windell. Well, Jared, thanks for taking the time to join me on this podcast. No problem, glad to be here. UM. I think the first thing to start off is to tell me a little bit about Sacred Playgrounds, what it's all about, and um, your role there, sure, yeah, happy to so. Sacred Playgrounds US has been around now for five six years. UM. It kind of came out of a doctoral thesis for um. For Jake, who is Jake Swarenson is the other it's kind of the other person who is most heavily involved, and so he's doing it full time. I have been part of it kind of since the beginning...

...there, initially doing some you know, some projects and things, designing the website, designing some of the logos and branding, and and helping out with with projects here and there. Um. But the base of it came out of his doctoral thesis, UM, which was around getting a base of research around outdoor ministry because there's been research around It's been a research around youth ministry. There's you know, tons of research around congregational ministry and all of these things. But this is a niche that is really big, and there are lots and lots of one connections to other ministries and and too, there are lots of people going to camp around the country and the world, and but there wasn't really any good base of of research. Some from like the American Camp Association that was doing some overall things, but in this faith based focused camp there wasn't really some good research. And so that's what it was. Was based out of asking the question, what, um, what's effective about these typically week long summer camp experiences. Do they do they work? Are they getting to where we want them to go? And what does it take to to get them there? So that was the base and so the Effective Camp Research Project laid foundation and then it's been building since then. Right, So sacred playgrounds, the idea behind that name is that these spaces like camps and the connected ministries around them are are sacred spaces chances for faith formation where we learn things, especially experientially learned things, and so these are sacred spaces and at the same time their playgrounds to have fun and and learn things together and enjoy things together and being incredibly relational together. UM. So that's a bit of where that the name sacred Playgrounds come. Jake lays that out in the book. He wrote a book that gives this foundation called Sacred Playgrounds. So, uh so the book lays, you know, lay some of that out. And so then it's been building from there as as we started to do some some more research to learn some more things, and more and more camp started to connect and want to learn more about their people, their campers and their their parents and especially UM and then some of their other you know, the other audience as well. And so so that has been a big part of it. And then there have been a couple other projects that have come alongside that are that are connected to like the Camp to Congregation Project UM, which is about day camps and these traveling day camps where camp groups go out and they work with churches directly. And then another one we did with the with the e. L c a UM called the Camping Church Leadership Project, which was about learning some about call and clergy and influences on on call and the connections with summer camp there. So there's been a few big projects and uh, and now we are at a spot where we're figuring out what's next. What the best way to connect with and serve camps and help them thrive is because that's the point. We want to help camp thrive. We know it's an important ministry. The research says it's an important ministry in the context of of and connected with other ministries, and so so it's important we want to help camps thrive and and do really well. How would you define outdoor ministry? Yeah, good question, right, So that that that bucket generally refers to camps, conference centers, retreat centers, things like that. These organizations that are almost always kind of you're coming to a place. You're coming to, you know, to some kind of site, whether that's actually a wilderness site or an experience like that. But there are camps in the middle of cities and there their urban camp experiences things like that. Um So, but generally they are centered outdoors. Um you are are taking that chance to get outside and be in nature and connect with creation as at least an important part of those experiences in that bucket, and um, there their faith centered thing, and these all end up kind of giving foundation for the main findings in that in that effective camp project. So I to answer the question, I didn't yet what my role is at Sacred Playgrounds. So officially my titles Director of Communications and Innovation. So our communications things fall under my bucket. You know. I continue to pay attention to our website and our social media spaces and how we are using the things we're learning, using the data, using the numbers were gathering to tell stories. And those are all spaces that we tell those stories. And so all right, so our communications things and our design things and and all that falls under my bucket. And then we also work together too, um see what's next to innovate some new things, to create some new projects, to create new partnerships, and and figure out the next steps for our our organization and afterministry overall. So I'm kind of curious, what is your story when it comes to camp ministry. How did you, um, did you grow up with it? And so what impact did it have on your life? Good question. I've been I've been a camp nerd for a long time, or or we would we would call it camp enthusiast in in some of the research, that's the term that that has come up. So, yeah, I was a camp kid grown up.

Um, I I went to I went to a camp that was you know, an hour hour and a half from from Bismarck where I grew up and we yes, So starting in I think first grade probably I went to camp and loved it, loved it, loved it. Went to one hum had really great experience. Uh ended up, you know, around high school, went to a different camp, um in northeastern North Dakota, and that ended up being the one that I worked at every summer during college. So like like lots, I spent my college summers out as a as a counselor and eventually program leader at at a camp and and loved it, had a great experience. I would end my end my college year up there and then I would had after camp for the summer right away. So I did that every summer during college and then um, my first job right out of college actually was kind of a they're a handful of camp to do this where um, one of the roles will be someone who works both at camp and at a local church. And that's just a partnership that's created there. So I had a job like that. So I was I was a youth leader. It's kind of the youth director at a at a local church in UM the town that campus school assist too. And then I lived and also worked full time year round at at camp as well, so and just did kind of both of those roles, mostly mostly centered during the summer, of course I was on site at camp and doing lots then and during the year a little more time at the church, but crossover with both. So it's been in there for a long time. UM. And even when I've had different roles over the years, I've stayed connected with Camp in various ways, whether that was you know, some volunteering or joining a couple of strategic planning committees or or things like that. And and I always knew, whether it was really back on site at a particular camp or something else creative, that camp was going to come back around. And so this opportunity to Sacred Playgrounds that was just slowly slowly building UM is a big blessing. And all of these different experiences Camp and other kinds of job experiences and vocation experiences that I've had have led to UM have led to this. So it's a really good fit for who I am. How I like working and and being being able to stay connected with this ministry that I'm incredibly enthusiastic about. So you talked about this, uh about camp effectiveness. How has it been effective, especially in the lives of kids. What what does it do? And what does it do basically as especially as they get older and become adults. Yeah. So the like I said, the foundational kind of research project that we have then are also basing other things on, is this project called the Effective Camp Research Project. And so Jake and a handful of others of others who did some work around it. Um, we're I created this project and and that was the ideas get this base of what makes camp effective, asking the question that these week long Christian summer camp experiences have an impact. And and the quick version is the data says yes. The data says yeah. Um, camp is is effective from from a standpoint of it's its ministry goals, and it's particularly effective when there are these five elements. And so these are like calling the five fundamentals of effective camp. And the the quick of those is when these five things come together. Um, camp is effective. Camp has both short and long term impacts on one campers um their own personal lives and faith right there, and and faith is part of it. But they also show things like they grow in self confidence, they try new things, They their social you know, their their ability to connect socially. Those are you of the things that the data says I increase when they have positive camp experiences. So um, the other the other thing that's interesting and I'll tell you these five fundamentals in a second. But we have seen impact outside of those individuals too. Um the data is telling a story about impact on families. And all right, and this is what we're trying to do. Every everybody wants, whether it's a church experience or a camp experience. We want faith to go home. We know there's lots of other research that says faith has formed at home. Whether you like it or not, one way or the other. Our our faith is formed most heavily in the home. And so all right, so we know we want these these other experiences to go back and forth from our homes, from our individual family lives, and so um, the data is showing impact on families too. Where um, where things like they start praying at meals more often, and they talk about faith together more often, and they pray at night and and things like that. Some of these foundational faith practices, we see them start to increase when there are positive camp...

...experience because part of how we do that, we do the research like we do you know, we asked some questions above before camp, we asked some questions right after they leave camp, like on the way out, and then a number a couple of months later we ask we ask again and so and keep gathering all those stories and that and that data. And so that's what it's showing. It's showing impacts beyond just the sort of camp high that you know then happens sometimes that you know, you treats or camper treats. There's this high that happens and oh this is so amazing and um, but then it dwindles. Right, that can be a thing. The debt is showing that yeah, there's some you know, there's certain you know, some followers we returned to regular life, but but outeror ministry experiences are having longer impact than just that camp hi. So so it comes together when these five things are together, and the quick version of those is that camp is effective when it's when it's highly relational. UM. So that's one fundamental one. Camps are relational. Um It the whole camp experience is framed in these really important relationships with these these kind of three levels of groups. UM, their cabin which means there you know, with their other cabin group usually their relationship with their individual counselor, and then also the larger just you know, the whole group of folks at camp. UM. So it's it's said, in these layers of relational experiences and that's really important. That makes a big impact on how they feel about camp and the impact that it has on them. UM. The relationality there is really important. So, so that's one. To campus participatory UM it emphasizes experience and agency and they're learning with a variety of learning styles, and they're they're doing things, they're hearing things, they're seeing things. UM. When when camp is intentionally participatory, they get to you know, be helped choose what they're gonna do. They get to help um, you know, navigate their own their own experience, and it's highly experiential. They're they're kind of learning. Is that makes the camp experience effective three unplugged from home. And that unplugged word is interesting because that unplugged from home is a couple of things. One, it's um, it's a set apart place. It's a it's a unique experience that is not the same as the regular life. And getting out of our regular life experience is really important for growth. In particular, we often our growth camp or otherwise happens in the set apart experiences from our regular norm And that's that's true. It's showing that's true about about camp. UM. The other the other piece of being unplugged that matters right now is being unplugged from literally from technology and UM. And of course there are camps using different, you know, different technologies really effectively. But from those those kids being unplugged from from a near constant screen that they've got these days, UM is important. And interestingly, I mean one overwhelmingly parents, right the overall more than that a parents say camp is a place to unplug from technology. The thing that's interesting though is the kids, especially like when they come in, they think it's gonna be really hard, Like we ask a question, is it gonna be hard for you to stay away from technology this week? And they at the beginning of the week they think it's going to be so hard, and tons tons after are are saying at the end of the week, oh wait, that isn't as hard as I thought. And even seeing some of that impact, I'm on, I'm on that kind of thing a little less, um, you know, kind of long term. And so that unplugged word is interesting and when it's set apart. But two, it's also unplugged from things like the regular access to technology, and the campers appreciate it. So so that's three. Um. Four, it's safe. It's a safe place um for them to be who they are. And that's really important um because one not everybody's home environment is a safe place or school environment is a safe place. Uh. And so they end up kind of getting hugged in this safe zone um where where they can be who they are. And so of course that means they're kind of physical safety, but also their emotional and their spiritual safety and so and we see that of course when there's a breakdown in that that which happens in any of any experience camp included, that is when a negative experience is hard, right, And and the parents in particular really say two things. At the at the end of the week, if their camper is smiling and their camper is safe, if they're happy and safe, the parents happy with that camp experience. UM. And so so that's important that camp is a safe place. And then the last one that it's faith centered um. And and you know, the more they get to interpret all these experiences through a faith lens, the better and the more impact. UM. They're able to do that same kind of thing when they go home, they're able to do that same kind of interpretation, the same kind of look through at the way home. So so those are the five fundamentals. When those things come together, UM, that is showing these camp and camp like experiences are are most effective.

So one of the things that I think we tend to think of as camp and you kind of brought this up as camp and camp like experiences, is that camp is that you're going to go someplace to a camp ground, um to do this and it's going to be for a certain amount of time, for a week or or something. Is that the one the only way of camp or or is it in this day and age more diverse ways of of having camp experience? Yeah? Sure, Hey, a good question. Of course, right there is Um, there absolutely different kinds of different kinds of camp experiences. UM. Like I said that, you know, there are camps that are doing that are in the middle of cities and they're doing really great urban work, and those those might a lot of those might look like I'm kind of a a day camp, a vacation Bible school of sorts where um, where some of those even most of those you know, effective camp fundamentals, they'll come together, but it's not necessarily this this wilderness environment in a cabin or in a tent or in a in a something like that. So so no, UM, there's a there's a diversity in those in those experiences. UM. A lot of even within a camp, a lot of camps will have a couple of ways of of engaging right there, they're kind of standard week long typically week long camp is an important part of it, um, in large part because that it seems to be what parents and families are still looking for post We've been talking you know, on our on our Sacred Playgrounds podcast lately post pandemic. Lots of churches are doing this in camps and we have this like we see that everything change and everything is different, so we need to completely rethink how we do everything, and of course there is innovation to happen, and what we're seeing now as as we get you know, a summer and two summers in, is that the basic foundation of these camp experiences is what families are still looking for. So they don't necessarily need to completely rethink how we do camp. They need to be who they are and be who they are really well. And so these week long with all those fundamentals together, experiences are still really important and and will I think still be be a main foundation of how it happens. And most camps have multiple, multiple facets of that. A big part of that for lots is UM is year round. Ministry is usually retreat weekend retreat kind of ministry year round and a lot of those have UM are adult focused and whether that's like experiential like a craft retreat or or UM you know, women's retreat, men's retreat, etcetera. These these different kinds of retreats for different groups. Adults there, but but kids to my favorite. My favorite retreat was our New Year's Eve retreat with high school students. Loved worshiping in the New Year with with those high school students and so UM. So part of it is there's lots and lots of them have across denominations, across you know, mainline and evangelical and all the above have UM have some kind of year round experience happening. So so that's one to UM. I mentioned this day camp thing, and not all are doing this, but there's there's also UM ministries like day camps, traveling day camps UM some of them call them vbs and and so where teams of of uh these college students usually will go out and uh kind of put on this day camp UM as part of the congregational ministry. So those connections are continually really important. And so yeah, they're there are different kinds, they're different, they're different ways. And between that and just the settings, right, we've got you've got camps in every multiple in every state, and and the kinds of things, the kinds of experiences they have are really diverse. Right, whether they are on the water, or they are um they have horses out on ranches, or whether they whatever it might be. And so we've got you know, different kinds of experiences. UM. Adventure camps are you know are still are still going strong, whether they're you know, they're up in the boundary waters, paddling around in a canoe um or but you know taking you know, taking hiking trips or or things like that. Some of those adventure things are still you know, still really popular. And so yeah, lots of lots of different ways to camp. There's lots of different ways to engage these ministries, and a lot of them have multiple types of experiences on purpose, what do they think I am because I in my role um, I'm on the board from my region or what in my denominations equivalent of a sented um. And one of the things that I remember hearing during the time of covid was the challenge because of our region, we have our our our camp ministry is a very big important ministry. Is how much they had to be innovative during covid um. Obviously the first year...

...was in some ways things weren't happening, but then the second year they also had to be um even when the vaccines were out. Kind of figuring that out, Um, what has been your experience and kind of hearing about how to camp ministry kind of really maneuver through covid um and in some ways, you know, still maneuvering through COVID. Yeah, yeah, they are for sure. Lots still had you know, protocols and things in place. This last summer of two things were still in place and most most either shut down completely UM in summer of twenty or UM. There was actually a lot that hired like they hired a small amount of staff UM where they could separate those staff and they do all they could for safety of the staff and they use it as kind of a work summer UM. So that was interesting to see. There's an example of one. They did a bunch of work, they got a ton of projects done. UM. They didn't for the most part, feel safe or their local area wouldn't allow gatherings of that kind and that and that big. So a lot shut down either completely or pretty close to completely in twenty UM. A few went and you know, if you still happened and UM, but not many one got closer. There was there were a few that you know, there were a few in the big umbrella that we're still shut down in twenty one for one reason or another. UM. But lots had a had a modified summer in one where they often did a few things when they ran a few less camps there was there's a little less you know, a little less busy, and and then they put a bunch of things in place during that that summer to UM, whether it was masking and and you know, distancing and keeping groups isolated in particular was a big strategy for a lot of them, where they were keeping Kevin groups less, less mixed, and more and more together. And that was true for other are kinds of focused camping, these faith based camping, but like Scout camps were doing that and and lots of other other kinds were finding ways to UM to still offer some some experiences because there the experiential nature of of these things. We talked about that in the effective camp part it is really hard to have a to have a digital experience with this kinds of of things. And they did that kind of connecting, right, They did that kind of connecting. They did digital campfires throughout the winter UM where they were logging on and they would at camp they're playing some music and people are joining from from wherever. And there were other creative things like that that happened, Like lots of churches pivoted to two similar things. So camps found a way to UM usually try to stay connected to their communities, to their families and and things like that. But the in personal experiences, yeah, big time had to change. So those modifications happened in twenty one. Most were pretty close to normal and we need to UM where they didn't They didn't have big you know, protocols in place other than if someone becomes symptomatic, what do they do and and what that like from a communication standpoint to parents to you know, what are they what are the camp you know, nurses or medical staff do so. UM. So most were pretty close to normal. UM. But yeah, they they they found ways. That summer of one was the big one where they where it looked different. UM. They were still trying to capture those those experiences as best they could, but had to put you know, had to put things in place. Those were some of the common things. Group isolation, masking, indoors and and things like that. We're some pivots that they made, UM. So they came through. For the most part, there weren't a lot of of this. They fell off a cliff and shut down. UM. You know, if if that was if that was the case for camps, that might have might have shut down over this time, they were sort of trending that direction anyway, UM, and things like that, so there wasn't this massive fall off. They found a way, They found a way to to operate, and their donors and supporters stepped up when they needed them when there wasn't camp summer summer camp revenue coming in at the same pace. Um, they stepped up and and most kind of survived or found a way to be creative. Mm hm. The other thing that I've noticed about camp ministry, when I coming from Michigan, there was things such as camp ministry, but it wasn't really until I moved to Minnesota, UM, especially when I went to seminary learning about camp ministry through UM Lutherans and then through my own denomination UM. And it seems like sometimes camp ministry has a reputation as being not diverse. UM. I don't think that that's necessarily true, but that's kind of the image. UM. Sure, what...

...do you what is kind of the reality? How? Um M, How does camping reflect or don't reflect the wider society? Yeah, good, good question, UM, Because it is a it is a bit in some of those it's a bit of a reality sometimes that UM. Any any kind of camp experience. Summer camp experience can end up UM intentionally or not, can end up being you know, for those that have a little bit more money, come from a different kind of you know, different part of the city, and or whatever it might be. UM, Yeah, that that was the thing. The reality is, I think, for the most part, lots of camps and I'll say this at yeah, lots of camps match their constituencies from the churches that they are connected with and the communities that they're in standpoint a lot of a lot of the match and so that that depends regionally and and things like that. Lots have at the same time UM figured out how to UM one if if their income barriers, for example, how do they make sure their scholarship and campership programs are really strong. There have been campership programs for long, long, long time, and so that's really good. Making sure that those are strong is a big part of of UM. Making that happen. More recently, there have been some more intentional initiatives in a handful of these denomination groups, right because lots of lots of these camps, they they're sort of organized into their denomination groups to some extent, UM and lots of connect outside of that. By right, Lutheran Outdoor Ministries l o M isn't is an organization, and UM. Christian camp and conference association that one has a breath, UM, but that's a that's a group. And the United Methodist camp and to treat ministries is a is a group. So they've got these you know ways that they these associations that they gather together and a handful of these associations have have done now in the last few years intentional right, like like Luthanard Administrat's got a grant UM that for a they call it a total inclusion is the name of the of the program where they're taking intentional steps and there's grant money that's feeding it. UM. To make sure people are are trained well, UM, that they get the landscape and UM there that they realize things are different, and how do they how do they help their their camp reflect that and do some things on purpose two UM to make sure that these different points of of where where diversity is is real, whether that is race or whether it is that is gender or whether that is and how do their staff members refle like that, how do there you know, how do they talk about it. Language is a big part of that, UM, all those things. So there there's have been some intentional steps that Total inclusion programs is one example of where or a bunch of camps have come together and they've brought those into their association conversations. And the Lutheran Conference was just last week and they just re re upp to the grant for that total inclusion program And so I love it. I love seeing the intentionality around that UM now over the over the past few years, like lots of I think it's gonna take some time, to be honest, right, because lots of like lots of small nonprofits they sort of need to do their base and and things like this. They take some moving. So I think it's gonna take some time, UM, which is okay because it's culture build right. This is these aren't UM. These aren't technical challenges. These are adaptive challenges that are are bigger than just than just a quick technical fix of things. M hm. So do you see that UM things like urban camp or day camp as ways that could help to become more inclusive UM and other other methods are the ways that could that are reaching out? Yeah, both and one I mean there's a I think there is both a go to and and bring and bring to way of doing this because those you know, finding ways for inner city kids or um, you know whatever whatever these these different groups might be who might not normally have or built into like you know, their church culture or whatever it is, these experiences. UM. I think there's a both end here because coming out to a to a site like that, are coming out to an adventure trip or something like that can be so formative and that piece that that we said, you know, set apart even physically from a space standpoint of their norm um can make a really big impact. Data you know, the data showing and the stories, uh, the story...

...showing that can make an impact. To get them out of their normal element is an important part of camp and so sometimes that means getting them on site, getting them out in those in those places. So I think UM continuing to be to be creative and connect with like organizations that serve those groups UM or you know, churches that are centered in those places and all of that to find creative ways there is important because getting them away from their normal element really matters. And there is also you know a go to them, come to them UM way of doing this and so often that that needs to happen through these partnerships. We we talk a lot of sacred playgrounds about about how camp cannot it will not work as a standalone ministry has to be a partnership ministry with the other heart these other kinds of ministries, in particular congregational ministry, right because that those it just is a hub and so those those connections are super super super important UM. And I think there's some creativity to have with other kinds of groups and organizations that may be valuable connections there. So yes to your to your answer, yes, there's a way to go to them, and I think to be creative about how to get them out of their element and you know, come on site and go have an adventure in the formation. There is a is a good pathway to both. And so you talked a little bit about having the importance of kids unplugging UM during their time. Is there also a case where kids can are plugging in kind of creative creatively basically using social media UM in camp ministry UM has has there been ways of time putting those things together so it's not simply just consuming the information but also using the where you are too kind of show what going on? Yeah, good question. UM. Usually camps, camps that are thriving and doing well, they're using those spaces to tell stories. In particular, one of the most important things we keep hearing and it happened again this summer, UM is using those things to connect with parents, UM in general and particularly while you're while your kids at camp. Because here's the here's the reality is that UM, for outer ministry leaders, their main constituent, they're the main person that they sort of served as actually the parents. And of course this is you know, for lots, this is experience about these kids at camp. But UM, their parents are the main are the main ones who they are connecting with, and they're the ones making these decisions about about sending them to camp, and they're the ones who are before and after and and so they're really their main constituent. We talked about that again in the last Sacred Playgrounds podcast and so UM, so they are are wanting and expecting communication like that those kinds of spaces, social media spaces, you know, creativity and websites. I just built kind of a parent dashboard for for a camp where the parents just gonna have one link and they're gonna come to that link and they have all of their registration information, and they have pictures from camp, and they have videos, and they have um you know, updates about what's happening, and they can just go straight to that one that one dashboard, because that's the kind of thing that they're they're hoping for. By far, the majority of parents UM are saying they don't want It's kind of funny because you hear stories about like slip the slip the cell phone into their kids bag when they when they sent them to camp. UM. What we have heard related to that is because at the same time, like I said, I think it's plus of parents and sometimes even in the in our in the surveys at particular camps, it's up to on of parents are saying camp is a place to unplug from technology, and usually eighty five plus you know percent of those are also saying I don't think my kid needs a cell phone at camp. Some of them are slatting them in there because that communication has been lacking. It's not that the parents want their kids to have access to a phone or their games, or their friends or their social media accounts. Or whatever it is. They want to know their kids safe, they want to know that their kid is having fun, um, and so they feel better about being about being connected to them. There have been some kind of creative hey, let's you know, sort of use social media tell to tell these stories. And some camps are have allowed, you know, cell phone usage for certain junks of time, but on the whole they're not, and the kids appreciate it. Like I mentioned earlier, Um, do you know do you want those kids and their parents to tell stories like crazy after camp? Yeah? Right? Do we want to you know, to get out into those social media spaces is and with videos and images and all of that where people...

...can hit share and they can grab those images and they can share on their own things. Do we want those stories told? Absolutely? During that experience being unplugged from those things. Is the data showing a valuable part that both those that are experiencing it and their parents are are grateful for. How do you think that camp ministry benefits that child Let's say five years down the road, Um, maybe they are going when they are fifteen or sixteen, five or ten years later they are in college or just starting their careers. How does camp ministry make a difference. Yeah, good question, Good question, because that's what matters, right, That's what matters at the end of the day. So, Um, So these are some of the things that we that we've seen in that in that effective camp project and the you know, continued projects after that, that there is both a camp high and there is a lasting change, um and and neither of those are bad. Both of those things are both of those things are good. Um. We see that in some of the data, right, So we asked questions about like there, um they had a lot of fun at camp where they strengthened in their faith? Um? Were they did they enjoy even things like the Bible studies and whatever else it might be? UM, coming right out of camp overall, like for example, agreed that they had a lot of fun coming right out of camp the last day there said that they were strengthened in their faith. When we get a couple of months down the road, we see those numbers dwindle a little, but they're still up at at say they had a lot of fun right more um said they tried something new for example, Um, I learned more about God more than so. Some of these indicators about about these things a couple of months after are still are still happening. And a lot of these then a lot of these camps we've we've asked again UM. And some of this is as you know, come up in other way. So so there are these buckets, Like I said, there's this Camp high bucket, and that is showing things like right after Camp UM on their way out, UM, there is increased positivity, there is more interest in participating in worship UM worship services and things like that. When they go home, UM, there is an increase in in participatory learning UM and what you kind of call vertical faith. Right, they learned some things this like cognitive belief. There this this vertical faith. I learned more about God right during this week that you know that comes off high. And again those those numbers they they shift slightly downward a couple of months after UM, but not much. And then there are these other pieces that we see continuing and staying steady or or UM increasing from this last in this lasting change bucket, and those are things like UM increased self confidence. We we see that there in both the campers how they how they talk and the parents. Surveys that we've done too. They see an increased self confidence in themselves, are in their in their child. UM. That's one and that's a big one. That's the one that matters. UM. More frequent devotional practices is another piece. We've seen increase in church attendance, UM, in increase in faith conversations and practices at home, which is part of that family impact that I talked about, right, it's these it's these campers. They come home and they're like, Hey, we did the school prayer, could we do prayer like that or I whatever it might be, right, these practices that they kind of learned that they learned at camp, which which is kind of an interesting shift that's happening in outer ministry right now. I'll tell you more about that in a second. UM. The last one two is UM this horizontal faith. We're talking about faith relevance to the rest of life. Those are some of the those are some of the things that we see in the kind of lasting change bucket of things. So it's interesting that this this had home piece is interesting because we know that's important. Nobody wants just the campaire. We want this to matter. We want to bring camp home and we want you know, UM, the shift that is happening. And this is connected of course to the culture of church and and faith right now overall is similarly to how to how church, especially mainline churches were for so long, right back into the you know, early in mid nineteen hundreds and forward, people were coming to church out of things like obligation slash. This is just what we do. Right, if you opened a church door, they would come. You built it, they came. That is not the case right now, right, they're not. We're going in the other direction. Things are shrinking and they're leaving and um, you know, and pandemic kicked a handful out the door,...

...and they're not coming back anywhere near as fast as as any pastor hopes. That's for sure, um and so um, So camp is I is and needs to make a shift here in in connection and relation with this idea, because more and more kids are coming to camp without a regular church attendants life. Um. And they're more and more coming to camp that have never darkened the door. Right And as we get even a fewyears down the down the road here, um, that's not that's not going to change. That's something that's going to increase because parents are still looking for these kinds of experiences and are even happy for them to be faith based experiences, not just because they saw the flyer at church. So UM, so camp is and needs to be shifting from um assuming that everybody knows all these faith practices, that they're having, all these conversations at home, that they're doing regular things like praying at meals and praying before bed and going to church or go into you know, some kind of other extracurricular faith based activity, the assumption that that's happening, and then we just get to be part of that and sort of reinforced that at camp is different. Now they're coming without any kind of faith practices at home and they need to learn those for the first time at camp. We can't assume they know that prayer, the Lord's prayer, that whatever it is, and so they're learning some of those things. UM camp is is on the whole going to need to do a little bit of shifting to foundational faith formation foundational practices over the next few years because more and more of these kids are coming without a regular, weekly faith connected experience. Yeah, it sounds like, well, you already kind of answered my next question, because it seems like the that it used to be that probably camp would be considered additional to what was already going on in a local congregation, whereas today it has to be foundational because not every kid comes from a church background, and so you have to kind of really ground them in the faith. And there's an opportunity. That's part of why there's such such opportunity. That's part of why, you know, Jake and I and Um and a couple others on the team are so excited because there is a bit of a crux for updoor ministryright now. There's a bit of a of a point here where there is opportunity to make it big, to make a big impact, because, like I said, the data showing some of those lasting impact things more you know, interested in worship services, having faith conversations at home, that kind of stuff can impact the other direction. And it's not just that those things are feeding are feeding church. The other way can happen. And if we're if we're good in our partnerships with churches and good about equipping faith formation at home, now we're actually having the impact that we want. People might start going to these churches. Now that oh, that was really neat I didn't know that's what it was going to be. Like, all I knew was that was that church brought a lot of baggage to the world and you know or whatever it is. Um. And so they're they're able to have some of these some of these experiences that can maybe can maybe change some perceptions a little bit where now they might be interested in going or at least trying out a church that might do some things differently or or whatever it might be. So there's opportunity here um, big time for Actor Ministry to impact those other faith formation spaces. UM. So that they also mean in some ways that the camp ministry is also doing more outreach because you have kids that don't come from necessarily start off with church backgrounds. Yeah, they have to and and lots are Yeah, they have to write because they can't assume all our sign ups are coming because they saw that brochure at church, you know, and they're going from there. Um. So part of that is just is entering entering these spaces where these parents and families themselves are finding these kinds of experiences, um, whether that's through you know, community connections, their own their own marketing, their own storytelling out in you know, doing a really good job with their websites, doing a really good job in social media spaces UM, doing a really good job telling telling stories and encouraging their their participants to bring a friend, you know, whether they build that in to bring a friend, discounts to their to their registration models or UM or getting getting more and more creative or seeing some of this, I think, getting more increative with the with the places that they're that they're connecting, not necessarily just saying well, we have these fifty member churches and that's where everything is going to come from one way or the other. So yeah, I think that's I think that's true. Uh. I think that's a shift that has just started that will will almost surely need to need to continue. I think kind of one question kind of to wrap things up is where is where do you think camp ministry itself is headed ten years down the road? UM? What how will the changes kind of in the war your culture UM influence camp ministry?...

Good question, UM, And I my gut reactions are that we and we talked about some of this, that UM that one I camp will not just be an extension of church or a group of churches UM, it will uh, it will kind of feed feedback and forth. UM. And and need to be connected to other kinds of organizations UM, other kinds of of constituencies, other kinds of groups. UM. That's one too, and we hit this again too. I think I think it will become more diverse. UM. I think it it has to. UM. I think it will. You know who sort of who is coming and these families and who they are and how they think and all of that will shift. UM. I think it will. I think it will follow that. UM. I think it will still be thriving overall, be because of what it continues to feel like parents and families are looking for the kinds of experiences that they are looking for, UM are have not stopped to be to be important. And I and I think will actually increase because of the because of the unique kinds of experience that they have UM. And that there is again some real some opportunity there too UM to connect outside of just this you know this church and and fed by church. I also think, UM, I think our our partnerships will get better, We'll get less transactional UM. And you know here's this is sort of our member church and back and forth, they're going to need to get a lot more relational and a lot more UM, a lot more more creative in their in their partnerships and what those look like in you know, in getting and getting camp leaders out to those places for more than just hey we're doing camp this summer. Come to camp UM and to be connected in a more regular way with those ministries. Partnerships are going to be really important. And and like I said, I don't think it's going to be just with churches. I think there are going to be more more partnerships with with other kinds of places that will that will make a big difference. UM. I think too that while for for a lot of these the foundation will continue to be kids, that family ministry UM will will be important, and spaces for adults to to retreat and connect UM will continue to be they've they've been important without continue to be important UM going forward. So so those are a few. So if people want to know more about UM what's going on, where should they look? And I know you've kind of already mentioned a little bit about the Secret Grounds podcast. UM. Where should people go? Yeah, some things they can do? Yes, One website, Sacred Playgrounds dot com UM, that's there. We just kind of launched a new like services landing page as we've honed in on all right, here's here's the main stuff we're doing right now because we're what we're hearing with with camp leaders and so camp leaders, church leaders, other of those connected ministries. That's those are a good spot. UM. Sacred players dot com, Sacred Playgrounds dot com, Slash services are someplace that they can go see what's going on. All the research projects are there are there as well, so UM you can see the findings from all of it. It's all out there. The Effective Camp Project, the Camp to Congregation Day camp Project, UM, the Camp in Church Leadership project that kind of went around around clergy and call and influences on call UM that that's got and a lot of these have really easy quick fact download one thing and see some of the some of the findings. And so those are all the Sacred playgrounds dot com, um, Facebook and Instagram or the social spaces that we're spending the most time in and so connecting out there is great. UM. You know, we're putting out research samples and telling stories and and things like that out there. The podcast has been so fun, so every couple of weeks, we you know, we drop a podcast and we we talk about we talk about kind of one main thing going on in outdoor ministry and that might be off of some research, or that might be off of um, you know, just something that's that's going on right now, might be a connected to something on in the world, whatever it might be. But we try to we we we unpack one one thing and use a use a research and and numbers lends to again that's one of the places where those numbers turn into stories. And so so we yeah, we do that podcast UM that I get to host and Jake and I talked through there for thirty forty minutes on an episode and so um, so that's a that's a fun way to hear to hear some of that. So those are the those are the main spots. Those are the main spaces, and and folks can connect and reach out if if they're connected to you know there they're camp kind of person or staff member, or they're connected to one um we're doing we're doing projects both with like actually individual camps right to learn so you know, for an individual camp to learn more about their particular space and a...

...handful with different groups of camps and um, you know, a big group of denominations or what it might be, whatever it might be. So those are some spots. Thanks for asking. You're welcome, all right, Well, thank you so much, Jared. This has been helpful. I'm UM, and I think, UM, it's a great way for people to know about this aspect of ministry that I think a lot of people don't yet know. And but and I also don't know the impact that it has on the lives of both UM, youth and adults. So thank you for taking the time. Thank you, sir, good to chat well. I hope that you enjoyed this episode and enjoy talking to Jared. There are some links to some important UM things, such as kind of the story that I got concerning the Effective Church project, which was actually put out by Sacred Playgrounds and said you know UM links to the Sacred Playgrounds podcast UM, and also a video that I thought might be worthwhile to see from the Dakota and Minnesota's Conference of the United Methodist Church about the importance of their camp ministry program. So UM, before we go, a note about the podcast. As I said in the previous episode, uh my podcast host which was Sounder is close sing up shop. Um, there are doing um they are not going to know, no longer going to be doing podcasts hosting. They're doing other audio work, but podcast hosting has come to an end. So because of this, I've moved the podcast over to sub stack. UM, if you've already subscribed to this podcast, then you don't have to do anything. You'll still get the same episodes as usual. UM. That said, I'm going to be trying to put more written content on the site. UM. There. I'm still trying to also figure out if I want to, UM have a paywall of some type. Obviously, this podcast will still be available, UM, but there might be extra bonus content will We'll see. As I said in the last episode, that's not going to happen right away. UM. I still have actually the podcast page website up at least for the time being, so that if you want to, you know, look at the podcast from there and also make a donation, you can go to Church and Maine dot org. Um. If you want to check things out at substack, go to Church and Maine all one word dot sub stack dot com. So that is it for this episode of Church and Maine. I'm Dennis Sanders, your host. We will be back very soon with a new episode. Um and again, have a good Thanksgiving, have a safe holiday, and we will see you soon. Take care in god speed,.

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