Advancing an expanded vision for camp and retreat ministries


     What do you get when you mix a nearly 90-year-old ministry widely regarded as one of the best in the connection with a newly-minted conference vision to double the ministry impact by 2020? New and expanded ministries, new partnerships with agencies and local churches, 2,500 new opportunities for life-changing experiences and new structure and new roles to make it all happen.
     As of Aug. 1, I stepped into my role as Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries for the North Georgia Annual Conference and named Bradley McEntyre as the new Director/Manager of Glisson Camp and Retreat Center. 
        Since the mid-seventies the person serving as Director/Manager of Glisson has also served as the Director of Conference Camp & Retreat Ministries. This combination of positions served well while Glisson was North Georgia’s only conference camping ministry.
      But in June of 2010 Annual Conference endorsed a vision "to develop Christian camping experiences that are more accessible geographically, culturally, ethnically and physically. Using existing facilities, churches and other available sites, we will double the current number of campers from 2,500 to 5,000 in the next 10 years." 
      This year as the Glisson Board discerned a plan for implementing this vision, it became clear that progress toward this expanded vision for Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries will require conference-wide direction to guide and to implement our emerging programs alongside Glisson's ongoing day-to-day operations.
    So, with this new vision of ministry in mind, the Glisson board engaged in strategic planning and in completing its mandate to become the board of North Georgia Camp & Retreat Ministries, a new family of ministries of which Glisson is a part. As Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries, I will continue to work with the board and have responsibility for directing our conference camping and retreat ministries. Bradley’s management of Glisson’s day-to-day responsibilities will allow me to focus on the expansion of camping ministries through the conference. 
    Work toward this conference vision actually began with two pilot programs launched in 2008. Over the past five summers, our leadership development and day camp programs have grown to 35 high school participants serving as volunteer counselors for 150 campers at eight day camps in 2012. The number of church partner locations for day camps will double next year and we anticipate serving 1,000 children at 32 churches with 150 high school counselors in ministry by 2020. As a portable, adaptable model, these two programs will help bring camp to people and to places it's never been before. 
     The resulting partnership with local congregations will expand the children’s ministry and evangelism efforts in local communities across the conference.
    And as these day camp programs develop, we will continue to explore new opportunities to expand camp and retreat ministry. Options being explored range from partnering with existing ministries such as Camp Collinswood of Aldersgate Homes and Camp expanding our capacity for our existing Outpost program with additional shelters on-site and more off-site developing new summer resident programs on leased or borrowed land in the Augusta and Lagrange areas in the next three years.
     Even with all the energy of “giving birth” to new conference camping ministries, it is an exciting time in Glisson's nearly 90-year history as well. We celebrate having served 2,701 summer campers this year, our best-attended summer ever. And with all-time highs in camper numbers across our programs each of the past five years, more children and youth are experiencing God's love and Christian community than ever before. We're also in the midst of a capital campaign that will position Glisson to continue its life-changing ministry for decades to come. Glisson is widely regarded as one of the premier camp and retreat ministries in our connection and under
     Bradley’s leadership will continue to lead the way for her emerging “sister” ministries in this expansion. With six years of Glisson experience in the 1990’s, over 10 years’ experience as owner of his own company and now the past three summers under his belt, I am thrilled to entrust Glisson's operation to Bradley McEntyre’s wisdom and passion.
     Glisson has been our only conference camping ministry since opening in 1925 and since that time, North Georgia has grown to be the largest conference in American Methodism with a membership over 340,000 -- more than 60,000 of whom are children and youth. Offering another 2,500 of these young people transforming experiences of Christian community in God’s creation is at the heart of this new vision for Conference Camp and Retreat Ministry.