Lakeview Gears Up to Roll Out New Camp Model in 2017

Date Posted: 9/22/2016

Next year, campers across the conference – as well as leaders and parents -- will experience new Wesleyan-based curriculum designed to bolster spiritual formation in a consistent manner. 
The theme for Summer Camp 2017 is aptly called, “Transformed,” according to Bradley Doherty, Director of Camp & Ministry for Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. The theme has a spiritual implication, but actually describes the camping strategy, which has been transformed over the last months and years as well. According to Rev. Matt Idom, there is a great deal of research behind this new model that will be launched next summer. “We engaged camp experts at Kaleidoscope, Inc. to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of our District Camp ministry with the support and encouragement of the Bishop as well as shared funding from the TAC camping committee.
The report, submitted by the Rev. Jody Oates, led to the adoption of the new camp model that has Lakeview creating and managing camps on behalf of the congregations of the Texas Annual Conference.” The change has been endorsed and adopted by nine District Leadership Teams, the Conference Leadership Team, the Cabinet, and the Lakeview Board of directors.
Why Do This?
This summer, Lakeview hosted 3,331 children, youth, and adults to the five weeks of District Camp, making Lakeview -- by almost twice--- the largest camping ministry of the entire Jurisdiction and one of the largest in the nation. And yet, there are many congregations that are not participating in District Camp ministry for many reasons. A decade ago District Camp was averaging over 4,300 per summer.
Notes Matt, “Camp is a magical place and experience, referred to often as The Cradle of the Call, where youth experience the gift of salvation, renewal to their faith, and for many a call to professional and ordained ministry. This summer alone 114 teenagers professed that they believed God may be calling them into ministry.”
There are many camping opportunities now for families and congregations to consider but none of these are built around United Methodist theology and relations between congregations. The long-term goal is to enhance what is already a great ministry, to see more young people committed to Christ, and more students one day serving as pastors, youth, children, music, and ministry leaders.
Bradley says the core strength of the new model will be the curriculum because it is strongly centered upon Wesleyan theology and grace. There will be sections created for parents and church leaders to receive so they will be able to enhance and underscore the camper's experience when they return home. Built around the same scriptures and understandings of grace, the curriculum is being developed for four age level camps: elementary, junior high, mid high, and senior high.  Rev. Jerome Brimmage, Lufkin FUMC, a veteran of camp leadership of over 25 years, is excited about the changes.
“Our investment in the discipleship of children and youth in camp should get the very best of our time and energy. I know that this new model allows the camp program and ministry director Brad Doherty to focus year round on the worship, curriculum, and all camp activities. This is the type of time and energy that I believe our students deserve. I am excited to continue to support this summer camp by sending campers and adults because I believe our students will receive an enriched spiritual experience at Lakeview.”
The Power of Consistency and Reinforcement
Rev. Amy Hodge, Minister for Children and Families at Willis UMC is helping to develop that curriculum. Notes Amy, “I will specifically be working on 3rd-5th grade and 6th-7th grade curriculum. I have a great love for writing curriculum and a deep passion for camping ministries, so this opportunity is a dream come true!”
Adds Amy, “This change to the new model will better equip everyone who serves in camping ministry next summer because volunteers and camp leadership will have detailed lessons in their hands long before their bags are packed to head to Lakeview. As a mother of camp-age kids, I'm especially excited about the information and resources we are creating for parents! Parents of campers will know exactly what their kids are learning at Lakeview, they will have devotional resources to use at home while their kids are away, and we will give parents tools to continue the conversation once their campers return home. Children and youth from our conference and beyond will be blessed by the hard work, dedicated effort, intentionality and enthusiasm of many others as we implement this new model.”
The New Model at a Glance

  • Lakeview will move from 5 to 4 weeks of camp, eliminating the 4th of July week entirely
  • Congregations and individual families will have the opportunity to choose the week they want to attend camp. However, the leadership of each week of camp will be recruited from the traditional District Camp teams that already exist. The primary position that will be eliminated is the District Coordinator with Lakeview hiring a Camp Coordinator who will have oversight of staff recruitment, training, curriculum, schedule, program, and registration. The New Model will depend upon the continued commitment and leadership of volunteers, both clergy and laity. Age Level Directors, Deans, Small Group Leaders, Cabin Counselors, and many other roles will still be provided by adults from local congregations.
  • To enhance the leadership team, as well as, to address the challenge of the adult to camper ratio required by the Safe Sanctuary Policy, the New Model will add 30 college students that will be paid, trained, and equipped to lead each summer. These students will be recruited from across the Annual Conference, focused upon college students that are exploring a call to professional and ordained ministry.
  • Registration will be centralized through the Lakeview website. Families will be able to register beginning immediately after their current camp is concluded. Families will be allowed to pay for the cost of camp over the course of 10 months, as needed. Congregations will still be able to register as a group with the leadership of each church having access to their information to manage their own program and to address the financial support that many churches provide for their campers and counselors. 
  • Camp will move from 4 nights to 5 nights, with all participants arriving Sunday afternoon and concluding on Friday after lunch.
  • Entering 3rd Graders will now be included in camp.
  • The need to arrive early to set up and train adults will be eliminated, as the curriculum, recruitment, training, and preparation will be provided months in advance. A unified meeting place for each age level and a consistent schedule will also allow for both cost savings and more efficient use of volunteer's time and the campers’ experience will be enhanced.
  • The cost for the New Model will be $80 per night or a total of $400. This is all-inclusive of room, board, program cost, and the extra night and two additional meals.
Pay as You Go
Online registration begins in just a few weeks so that parents may sign their kids up early and take a number of months to pay. “It is sort of like putting camp on lay-away,” Bradley says.  In most cases congregations will attend the week of camp that has leaders from their district. The schedule of leadership and district participation is listed below.  However, families or congregations are free to choose any of the four weeks they desire. Lakeview has already begun a scholarship program and will expand that program dramatically over the next 18 months.
2017 Schedule
Session 1      June 11-16       Tri-District leadership team (Central North, Central                                                   South, Southwest)                 
Session 2      June 18-23       South/Southeast leadership team
Session 3      June 25-30       East/West leadership team
Session 4      July 9-14           North/Northwest leadership team
According to Matt, “The New Camp Model also allows us to serve Methodists from other conferences, other denominations, the un-churched and anyone looking for a summer camp regardless of their affiliation. A big benefit to the new model is that Lakeview will hire staff that, in a pinch, will be able to fill any volunteer’s role if one cannot be recruited. If we have to resort to hiring, our goal is to recruit from Wesley Foundations, churches within our conference and Lakeview alumni.”
Will adult leaders and volunteers still be needed?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that Lakeview staff will replace adult volunteers and leaders. This is absolutely not the case, as the key leadership positions filled by Age Level Directors, deans, preachers and worship leaders will require volunteer participation. Other volunteer positions needed include:  counselors, infirmary assistants, art and crafts, recreation and more. 
Do people really commit in September for the following June/July?
Bradley says, “Absolutely!  Not only are families excited about the early registration, but also it is a common practice in the camping industry to register a year in advance.  In fact, Summer Camp 2018 registration will open as early as August 1, 2017 to allow families more planning time. 
“I am most excited about the idea of bringing in college age students and training them to build relationships with our students as well as lead much of the camp experience,” notes Jerome. “These young adults will be able to model faith in Christ in a healthy way. Having the young adults in camp will allow laity and pastors of the churches to spend time focusing on relationship building and supporting the campers rather than worrying about the details and logistics.”
He adds, “I believe churches and youth should be excited about being part of the
Lakeview Camp that is being transformed in order to transform our students
into disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in on the start of something epic.”
Matt is leading the charge. “Our leaders and churches are united behind the goal of creating the strongest United Methodist camping program in the nation,” he says. “Since our current camp is already one of the largest in Methodism, it is a goal that is attainable by our Annual Conference.”
For more information about the new model, to schedule a presentation for your church or group, or to seek assistance in funding ideas, contact the Rev. Matt Idom at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center: