Lakeview’s New Camp Model Begins in 2017

Date Posted: 11/12/2015

Lakeview Conference Center’s newly approved model for district camp will more effectively leverage volunteers, logistics, capacity, and consistency beginning in June of 2017.

Beginning with the summer of 2017, the District Camp model of youth camps will become Lakeview-led camps serving the congregations and families of the Texas Annual Conference.

What Led to This Change?
Over a year ago an agreement between the Conference Camping Committee, the Cabinet of the Texas Annual Conference, and the Board of Directors at Lakeview initiated a study of District Camps, led by the Rev. Jody Oates of Kaleidoscope, Inc. According to Lakeview President Rev. Matt Idom, Kaleidoscope is the premiere company in America that addresses master planning, strategic planning, and ministry models for non-profit retreat and camping centers based upon best practices and successful camping and retreat programs.

Adds Matt, “At the end of the camping season this year the model was presented to all nine District Leadership Teams, the Conference Leadership Team, the Cabinet, and the Lakeview Board of Directors. The DLT's, CLT, and Cabinet have endorsed the new model that was formally adopted on October 23 by the Lakeview Board.”

Hundreds of camp leaders, volunteers, and participants offered feedback and input during the process this past summer in the development of the new camp model.

Improving on the Present Model

  • Scheduling challenges: Presently, Lakeview is host of five District Camps. Two camps are single District Camps and the remaining three are paired together with partner districts. Each District Camp is similar to the others; however, each has a different system of registration, scholarship distribution, and recruiting and training of volunteers, schedule, and "personality" based upon the region of the Annual Conference they serve. Explains Matt, “One of the challenges for congregations setting their schedules and for families under the present model is a rotating schedule so no one District is seemingly stuck with the 4th of July week every year. While not a hard and fast rule, congregations are typically expected to register for camp the week of their assigned camp.” Another critical weakness in the current model is that the current occupancy rate over the five weeks of camp is only 47% of Lakeview's capacity.
  • Staffing challenges: A District Coordinator, in most cases chosen by the District Superintendent, provides leadership of the District Model. The majority of the District coordinators are pastors with the rest being professional youth and children's ministers.
  • Registration challenges: Under the current model, registration is managed by a volunteer in each District, and registration is handled by each local congregation across a 6-8-week period in the spring.
  • Logistical challenges: The present model has all adult leaders arriving on Sunday afternoon and the campers arriving on Monday morning. Most camps currently include entering 4th grade -- graduating seniors.
  • Inconsistent pricing challenges: Each District sets a fee for their camp and the cost vary from $250 to $325 (late registration of one camp.) The majority of that fee this past summer, $215, was paid to Lakeview per camper, with the difference being the amount each District used for programming during their week.
The Efficiencies of the New Model
The New Model will begin June, 2017. The New Model will tighten the schedule from five to four weeks of camp, eliminating the 4th of July week entirely. “The capacity of Lakeview is such that there is plenty of room to eliminate the middle week and still experience substantial growth in our Camping Ministry,” Matt explains. 

Congregations and individual families will soon 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 with oversight of staff recruitment, training, curriculum, schedule, program, and registration. “We want to stress that the New Model will depend upon the continued commitment and leadership of volunteers, both clergy and laity.,” notes Matt. Adults will still provide and serve as Age Level Directors, Deans, Small Group Leaders, Cabin Counselors, and the many other roles 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. In terms of numbers, if there are 800 students, there must be 160 adults for a week of camp under the current model. Under the new model there will still be the need for 130 volunteers.

Registration will be centralized through the Lakeview website. Families will be able to register immediately after their current camp is concluded and 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 in order to manage their own program and to address the financial support that many churches provide for their campers and counselors.

The New Model will move from four nights of camp to five nights, with all participants arriving Sunday afternoon and concluding on Friday after lunch. One of the significant shifts is the addition of 3rd Graders being included in camp in 2017 and beyond.
Having a unified and coordinated program, will negate the need to arrive early to set up and train adults and 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. Notes Matt, “Through this increase, the salaries will be covered for the Camp Coordinator and College Student Team as well as provide for the creation of professional curriculum that is built around solid Wesleyan Theology. The goal is to create the strongest United Methodist Camping program in the nation!” He believes that, since the current camp is already one of the largest in Methodism, it is a goal that is not far from the reach of the Annual Conference.

Camp Funding Options Expanding
Lakeview has already begun a scholarship program and will expand that program dramatically over the next 18 months. Incentives are being explored for early registration incentives, tiered pricing allowing participants to pay more as a donation or less based upon need, and corporate funding. Families may pay over the course of the year rather than have a window of only weeks to pay for their children to attend camp. The Annual Conference also has a Fair Share Goal of $200,000 that is earmarked for camping scholarships.

Exploring the Why
Explains Matt, “This summer, Lakeview hosted 3,331 children, youth, and adults to the five weeks of District Camp, making us by almost twice the largest camping ministry of our entire Jurisdiction and one of the largest in the nation. Yet there are many congregations that are not participating in our District Camp ministry for many reasons.” In fact, a decade ago District Camp was averaging 1,000 more per summer.
“Camp is a magical place and experience, “ he shares, “often referred as "The Cradle of the Call," where our 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. “

He believes that camps built around United Methodist theology and relations between the conference congregations offer the best of both worlds. “The long-term goal is to enhance what is already a great ministry,” he adds, “and to see more young people committed to Christ, and more of our own students one day serving as the pastors, youth, children, music, and ministry leaders of our congregations.”

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.