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Camp board shares restructure plan

Board of Camping announces sale of properties

The Michigan Area United Methodist Board of Camping announces its plan to move into the future focused on three facilities.

After a comprehensive study, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping Board of Directors adopted a strategic plan to focus the year-round camping ministry for a sustainable future. The plan concentrates programs at three facilities as well as community-based day camps in relationship with local churches. 

  • Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center (Dowling) – This site will be the children and youth summer camp location. Wesley Woods will also offer year-round youth, adult, and family retreats.
  • Lake Huron Retreat Center (Burtchville) – This year-round retreat center will offer intergenerational family, youth leadership, and adult programs. 
  • Lake Michigan Camp and Retreat (Pentwater) – This year-round location will serve as the primary location for intergenerational family camp, utilizing RV camping, tent camping, cabins, and lodge accommodations. 

Reinvestment Plans

To fund the significant infrastructure improvements needed at these three facilities, the Board will look to sell two properties.

The Board desires to continue operating Lakeview Family Campground (Lakeview) while looking for a buyer who would run the site as a campground. The Board will work with interested parties for such a transition at fair market value. This will be completed no later than the fall of 2022.

While providing a worthwhile camping program in southeast Michigan, Judson Collins Center (Onsted) has not operated without budget deficits for many years. The Board will look to sell the property. Proceeds from the sale of Judson Collins and Lakeview will be invested in the most urgent needs at the remaining sites, such as a new bathhouse and utility upgrades at Lake Michigan, renovations and upgrades to the shower house and chapel at Wesley Woods, and updated guest room furnishings at Lake Huron.

The closing of any camp is not taken lightly, and it is not to detract from the great ministries and experiences there over the years. The reality is the road we are on is not sustainable. Major investments are needed at all sites. It will take the eventual sale of properties plus significant fundraising efforts, to make the required improvements at the three facilities.

New Programming Initiative

With change, often comes difficult loss but also hopeful new beginnings. Powerful memories and vital ministries are part of all camps, campgrounds, and retreat centers. And yes, having to make these changes will test our resolve, but they also provide a concentration of effort and investment in providing the best experiences for children, youth, adults, and families.

Central to the Board’s plan is a new Program Director to work with staff and volunteers to provide consistent, high quality:

  • Residential (on-site) summer camp programs for children, youth, adults and intergenerational families (including campgrounds)
  • Community-based (off-site) day camps in relationship with local churches throughout Michigan, especially those further away from youth camp facilities
  • Year-round retreats for youth, adults, and families (including campgrounds)

Camping changes lives and builds disciples of Jesus Christ in unique and powerful ways. This mission is affirmed season after season as campers are reminded of their sacred worth and as they commit or re-commit their lives to Christ. We grieve with those campers who feel displaced by the loss of their previous camp location. And we invite them to discover the joy and love other campers have found at sites like Wesley Woods, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.

Michigan Area United Methodist Camping holds fast to its mission amidst many challenges, not the least of which is funding a multi-site program for a shrinking market base. Decades of declining summer enrollment and year-round utilization combined with aging facilities in need of improvements led to the previous closure of four of the original nine camp and retreat locations in the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church.

As the Camping Board considered the future, they knew the organization needed to align the life-changing ministry of camps and retreats with a healthy, viable operation — one that would be sustainable for years to come. Kaleidoscope, a national camp and retreat ministry consulting firm, was invited to assess the present ministry, recommend strategic directions that address the pending crisis, and provide a plan for healthy ministry long into the future. The process included:

  • Comprehensive assessment of the five camp and retreat centers operated by Michigan Area United Methodist Camping, including a review of use, finances, program model, sites and facilities, competition, marketing, and staffing models; 
  • Developing strategic directions for camp and retreat ministry within the organization in relation to the vision of Board leaders and staff;
  • Creating an implementation plan that moves the organization to a place of health and long-term sustainability as a vital and viable ministry.

The Board prayerfully adopted this plan at its June meeting and invites you to support this vision to serve God, God’s church, and those who will come to know God through outdoor and retreat ministry.

Catching the Vision

With our eyes set on the goal of creating disciples through the camping ministry, the Board invites you to support this plan with your prayers, your gifts, and your participation. COVID-19 and the subsequent loss of revenue, adds a layer of challenge but does not weaken our determination. Together we can grow a Camping Ministry that will:

  • Welcome all United Methodists (present and future models)
  • Develop programs open to all, including those not currently served
  • Reach beyond the church with an experience that offers hope, joy, community, and inclusiveness.

Michigan Area United Methodist Board of Directors