Our ELCA camps and outdoor ministry sites are in deep need right now and are asking for our help. Coming out of the pandemic, and a year where they either didn’t operate or they worked to provide online ministry opportunities for campers and their families, they are now struggling to recruit enough staff to operate well this upcoming summer.
It is not surprising. We all hear stories every day about employers who are scrambling to find enough staff. Our camps are especially vulnerable. If they aren’t able to hire enough summer staff, they will have to limit operations, or in some cases, may need to cut entire programs.
If you have been doing this work for any length of time at all, you know the power of an outdoor ministry experience. For the young people who congregations send as campers, a week at camp can be completely transformational. And if you take that experience and multiply it by 100, you are probably coming close to the experience of serving on a camp staff. To learn more about the effectiveness of camp and outdoor ministries, spend a little time exploring the work and research of Dr. Jacob Sorenson, at his Sacred Playgrounds web site. This 4-page paper gets into some of the details.
It’s more important than ever that this summer we step up and help our outdoor ministry sites find good staff. There are lots of ways we can support them:
- Pray for our ELCA outdoor ministry sites and for their staffing efforts in particular.
- Identify a few young adults who you think have gifts in this area and contact them. Maybe buy them a cup of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage). Ask them if they’ve ever considered this important, life-changing work and encourage them to explore and apply.
- Articles in your congregation’s newsletter and on your web site can go a long way to raising awareness of your camp and can encourage participation.
- Does your congregation have a foundation or endowment? What if you approached them and asked if they would offer a $1000 scholarship to any young adult in your congregation who works at one of our outdoor ministry sites? This “supplemental income” might help make working at camp more financially attractive. And for the endowment, it is a direct investment in the life and faith of our young adults, and is a great way to support your camp.
- Take the graphic on the Network’s Facebook page and share it on your congregation’s Facebook page.
- Include your camp/outdoor ministry site in the intercessory prayers in worship.
- Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, our partner organization, has developed a mobile app called “Camp Match Up” that allows young adults to search for outdoor ministries sites by geographic location, style of ministry, and size to help them find a good match. Share this app with your young adults.
- Download this graphic and print it as a poster to hang up at church or use it on your congregation’s web site or Facebook page.
- Print this flyer and distribute it to your young adults.
And share your other ideas in the comments section of the Network’s Facebook group.
The need right now is critical, and our camps are asking for our help. It is time for us to step up, to be good partners, and to be church together.
God’s peace, friends!