Getting Started - Camp & Retreat Ministries


As a camp and retreat leader, you play a pivotal part in providing genuine Christian hospitality and community. Thank you for your passion and willingness to extend yourself for the benefit of others. This ministry reaches out with a wide embrace to serve our own members, the wider community, and many nonprofit groups working hard to do good in the world.

Christian camps and retreats invite persons and groups to sacred settings typically within the natural world where the creation can speak to their hearts of God. In tandem with the Holy Spirit, you will give guests and participants unparalleled opportunities to focus on the deeper meaning of their lives by inviting them away from normal routine and distraction. These intentional times apart are a catalyst for new possibilities that embody the Church’s mission to nurture Christian discipleship and to engage persons in the transformation of the world through love and justice.

You are not alone in this great endeavor. You are now part of a network of colleagues across the country and across the world serving hundreds of thousands of participants and guests each year through United Methodist related Camp and Retreat Ministries. We are here to support you in your role as a staff person or volunteer.

Feasibility And Planning Study (PowerPoint)
A Feasibility and Planning Study was conducted in the Fall of 2014 to assess funding priorities for the Legacy of Leadership Annual Fund. View results here (PowerPoint).

Where to Begin

We recommend four initial steps to enrich your leadership and to discover resources to aid you.

First, look through the list of leadership roles below and find the description that best matches your position, and become familiar with its responsibilities.

Second, explore this website which offers you a vast array of relevant content and connections related to Camp and Retreat Ministry.

Third, join the Camp and Retreat Leader Network, which is a great group of nearly 1,000 religiously affiliated camp and retreat leaders who answer each other’s questions, provide mutual support and share lots of helpful information.

Fourth, thoroughly digest the information on the 7 Foundations of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry. These are the primary goals that have been identified as crucial aspects of what we all do together.

Fifth, review the sections of this website outlining training opportunities and Camp and Retreat Certification. Training really, really helps.

On a deeper level, invite God to guide you in your leadership so that you can embody and model the love of Christ among your leadership team, participants and guests. Prepare yourself through spiritual practices that keep you growing in Christian faith. Remember that Camp and Retreat Ministry is very experiential. We endeavor to live the principles of faith, rather than just teach the concepts. Camps and retreats allow persons to come together to create a community in its most significant sense.

Note: In order to gain access to certain sections of the resource pages, you will need to register on this website. You will be asked to provide basic information including the name of the local church or camp and retreat center where you serve, etc. This honors the desire of some of the resource providers to use the resources only with leaders who are part of the Camp and Retreat Leader Network, rather than distribution to the public at large..


Positions and Leadership Roles Within Camp and Retreat Ministry

Congregational Retreat and Camp Planning Teams:

You or a team provide leadership for planning and carrying out retreats, day camps, trip/mission camps, and/or resident camps sponsored by your own local church. Typically, the primary participants for these events are groups within the congregation itself and individuals or families within the local community served by your particular congregation. At times, local churches from the same region may unite to plan and carry out retreats and camps cooperatively.

Local Church Camp Coordinators:

You help keep your congregation aware of the varied Christian camp and retreat opportunities provided by a United Methodist Camp and Retreat Centers in your area. You help build a mutually beneficial partnership between the center(s) and your local congregation. Most local congregations cannot afford to build and operate their own camp and retreat center, so churches within districts and conferences join together to support a center that provides programs and Christian hospitality for many congregations and the wider community.

Camp and Retreat Center Staff and Volunteers:

You serve as a hired staff person or volunteer at a Camp and Retreat Center. The specific role you play is essential to the experiences provided and to the overall operation of the center itself. You may be a center director, maintenance ministry staff, housekeeping personnel, fund developer, summer camp counselor, event staff and volunteers, office personnel, food service staff, volunteering with mission/work projects or involved in a plethora of other key responsibilities that shape the experience of all who come and are touched by the ministry of the center where you serve.

Camp and Retreat Ministry Boards and Committees:

You are a member of a Camp and Retreat Ministry Board that helps set the vision and long-term direction of a camp and retreat center(s), establish policies and procedures, and evaluation of the ministry effectiveness. Or you may be the member of a Committee thatis responsible for helping the director and staff of the center to carry out an important, specific aspect of the center’s program or operation. You are part of an official board or committee rather than a volunteer coming to do specific tasks or projects.

Conference Camp and Retreat Ministry Directors or Coordinators:

You are an executive director overseeing the camp and retreat ministry of an Annual Conference or an elected leader chairing the group responsible for a conference camp and retreat ministry. In a situation where there is not a conference executive director or conference coordination of camp and retreat ministries, a center director may be designated as the linking person for all the camp and retreat centers within your conference. In this case, you help to coordinate the combined efforts of multiple camp and retreat centers from the same Conference or may be the director of the only center in that Conference.

Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders:

You are a person who has or who is interested in advanced training as a spiritual director or retreat leader. You may have received your training through the Academy of Spiritual Formation or other programs and now part of your ministry is to lead retreats for groups seeking retreat leaders. You may, also, be connected with a camp and retreat center as a spiritual director for individuals seeking spiritual direction while on retreat.

Bishops, Cabinets, Directors of Connectional Ministries, Conference Administrators/Treasurers, and Boards of Trustees:

You are a Bishop, District Superintendent, Conference Administrator or a member of a Conference Board of Trustees. You become involved in important deliberations related to camp and retreat ministries and/or camp and retreat centers, as they interface with overall conference programs, priorities, budgets and risk management. In this aspect of your leadership role, there are times when you would value insight and information from knowledgeable long-term professionals in camp and retreat ministry as part of your strategic decision making process.

Exploring Your Call to Ministry or Seeking Vocational/Internship Opportunities:
You are a person who is exploring your life’s calling and vocation and are interested in learning more about serving in camp and retreat ministries or another faith based vocation. You are looking for opportunities to experience various aspects of camp and retreat ministry and leadership to help discern if this might be the direction that God is leading.

Thank you

Thank you so much for stepping forward to provide effective, spiritual leadership within a ministry that rests at the core of the Church’s purpose of developing disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Camp and Retreat Ministry offers a wide spectrum of experiences focused on living out various aspects of this sacred calling. Most camp and retreat ministries are locally led and the centers are regionally or locally owned and operated, so it may not be immediately apparent how wide the impact of the combined effort is. In the most recent survey of the 235 UM Camp and Retreat Centers in the United States and taking into consideration the additional local church and international camp and retreat opportunities, we discovered that the United Methodist Church is serving close to 1 million guests and participants annually. You are part of something very significant within the life of the Church. You are part of a sacred endeavor that has a meaningful impact on the wider world in terms of persons inspired to return to their settings to live lives of love and justice. We do this together as people of God and disciples of Jesus Christ. We are deeply grateful to God for you - your heart, your vision, your willingness to serve, and your faithfulness.