Laura Eiesland has been selected as the Dakotas-Minnesota Area camping ministry’s newest staff person and will soon step into the role of marketing and outreach project coordinator. Her first day will be Sept. 19.
Eiesland is no stranger to denominational camping programs, having been previously employed as registrar and assistant with Lutheran Outdoors in South Dakota. She comes to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, where she worked as development assistant in the athletics office.
“I believe in the power of the camp experience—it has always been a big part of my family's life and my personal faith journey,” Eiesland, who was chosen from a pool of more than 20 candidates and determined to be a perfect fit for the job. “Joining the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministry team is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to sharing the good news of the camp and retreat experience for all God's people.”
Eiesland’s new full-time position was created as a result of the collaboration between the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences. In February 2016, the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences’ camp and retreat ministries combined their strengths and leadership and came together to form a joint governance team. This new arrangement expanded the camping-related offerings for United Methodists in each conference and allowed the conferences to share best practices to create the strongest possible area camp and retreat ministry to reach the next generation.
In her new role, Eiesland will be responsible for promoting the camping ministry by creating a marketing plan, equipping camp ambassadors and other volunteers at each church, and engaging more congregations in the camping program. A key part of her job will also entail telling stories of churches committed to the camping program and lives being transformed through it; she’ll regularly visit churches and also share stories and information through the camping ministry’s social media channels.
“We are so excited to have a position that is dedicated to the marketing of the area camp and retreat ministry—someone whose primary role is to help share stories of changed lives through an experience at a camp or retreat, to connect these stories to what’s happening in our local churches, and to help even more people to get excited about camping,” said Keith Shew, area director of camp and retreat ministries. “This has been something that both of the conferences have been dreaming about for a long time. It is now a dream come true.”
The new position represents a synergy among all of the staff positions across both conferences. Eiesland will work out of the Dakotas Conference office in Mitchell, South Dakota. She will be part of a team that includes a camping registrar and a financial specialist, both of whom work out of the Minnesota Conference office in Minneapolis.
“Having a larger team that collectively serves both conferences rather than smaller teams or individuals that support just one has allowed us to hire people who specialize in areas like marketing, finances, or programming,” said Shew. “This will create a deeper skill set across the Dakotas and Minnesota.”
Getting to know Laura
Laura grew up in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area, the youngest of nine. She graduated from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, majoring in communications, business, and health administration.
She describes herself as a positive person who is fun-natured, caring, and loves to meet people and hear their stories. Church camp has been a significant part of Eiesland’s life.
“One of my lifelong friends I met at church camp in fifth grade,” she said. “We were in a canoe, and it tipped over. We still laugh about it today.”
Laura describes the camping ministry as vital to her faith development.
“Camping allows me to take time to be still,” she said. “It is important to listen while you are at camp, take in all of the beauty around you.”
Thanks to the four years she spent with Lutheran Outdoors in South Dakota, she brings a wealth of knowledge related to the daily business of Christian camping ministries. Her other work experiences involve marketing, public relations, event planning, and administration in the professional minor league baseball, health, and education sectors.
“In the changing church and world of outdoor ministry, it gives me hope to see what has remained the same is the strength of the Christian camp community,” she said. “I am thankful for the impact those relationships have on faith formation and rejuvenation and feel blessed to be a part of that calling.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church