By: Christa Meland
Beata Ferris has been going to church camp for as long as she can remember. As a pastor’s kid, it was simply part of the family’s DNA—and while she can’t point to one single life-changing moment, she knows without a doubt that her camp experiences shaped her life and faith journey.
“I would not be the person I am today had I not experienced church camp as a young person,” she said.
Ferris was recently hired as the Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministry’s marketing and outreach project coordinator—allowing her to fulfill a longtime dream of turning her passion for making disciples into her profession. This previously full-time position was vacated in November.
Ferris began her part-time position on March 15. It will ramp up each summer when she takes a break from teaching. During the school year, she teaches science full-time to high school students remotely from a bedroom-turned-science lab in her home. She live streams and records lessons for students to watch on their own. This unique, taxpayer-funded offering allows small, rural schools in South Dakota to offer quality science education even when they can’t afford to hire a certified science teacher.
In her new role, Ferris will be responsible for promoting the camping ministry in a variety of ways. So far, that has included social media management, email blasts, and resourcing churches to encourage camp participation. This summer, Ferris will attend both the Dakotas and Minnesota annual conference sessions and spend some time at each area camp site.
“I look forward to hearing everyone’s camp stories so I can start sharing those stories across the area and getting people excited about connecting with God at a place apart,” she said. “I can’t wait to partner with Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodists to tell the story of camp to our youngest generation and enable them to experience Christ, creation, and community at our camps.”
Ferris, who uses technology every day in her teaching job, is already thinking about virtual experiences that could benefit the camping ministry. For example, perhaps all of the area’s camp sites could connect remotely and participate in a joint bible study for campers—thus reinforcing the idea that we’re inextricably connected with siblings in Christ across the state, the region, the country, and the world.
Ferris, a member of Pierre First UMC in South Dakota, has spent the past six years serving as the co-dean of an annual “Next Normal” camp at Storm Mountain Center near Rapid City, South Dakota. The camp, for upper-elementary students, is based on Romans 12:1-2 and aims to normalize the notion of being a Jesus follower, sharing God’s love, and transforming the world. Ferris and her co-dean wrote three years’ worth of curriculum for the week-long camp, which has grown from 11 youth and adult participants the first year to 45 last summer.
Ferris is also co-chair of a team that oversees the Dakotas Conference’s efforts to develop missional leaders, and she was the Dakotas’ lay delegate to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. She lives with her husband, Guy, and her teenage children, Abby and Jack.
Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, said Ferris is uniquely positioned for this role.
“Beata is a familiar face in the Dakotas, having served in many roles over the years,” he said. “She has a deep passion for making disciples for Christ and for camp and retreat ministries, and it shows. Once you meet Beata, you can’t help but sense her excitement and enthusiasm for her work. She has hit the ground running at a very busy time for your camps and we’re already seeing positive movement! She has great ideas for the future of camp and retreat marketing and outreach.”
Ferris said one of the most important things she has learned through her faith journey is that mountaintop experiences, like those many have at camp, are meant to be shared—and she looks forward to not only getting kids to camp, but seeing them return home committed to living as disciples and sharing the good news with others.
She points to Matthew 17, in which Jesus takes three of his disciples up to a high mountain, where Jesus is transfigured and the disciples see Jesus in all his glory. But Jesus doesn’t let them stay on the mountaintop—they eventually must leave to go tell the story of what they have experienced and be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.
“While I wanted to stay at camp forever, I had to go live as the person I was called to be at camp every day back home,” she said. “We are called to leave these experiences changed and share them with others.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church