Minnesota Conference Camping Director Keith Shew will soon step into an expanded role as he assumes the position of interim director of Camping and Retreat Ministries for the Dakotas Conference.
This summer, he will be on call for the Dakotas’ camping staff, and as of Sept. 1, he will serve as the leader of camping for both the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences.
This collaboration between the two conferences’ camping ministries will occur on a temporary basis, which will allow both conferences to live into the new arrangement and discern whether and how a long-term partnership might work. In assuming the interim position in the Dakotas, Shew is filling a vacancy created this summer when longtime Dakotas Camping Director Becky Holten left to serve as pastor of four local churches in North Dakota.
This initiative to explore collaboration has been affirmed by the leadership and governance teams of the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences, and it supports the efforts of both conferences’ strategic plans for camping and the building of a system to serve the next generation. Both conferences have worked with Kaleidoscope, Inc., a nationally recognized camp consultant, which studied camp properties and suggested key moves to position them for growth and financial stability well into the future. The conferences are in the process of implementing the recommendations, and Shew will oversee that process for both
Minnesota Director of Ministries Cindy Gregorson said Shew is an excellent director of camping and will be a strong interim leader for the Dakotas while also continuing to move the Minnesota camping program forward.
“Both the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences are committed to our camping ministry as a resource to our local churches, particularly as means to help our children have faith,” she added. “Exploring collaboration seems a next natural step for both annual conferences out of their work they have done with Kaleidoscope. We are seeking to discover if there are synergies and efficiencies to what we can do together so that we enhance our camping ministry while at the time achieving its financial targets for sustainability.”
Shew, who spent 15 years as director of Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center in Iowa before joining the Minnesota Conference, is excited about working with both conferences.
“Camp is an important part of people’s spiritual journeys,” he said. “For many people, the decisions they’ve made about their lives have been made at camp—a time at camp is a big part of people’s faith stories. They hear God’s call, and that leads to life-changing opportunities. I look forward to helping to facilitate those experiences in the Dakotas as well as Minnesota.”.
Gregorson and Dakotas Conference Director of Ministries Rebecca Trefz each see the partnership as a great opportunity for both conferences.
“We expect Keith’s experience as a camp site director and experience with leading and mentoring site directors to be a huge benefit to ensuring that we have strong programming as well as effective fiscal and facility oversight,” said Trefz.
The Dakotas has three camp sites: Wesley Acres in Daisy, North Dakota; Storm Mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota; and Lake Poinsett in Lake Poinsett, South Dakota. Minnesota also has three primary camp sites: Northern Pines in Park Rapids, Koronis Ministries in Paynesville, and Kowakan Adventures near Ely.
Shew provided further insight by answering a few key questions about the collaborative effort:
How will this collaborative effort work between Minnesota and the Dakotas?
“We're just at the very beginning stages of collaboration with our two programs. A work group from both conferences has met for conversation, visioning, and naming some of the key issues moving forward, as well as some next steps for the remainder of the summer and into the fall. The group has found several similarities between the two conferences’ camping programs, including overall vision, governance, online registration, and fiscal goals. While the programs are unique in some ways, the heart of what we do is really similar and our early conversations have been exciting and encouraging! The camping and retreat boards from both annual conferences will gather early this fall for further conversation and planning.”
What are your hopes and dreams for the camping program in both conferences?
“I hope we can continue to offer creative, fun, quality, and safe experiences at each site throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas—experiences that share Christ, community, and creation in ways that speak to our congregations and members. Both conferences have a deep-rooted, rich history of affecting lives through camping and retreat ministries. There is no doubt that the people of the Dakotas and Minnesota love their camps! It is my strong hope for the camping ministry to continue to walk alongside our congregations and leadership to offer discipleship and leadership training opportunities that continue the strong legacy of affecting lives.”
What are the challenges and opportunities that you see for the camping programs in the Dakotas and Minnesota?
“They are probably similar to many of the challenges our congregations face—making sure we're offering the right programs and providing opportunities that speak to a shifting culture while remaining good stewards of our resources and making informed management decisions using the information we collect. Camping has a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship between what's happening at camp and developing vital congregations.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church