New camping director, Keith Shew, promises ‘Disney experience’

September 24, 2012

By: Amanda Yanchury

Get ready for the “Disney experience” at camp in the coming months.

Keith Shew, Minnesota Conference’s new director of camping and retreat ministries, is not talking about princesses and rides. He’s talking about the kind of hospitality that makes you feel comfortable and cared for.

“When you’re at Disney World, you are well taken care of,” says Shew, who assumed the camping directorship on Sept. 1 after the retirement of Rocky Wilson. “You just go there, and you don’t see the ‘behind the scenes’—you just can enjoy the experience. A lot of programs we offer at camps can be like that too—when participants come to our sites, we are ready take care of them. They can come here and find themselves loved and cared for, and able to have the full experience of camp.”

Shew, 40, comes to Minnesota from Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center in Iowa, which he directed for 15 years. Before that, he worked for a campground in Washington, his home state.

“I’m very excited about the opportunities and challenges that face the Minnesota conference camping program,” he says. “I’m eager to work alongside the staff, Retreats and Camping Ministry Team, clergy, volunteers, and everyone involved in this ministry. Camping has a long and successful history here in Minnesota, and I’m excited to be a part of that and to continue those things that have meant so much to people here in Minnesota.”

His goal is to continue to share the importance of the camping ministry.

“Camp is an important part of people’s spiritual journeys,” Shew says. “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 here that has led to life-changing opportunities. I want to continue to offer those experiences.”

Getting to know Keith

Keith grew up in Washington state, where most of his family still resides. He was active in Christian camping as well as Boy Scout camping, from childhood through college. He and his father enjoyed pursuing outdoor activities together, like horseback riding and rafting, where he developed a deep love and appreciation for God’s creation.

“Camp was always the first thing I scheduled for each summer,” Shew says. “It was always the high point of my summer. I loved how I felt about myself at camp—I could really be myself, and I certainly see that with kids now.”

Shew originally studied music education, but switched majors his senior year because he felt a call to continue leading camps. He graduated with a degree in outdoor recreation and a minor in music.

Keith loves to spend time with his family—his wife, Mandy, and a son and daughter—and is especially excited to take advantage of Minnesota’s great bike trails. And he still enjoys playing music: percussion, guitar, and singing.

“I have a history of playing in various music groups, and would love to take advantage of opportunities to do so again,” Shew said. “I love being outdoors, and I look forward to exploring all Minnesota has to offer.”

Keith welcomes stories, questions, and tidbits of insights from Minnesotans who have partaken in Minnesota Conference camping. Send your thoughts to

Amanda Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058