One of the ideas floating around out there about church camps is that a lot of people experience the call to ministry in a camp setting. Not only pastors, but church staff members, team leaders, team members, and other leaders in congregations.
That idea indicates that church camp is a valuable tool for leadership development. However, as far as I know there is no assessment tool in place in the United Methodist Church that quantifies that correlation.
My friend Jason Carle, a Presbyterian pastor in Overland Park, messaged me recently to tell me that his Presbytery tracks camping participation as leadership development. He serves on his Presbytery’s board of directors for their camping ministries, and he says they “have numbers on our former camp counselors and campers who are now ordained as either elders, deacons or pastors in churches.” (The terms “elder” and “deacon” mean different things in the Presbyterian Church than they do in the UMC.)
Using this metric, they have a concrete numerical assessment of the fruitfulness of the camping ministry as it applies to the area of leadership development. Of course, church camp is not ONLY useful for leadership development, but leadership development would be one way to measure the fruitfulness of camping. And that assessment would not be all that difficult to achieve, if there was an intentional effort behind it.
Of course, leadership development is not dependent upon location, and it is quite possible that future incarnations of church camping in Missouri may result in as many (or even more) excellent congregational leaders as the current system has. But the truth is that we will never know for sure, since gathering that specific information was not a priority in the decision-making process of Missouri’s camping board.
I sent an email to the camping board and conference staff asking if any data had been collected correlating church leadership and camp experience. The replies I got indicated that had not happened in the systematic way my friend Jason described, while affirming that many (including some Camping Board members) were called by God into leadership of the church while at church camp. I am hopeful that information would be gathered in the future in a more systematic and (dare I say) “methodical” way.
The future leadership of the church resides in our youth and children, and many of them realize that while they are at church camp. I’d really like to know exactly how many that is.