The Fall edition of our newsletter, Xenia News, is now available online. Click here to read about what’s been going in the life of Upper New York Camp and Retreat Ministries.
It’s not all that uncommon for us to be asked: “what do you do here the rest of the year?” Some might get upset when asked this sort of question, but we hear this as a genuine invitation to share more about our ministry here at Sky Lake. (Which is also why we’ve started sharing a glimpse behind the scenes in this column each month.)
Sure, we have some rather unglamorous tasks that we do on a routine basis during the retreat season—like paying the bills, emptying garbage bins, clearing leaves and snow away from buildings, refilling paper towel dispensers, answering calls from telemarketers, blah, blah, blah…. But these pale in comparison to some of the “bigger things” that we get to do, like welcoming back friends we haven’t seen in a year, lighting a fire in the fireplace in Founders’ Lodge for guests to relax in front of, and working on bigger projects that have a bunch of little “moving parts.”
During the autumn and winter we actually spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for…the next summer. One of the “moving parts” of this bigger project is setting up times for us to visit churches and organizations in the spring. We are always grateful for the churches who extend an invitation for us to come visit and we are equally grateful for those churches who respond affirmatively when we invite ourselves. Here’s what we look for when considering a visit:
· The trend of the congregation’s/group’s support of camping and retreat ministries — in other words, does the church have a history of “sending” campers or do they express a strong desire to start doing so? (Guess what…we like to visit both!)
· Average worship attendance compared to the overall membership of the church — this is a more helpful number for us rather than thinking of a church as big, medium, or small
· Potential for recruiting campers — full disclosure, while we love chatting with potential donors (it does take a fair amount of money to keep a ministry going after all) our spring tour is geared more toward recruiting campers. So we try to schedule visits where we’re apt to run into actual kids and youth! And to help us determine the potential of interacting with children and youth, we look at (1) the number of children and youth involved in Christian formation groups + (2) Sunday School attendance compared to worship attendance + (3) VBS attendance compared to Sunday School attendance. When considered together, we get a better idea of not only the life of a congregation but the community surrounding it.
One of our earliest cheerleaders, the Rev. Edgar Singer, once referred to Sky Lake as the additional Sunday School classroom for each congregation. He wasn’t wrong. A local church is great at providing the “head knowledge”, while camps are really great at being the “learning labs” where these theories can be tested, prodded, and experienced in real time. When head knowledge is reinforced by affirming experiences it becomes heart knowledge. And believe “heart knowledge” is what leads to the transformation of the world! (Can we get an AMEN?!)
To help us share our vision with others is the reason we like to do our visit tour each spring. No two visits are alike and we enjoy working with leaders at the local level to personalize our visit. We are pretty flexible and equally comfortable doing a presentation for kids and youth during Sunday School, delivering a quick speech during a Mission Moment, giving the children’s message, bringing the goods to make s’mores for a covered-dish meal, or even leading an entire worship service. (We’ve done all this and more over the years.) Also, our unofficial mascot, Harvey the Hippo, usually tags along with us, so there’s that… And if there’s one thing Harvey has taught us over the years, it’s to play well with others. So we like to include some non-United Methodist Churches on our Spring Tour every year!
If you’re interested in setting up a visit or exploring the possibility of partnering with us a little closer, please don’t hesitate to connect with our site director, Matt Williams. We hope to see you on our tour this spring!
We here at Sky Lake are grateful to be able to spend time with so many awesome people throughout the year. While our summer camp ministry brings a certain level of intensity to the life of our team, we’re also kept on our toes extending radical Christian hospitality to retreat guests from the end of summer camp in August until June the following year. We provide hospitality support to a wide variety of church and non-profit groups any given week/weekend; in addition to these groups we also hold retreats and events for which we provide the programming.
One of those offerings is our Ladies of the Lake Retreat, which was held last month for the 9th consecutive year. When longtime friends of Sky Lake—Jean Grube and the Rev. Jan Clark—approached us years ago with the idea of a retreat for women that would combine elements of a spa experience with opportunities for spiritual growth, we were immediately sold on the idea. “While observing the autumn-kissed, lake waters from one of those boulders by the boathouse, I’m always reminded how thankful I am for these retreats. These times away at Sky Lake allow me to focus on the amazing gifts of the women gathered and our need for each other to build up the body of Christ” says Ladies of the Lake co-leader, Jean Grube.
“The friendships that are formed through worshiping together and the variety of activities offered each retreat is what keep women coming back,” says Jenna Amberge, Assistant Director of Sky Lake. In 2012 we increased the opportunity for women to build those meaningful relationships by expanding Ladies of the Lake to include Rejuvenate each spring (by the way, online registration for Rejuvenate 2018 is now open!)
“I am grateful for the chance to offer rest and renewal for body and soul at the picturesque setting of Sky Lake. Women grow in their friendship with each other and with God. It is a place that helps us find our center!” the Rev. Jan Clark, co-leader of Ladies of the Lake.