By Matt Robinson
It isn’t uncommon to find local churches in tough financial circumstances. Debt is also no stranger to church camps either. Camp directors across the country are having to broaden their skill set beyond the campground they steward to chart a path for the future.
Take for example Andrew Johnson and his team at Woodland Lakes Christian Camp. The camp, located in Amelia, Ohio, has over six decades of experience between the full-time staffers of Tim Becker (Program Coordinator), Randy Demaris (Maintenance Director), and Andrew. Together with the help of a strong team of volunteers and part-time staff, they have positioned the camp to impact generations for years to come.
Andrew, a graduate of Kentucky Christian University, joined the staff in March 2016 with a background as a Lead Pastor (Northside Christian Church and Union Church of Christ) and a small business owner, plus camp experience dating back to 1997 at Butler Springs Christian Camp. When Andrew came aboard, the camp was in a dire financial situation that included over $300,000 in accumulated debt. It was also experiencing a decline in summer campers due to rising costs and the loss of involvement from local churches.
That is no longer the predicament that the WLCC staff finds themselves combating. In a little over a year, thanks to many cost-saving measures, the launching of the Freedom 2020 capital campaign, and the generosity of community partners, the debt has been reduced to under $130,000. The campaign focused on destroying the debt by the year 2020 and improving the camp’s grounds at the same time. Already there will be a new high ropes course installed this fall that will not increase the debt.
Beyond the Summer
Woodland Lakes’ impact extends far beyond a week or two of summer camp. Schools, both public and private, use the camps’ beautiful grounds and skilled staff for their student leadership building and anti-bullying efforts. The summer camp impacts hundreds of families, and the retreat season connects with thousands of people from churches and organizations. Also Christian churches both near and far will stay at the camp in coordination to their visits to the Creation Museum or Freedom Center, located nearby. More than just a place for students, Woodland Lakes hosts retreats for church staffs, men’s and women’s groups, and elders.
Recently the WLCC staff has made the effort to get lead pastors out to see their wonderful camp to allow them to see the many ways they can serve the church. A common story has developed from these visits. Nearly all speak of the impact that church camp had on their path to vocational ministry. Andrew doesn’t think that is an accident, and Woodland Lakes wants to continue to be the place where leaders are grown. Judging by passion, vision, and results, camp will continue to make an eternal impact for years to come.
Editor’s note: What impact did church camp have on your life? Make sure that influence endures for future generations by supporting your local Christian camp.
Matt Robinson is Community Life Minister at Parkside Christian Church and board member of WLCC.