Camp fear


I’m going to our Local Governing Body’s (LGB) camp tonight with a couple of friends. It’s a beautiful place. Some compare it to a Bed and Breakfast, rightly so. It’s got lush, green meadows. It’s very peaceful, a perfect space to relax right outside of DC. It’s a spiritually nourishing environment. I can’t wait to go there.

I love the place as much as the next person. Although, I must admit, my love is mingled some trepidation. It’s like visiting an aging parent’s brand new mansion, worried that they bought something they couldn’t afford, and realizing that you’ll be stuck with the mortgage soon.

I’ve been a part of this LGB for a mere two years. I’m not on any inner circle of political knowledge or power. I have no history, no ties. Maybe that’s why I’ve been shocked at how the money’s spent. I actually try not to look, because each time I ask questions about how it happened, I feel like that daughter again, with someone patting me on the head saying, “There, there. You just don’t understand. Maybe when you grow up….”

When I try to explain that I am grown up, that I do understand spreadsheets, and I have a background in business, they smile, nod their heads politely, and say “uh huh.” And then completely ignore me.

Okay. So this is not what’s happening. It’s just how it feels.

Here are the strange facts, as I understand them. Please, anyone part of the LGC that wants to chime in and correct me, please do (but no head patting):

Our LGB sold their camp, and decided to buy something farther out. They bought the property in the meadow, and began putting the work into it to make it camp-able. They came up with a plan so that the project wouldn’t cost anything to anyone. But the plan included only a mere sliver in the margin of error, a high-risk hedge fund, and the projection of near-full capacity.

There was some debate when our LGB gathered for a vote. It was very emotional, as you can imagine. Everyone has memories of singing “Kum Ba Yah.” They know how camp has touched their lives and they want their children to have that same experience. Everyone loves the camp staff and couldn’t imagine doing anything to hurt them. And, after all, we’re in the faith business, and we need to step out in faith every once in a while.

But, as we all know, the price tags on construction projects have a way of ballooning outside of the projections. The last I heard, the projections have gone from 22M to over 28M. And the plans are far from complete. And the hedge fund? Well, we also know what’s been happening to the markets lately….

Meanwhile, all of our mission budgets are getting slashed along with the church development budgets.

Campus ministers are gasping for breath, hoping to be able to hold on to their funding.

The largest African-American church in our LGB is a new church start. They don’t have a building and the LGB has stated resolutely that they can no longer help with buildings for our new congregations.

We’re closing a church a year, but outside of one innovative Evangelical congregation, the LGB can’t do much to plant new ones.

The housing prices and cost of living are way out of reach for pastors who move into the area. There’s no LGB shared equity plan, and nothing in the works. Basically, a pastor needs to have a well-paid spouse or the last name of Rockefeller to work here.

On and on it goes.

But we have a lovely B & B.

I want the camp to work. I really do. I’m a woman of faith, but I’m also a woman who can read a spreadsheet. I’ll be enjoying the camp tonight. And I ought to savor it. After all, we’ll be paying for our decision for a long, long time.

the photo’s by stinkymcgee, and uploaded from flickr. You can check out this page for the photographer’s insider perspective on the camp project.


7 thoughts on “Camp fear

  1. Let me be 100% clear on what I wrote. I do not have fear or trepidation that the Camp & Conference center will succeed, just that the climbing tower will never be built. My comments were more about my ego and the part that felt distinctly like “mine.”

  2. stinkymcgee,

    Thanks for stopping by. I love your photos. I had a hard time picking which one to use. They’re beautiful.

    We enjoyed our time at Meadowkirk, and look forward to visiting more often. Thanks for all the work that you put into it.

    Take care.

  3. I don’t think the issue is whether or not projects like this succeed. The issue is priorities. Can we afford to put money into church camps at a time when we can’t create affordable housing options for our younger clergy, help new congregations develop and older congreations redevelop, and help the world rebuild the environment, fight HIV/AIDS, to name a couple.

    To be for the latter list of priorities is not to be against camping. It is simply an acknowledgement that we cannot be all things to all people.

  4. I look at it in this way that I think a lot of church folk get annoyed by: What is the desired outcome of the project and do not only the monetary expense but the personal time and emotion expense worth the outcome of the project?

    It seems to me that if a camp cost that much in a time when local congregations are feeling budget crunches and need to re-imagine how mission and being missionary in our local cultures is done, then the expense of the camp does not justify the desired outcome. Part of this is that it seems like a high-risk investment at the same time when high-risk investments are not the most fiscally responsible position to take. I would ask why we would have to invest this much for a place to get away from it all and develop our faith with each other and with God.

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