After suspending operations in summer 2020 due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Minnesota returned in 2021 and provided 923 campers a meaningful experience while taking extra precautions to keep them safe.
“It was amazing to welcome participants back to camp in 2021,” said Keith Shew, Dakotas-Minnesota Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries. “Campers of all ages returned to their favorites spaces and activities, including swimming, boating, horses, group games, campfires, singing, and of course…s’mores!”
In light of ongoing COVID-19 safety concerns leading into the 2021 camp season, a return to offering camp programming was not taken lightly, Shew said. Significant effort and preparation went into helping ensure campers, staff, and guests stayed safe. Camp leaders partnered with local and state health officials, the American Camp Association, and the Centers for Disease Control to implement COVID-19 safety best practices specifically developed for overnight camp settings. They included keeping campers in small pods and spending as much time outdoors as possible, including for worship, meal times, and activities.
“And, we did it!” said Shew. “No spread of COVID-19 at your camps in 2021. Zero cases! The camp directors, their staff, and your central office camping team worked hard to ensure safety protocols were implemented and followed. We’re also grateful for the ways our camper families helped care of the camping community by adhering to pre-camp COVID-19 safety recommendations.”
Thirty percent of Minnesota United Methodist churches sent people to camp in 2021, and 38 percent of this summer’s attendees were from outside of The United Methodist Church—some without any church home.
Koronis Ministries this year received a $3,200 grant from United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries to identify and recruit more ethnically and racially diverse leaders. Koronis partnered with Brooklyn UMC in Brooklyn Center to bring children from the church and community to camp. A total of 33 campers came, most from Liberian and West African immigrant families; the grant primarily covered transportation to and from camp, and the Camp Minnesota office provided additional campership (camp scholarship) support to help each camper attend the camp of their choice. The campers had a phenomenal experience; they acquired new skills, learned about God, and when they left were already talking about returning next year. Two camper families are now worshiping at Brooklyn UMC because of this outreach.
Both Koronis in Paynesville and Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids had fewer campers than in 2019, but only by about 30 percent, which felt like a win given the difficulties presented by the pandemic.
Leslie Hobson, Northern Pines Camp director, noted that some camps exceeded attendance expectations. For example, grandparent-grandchild camp welcomed 44 people, the most since she started at the camp in 2016.
When asked about a story from the summer that sticks out to her, she recalled a Teens camper with a disability who was at Northern Pines for the first time. The girl’s mom knew it would be difficult for her daughter to be away from home and said she hoped the teen might be able to stay at least two of the six-night camp experience before needing to be picked up. Not only did the girl make it the whole week, but she helped lead worship one night and did her part—exploring a specific scripture text—without any notes.
At both camps, COVID precautions made way for experimentation and innovation.
A junior high Christian Youth Camp led by Mike Solberg, youth and families director at Normandale Hylands UMC in Bloomington, has always included a dance. This year, the dance was outside so that campers wouldn’t be all together in a contained space, but the dilemma then became how to offer music without disturbing neighbors around the lake. Solberg brought wireless headphones for each camper that allowed them to tune in to one of three channels and listen to the type of music they preferred. Campers loved it, and even those who opted not to dance and instead engage in other activities were still connected with the rest of the group through the music.
Northern Pines also offered a drive-through check-in process for families that eliminated long lines from years past and will likely continue in some form even after COVID subsides. Each vehicle drove to several stations before dropping off the camper inside: one to provide paperwork, another to collect campers’ spending money and mail, and a final stop for a temperature/health check.
Again this year, camperships (camp scholarships) enabled many kids to attend camp who might not have otherwise been able to do so. Camp Minnesota awarded $43,000 to 193 campers to attend the camp event of their choice.
Unfortunately, nearly all of Camp Minnesota’s offsite programs were not able to be offered in 2021. For example, the ever-popular Canadian Fishing Camps were forced to suspend their camps due to border-crossing issues.
But fishing campers and leaders are eager to gather in 2022, and planning is already underway at both Northern Pines and Koronis for next year as well.
Camp leaders ultimately hope that the 2021 camp experience stays with attendees for a long time to come.
“I hope they realized that even in the midst of a non-typical year, they can still grow and develop relationships,” said Hobson. “I hope they saw that God is in the midst of everything and had a chance to reflect on that.”
September 16, 2021
“Summer is better with camp,” says Keith Shew, the director for Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministries. “We’ve missed you, and we can't wait to see you this year at Northern Pines Camp, Koronis Ministries, and Kowakan Adventures!”
The Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministry team is ready for you to return to camp this summer and preparing to keep campers safe while giving them an opportunity to experience Christ, creation, and community.
“We're excited to let you know we decided to move forward with plans for summer 2021 at each of our Dakotas camps!” said Shew. “Your Dakotas and Minnesota Area camp staff have been actively planning programming options with the hope of being able to offer safe and impactful camp ministry experiences in 2021.”
Safety is top priority
Each camp will strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols that meet guidelines set by each state as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For now, the safety precautions include requiring masks and social distancing in common areas, limiting space in individual bedrooms to family groups, minimal to no contact with other onsite groups or staff, reducing group sizes as needed, and maximizing time outdoors when possible. Adjustments will be made as necessary to safety protocols, following state health guidelines and the American Camping Association protocols.
January 14, 2021By: Christa Meland
The Minnesota Conference and Camp Minnesota were recently awarded the 2020 Crow Wing County Conservationist of the Year Award for their efforts to preserve Star Lakes Wilderness Camp in Pequot Lakes through a conservation easement. In August, Minnesota Land Trust paid the conference $1.218 million for the easement, which covers 383 acres of the camp. The conservation easement will ensure the preservation of the pristine land so that it can be enjoyed for years to come while also generating resources for the conference’s camping and retreat ministry. Below is a press release sent out by the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District about the award.
The Minnesota Conference has purchased 44 acres of land adjacent to Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids that more than doubles the camp’s size and will provide new space for campers and guests to explore and enjoy. The new land includes 750 feet of lakeshore, and the purchase price was $415,000—considerably less than its appraised value, thanks to the generosity of the sellers, who wanted the land to remain free from development.
Initial plans for the just-acquired land include offering Northern Pines visitors new minimal-impact activities like hiking, tent camping, and cross-country skiing, as well expanding some current program offerings like archery, hammocking, outdoor worship experiences, and nature study. The land includes a modest seasonal cabin that Northern Pines will use for staff or as a guest retreat beginning in 2021.
In the longer term, the camp might consider adding a nature center and observation tower to the land.
“Camp Minnesota and Northern Pines Camp are excited and humbled to receive this beautiful property,” said Keith Shew, Dakotas-Minnesota Area director of camp and retreat ministries. “This purchase ensures that the camp remains a place set apart from outside development. More importantly, it opens up a new world for future campers and guests to explore creation and experience Christ in a pristine natural space. What an impact this will make in the hearts and lives of so many!”
Koronis Ministries’ Lakeview Open House
1-4 PM Labor Day (Sept. 7, 2020)
In December of 2019, an early-morning fire severely damaged historic Lakeview Lodge at Koronis Ministries in Paynesville, MN. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the building was fully insured. Lakeview is central to the camp’s operations, housing the dining room, kitchen, administrative offices, camp store and some guest lodging. Over the next eight months, major restoration work has been under way with the help of Giertsen Company of Minneapolis. The work on the building will wrap up at the end of August.
Koronis Ministries is inviting friends of the camp to drop in between 1PM – 4 PM on Labor Day (Sept. 7, 2020) to walk through the newly renovated structure and see the completed $600,000 restoration project first hand. Come celebrate with the camp community God’s goodness and provision. Social distancing and masks will be required for the event, and snacks will be provided. Call the camp office for more information: 320-243-4544.
Photos of fire damage and after the completed restoration:
In a transaction that closed late last month, Minnesota Land Trust paid the Minnesota Conference $1.218 million for a conservation easement covering 383 acres of its Star Lake Wilderness Camp.
The conservation easement will ensure the preservation of the pristine land so that it can be enjoyed for years to come while also generating resources for the conference’s camping and retreat ministry. Star Lake spans 441 acres and is located in Pequot Lakes.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner (in this case, the conference) and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of a piece of land for conservation purposes. The landowner agrees to sell certain rights associated with the property—in this case, the right to develop it—and a private organization or public agency can enforce the landowner’s promise not to exercise those rights. The agreement exists even if the property is sold.
“I am overjoyed,” said Bart Seebach, a member of the Minnesota Conference Board of Trustees who has been working on the easement for the past five years.
Seebach pointed out that the easement demonstrates the conference’s commitment to responsible stewardship of God’s creation, affirmed in our Social Principles, which call for “the preservation of old-growth forests and other irreplaceable natural treasures, as well as preservation of endangered plant species.”
The easement also “honors the vision of the clergy and laypersons whose commitment and ‘sweat equity,’ together with God’s grace, pieced together the Star Lake wilderness camp and brought generations of United Methodists face-to-face with the stunning beauty and challenge of meeting God in the wilderness,” said Seebach.
Exactly a year ago, Dan Ziegler walked around Camp Koronis to the sound of “screams and laughter and joyful noises of family and kids.” The children’s camps were just wrapping up after a full season, and the intergenerational family camps were in full swing. Campers could be spotted at the beach, on the playground, hiking in the woods, and simply sitting and enjoying the beauty around them. Forty-five staff members were fulfilling jobs ranging from waterfront supervision to meal preparation to leading campers.
This summer is very different. Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodist camps, like many camps across the country, ceased summer operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So while cottages are housing small family groups, the guest lodges are all empty—and the camp is mostly quiet. Just two full-time staff and six-part timers are employed.
“Camp is about bringing people together,” said Ziegler, who has served as Koronis’ executive director since 2015. “Social distancing is the opposite of what we’re about, so there’s definitely a sense of loss about the interpersonal relationships and spiritual growth that won’t be able to happen at camp this year. We’re about kids walking arm-in-arm and families hugging and singing and laughing together.”
Greetings from your Dakotas and Minnesota Area United Methodist camps. Summer 2020 has arrived and it just doesn’t feel the same when we know we won’t see your smiling faces! We are sad, we miss you, and we know you miss camp too! With all that’s happening in our world today, it seems like there has never been a more important time than right now for children to be at camp! While we know the decision to suspend summer programming at our six camps was the right choice during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s simply not summer without you. We can’t wait to see you when it is safe to gather once again.
We’ve been blessed with some wonderful gifts from our United Methodist conferences, individuals, and local churches. Thank you!!! If you are feeling led to support your camps at this time, we enthusiastically welcome your assistance! Watch for additional opportunities to help keep our campfires glowing and to ensure your camps remain strong and growing.
Thank you for all the ways you support your Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries.
Be well, stay safe, and God bless you.
Your Dakotas and Minnesota UMC Camp staff
Levi and Lara Ziegler will fill the role of camp director at Storm Mountain Center.
What a great summer ahead with the theme of PEACE WORKS! Can you see the fun and bright tie-dye shirts? Campers can be involved in the worldwide peace crane project and peace pole creation.
Camp News Spring 2018 includes camp information updates on all six camps of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministry.
Registration for Summer Camp 2018 is Tuesday, January 9. 2018. We welcome you to view Camp Sessions online for all three Minnesota locations: Koronis, Kowakan, and Northern Pines.
Koronis Ministries’ campaign for a new Tabernacle has entered its final stage, and plans for the new structure are beginning to move forward. If all goes as expected, site excavation will begin this Fall as workers remove the footers and slab from the old Tabernacle site in preparation for planned construction in the Spring.
Check out some of the great stuff happening with your United Methodist camps! Click here to read the Dakotas and Minnesota Area Camp Newsletter!
Keith absolutely loves camp, knows the impact of a camping experience on the hearts and lives of campers, and wants anyone and everyone to experience camp in 2017!
Keith is set to plunge into the icy waters of Lake Koronis if the $500.00 goal is met. And, for each additional $100 raised over the $500, Keith will attach one full-sized bag of marshmallows to his body as "floaties" for his Camp Chill Challenge.
Please help support Keith to take the Camp Chill Challenge and help children, youth and families to attend camp this summer!
We did it! Thanks to your amazing generosity, we raised more than $10,000 for camp scholarships—and Bishop Ough is officially jumping into frigid Lake Koronis on Feb. 18! At the 2016 Annual Conference, LYFE campers challenged Bishop Ough to show his support for Camp Minnesota by doing a polar plunge, and he agreed to do so IF United Methodists pledged $10,000 for camp scholarships (which you did!). Your donations have not only prompted the bishop to go all in for the sake of sending kids to camp, but they will enable many kids to have a life-changing experience at Camp Minnesota this summer. In recent days, Bishop Ough has been busy preparing for his polar plunge, and you're invited to check out how he's getting ready. Watch this video, and share it with your congregation in person on Sunday and via social media! Watch and/or download video
Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and we need your help in raising $10,000 to get Bishop Ough to jump into frozen Lake Koronis on Feb. 18! At the 2016 Annual Conference, LYFE campers challenged Bishop Ough to show his support for Camp Minnesota by taking the plunge, and he agreed to do so IF the conference pledges $10,000 for camperships (camp scholarships). We're a little more than halfway there with six weeks to go! Make a donation to see the bishop go ALL IN for the sake of sending kids to camp! Learn more and donate
We are excited to welcome Levi and Lara Ziegler as program leaders for Kowakan Adventures, the Boundary Waters Wilderness arm of Camp Minnesota. Levi and Lara come with a wealth of camp and ministry experience, including: service in a wilderness camp setting, work with various children’s ministries, and most recently, through their program and administrative leadership at Camp Koronis. Levi grew up in the Christian camp setting with his father, Koronis Ministries’ Director Dan Ziegler, mother, Wendy, and five siblings.
Levi and Lara share a deep love of the out-of-doors as avid hikers, canoers, and nature enthusiasts. In 2015, they enjoyed a 1,200-mile trek together, hiking on the Appalachian Trail. “Nature is one of the most real and distraction free settings to experience the presence of God, and we want to facilitate a real quality experience of that for anyone who desires it” says Lara. “We want Kowakan to be a go-to place of wilderness based relationships and team-building for church and ministry groups in particular.”
Keith Shew, Director of Camp & Retreat Ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of the United Methodist Church, was enthusiastic about their appointment. “They are remarkable leaders, and I’m thrilled that they’ve expressed interest in overseeing our Kowakan ministry in 2017.”
Levi and Lara are replacing Josh Jirasek, who has stepped down from the Kowakan program leader position in order to serve full-time as Koronis Ministries’ Facilities Manager.
To schedule a Kowakan expedition for your group, email Kowakan@campminnesota.org or call 320-243-4544.
Thank you to everyone who responded to our email request for the contact information of your church's Camp Ambassador!
Everyone who replied was entered into a drawing and here are the winners:
GRAND PRIZE - One FREE week @ Summer Camp 2017 ($425 value)
DAK - Linton UMC - CA is Marlin Sapp
MN - Riverside UMC (Park Rapids) - CA is Kirsten Kisner
Cool Prize #1 - Camp Ministry Pullover ($60 value)
DAK - Frankfort UMC - CA is Deanna Bindenagel
MN - First UMC (Stillwater) - CA is Patsy Bellman
Cool Prize #2 - Coffee & Donuts for Staff
DAK - Madison UMC - CA is Gloria Van Duyn
MN - Spirit of Hope UMC - CA is Penny Meschke
Cool Prize #3 - $10 Starbucks Giftcard
DAK - Highmore UMC - CA is Benjamin McKird-Wilsey
MN - Hennepin Avenue UMC - CA is Nate Melcher
Congratulations to all!!
We still want your Camp Ambassador information!!! If you haven't sent it yet, please email email@example.com NOW! We want to make sure all the amazing camp information gets to the right person at your church!
Looking forward to an amazing 2017 Camping season with all of you!!
Area Camp Ambassador Coordinator
We need your help in raising $10,000 to get Bishop Ough to jump into frozen Lake Koronis on Feb. 18, 2017!
The camp and retreat ministries of the Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodist conferences are excited to share that we’ve partnered with Rachel Devereaux to help with a reboot of each conference’s camp ambassador outreach. Rachel is currently on staff at Cross Winds United Methodist Church in Maple Grove where she’s leading a powerful and growing ministry with youth! Rachel holds a degree in marketing, is in process to become a licensed local pastor. She regularly volunteers at camp, and currently serves on the area camp and retreat council. Rachel has a deep love for camping ministry, has been transformed through experiences at camp, and sees first-hand the impact a camping experience has on lives of children and youth. Rachel will be working closely with local church camp ambassadors, site directors, and our office staff to help even more children, youth, and families attend camp through the area wide camp ambassador outreach program. Watch for information from Rachel soon!
The Minnesota and Dakotas camping programs have been offering life-changing experiences for decades. Earlier this year, the two conferences’ camp and retreat ministries combined their strengths and leadership and came together to form a joint governance team. This new arrangement expands the camping-related offerings for United Methodists in each conference and allow the conferences to share best practices to create the strongest possible area camp and retreat ministry. Here's a look at the camp sites across the two conferences; how they are making a difference in the lives of children, youth, and adults; and what the new area partnership looks like. Watch the video here
What's better than going to camp you ask? How about sharing camp with a friend! You'll save some money too. For each new camper you bring with you, your event fee will be reduced by $25.00. So, 2 friends = $50 off, 4 friends = $100 off...you get the picture! Already registered and paid? Don't worry - we'll give you credit for ALL of your new friends!
Don’t forget about camperships. If camp is stretching yours or your friend’s budget, let us know, we can help!
Find out more and register here today!
Experience Christ, Creation, and Community WITH A FRIEND this summer.
IMPORTANT SUMMER OPPORTUNITY:
Koronis Ministries Camp & Retreat Center on beautiful Lake Koronis MN is in urgent need of a Summer Food Service Manager from early June through mid-August, 2016. Responsibilities include menu planning and ordering, meal preparation and service for 30 - 300 people, and supervision of food service staff. Food service experience and a heart for ministry a must. Competitive salary & meals provided, plus lodging (if needed) in a lovely lakeside cottage. Koronis Ministries is an outreach of the United Methodist Churches of Minnesota. Contact Executive Director Dan Ziegler for more information - KORdirector@campminnesota.org or 320-243-4544.
For this year only - Camp Minnesota is extending the *Early Bird Registration - $25 Camp Store Credit! Please take advantage of these extra days to register yourself or share with others
Five churches raised more than $16,000 to send their kids to Camp Minnesota this summer—and leaders of those churches did a polar plunge.
The Dakotas and Minnesota conferences’ camp and retreat ministries are combining their strengths and leadership and forming a joint governance team.
Are you or someone you know looking for a GREAT summer job? Make a difference in the life of a child this summer - work at camp! Camp Minnesota is seeking caring Christians as summer camp counselors, kitchen staff, health care staff, programming leaders, and maintenance workers. All seasonal staff positions include salary, job training, certifications in American Red Cross CPR & 1st Aid, the opportunity for certification as an American Red Cross Lifeguard, room, board and some awesome staff swag. Visit www.campminnesota.org/employment for details. Learn more about our camps here: Koronis Ministries, Northern Pines Camp & Retreat Center, KoWaKan
Freezin' for a Reason
- Saturday, February 20, 2016 - FREE EVENT at Koronis Ministries!
Saturday, February 20, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Koronis Ministries -
Make a BIG SPLASH about CAMP!
Kowakan is taking steps forward in ministry.