I was privileged to join a mid-week, online gathering to discuss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s presentation on the “Dangers of a Single Story.” Adichie is a female, Nigerian author who encourages people to see beyond single stories or narratives of individuals or groups so that we do not misunderstand or relegate them to a narrow existence. The days that followed the Ted Talk discussion, her presentation stayed with me as I thought about my life and ministry, the church as perceived by non-Christians, and Slumber Falls Camp.
Often when I travel or chat with people, I am pleased when people recognize Slumber Falls Camp and have a connection to the site or ministries. Often though, Slumber Falls Camp is known by so many as a summer camp for children and youth. And while summer camps are an important life experience for children and youth to have fun, discover the joy of being a part of a Christian community, and discovering what it means to be in relationship with God, Slumber Falls Camp is so much more.
The nature of the camp during the offseason caters to so many different groups, and unless you are a part of many of the different events, Slumber Falls can quickly fall into a single story. I appreciate the word of mouth advertising to other groups that are similar to those that just attended; however, as a vehicle for ministry, churches and our members should understand the scope of Slumber Falls and the transformation that occurs here not only in a summer camp but in the groups that we serve. My hope is that a broader understanding highlights the importance of Slumber Falls Camp, and how we represent our churches and the gospel in real and practical ways.
Slumber Falls is more than a fantastic summer camp. We are also the following:
- Mission site for local church and community partnerships.
- Spiritual formation center
- Leadership training facility
- Training of church leaders
- Congregational tool to further their mission of sharing the gospel, deepening congregational relationships, and discerning God’s calling as a community
- Interactive site for teaching young people how to live in Christian community
- Renewal Center for clergy and church leaders to gather, grow, and recharge
- Healing site for addiction recovery groups ejected from other facilities
- A safe, welcoming environment for marginalized individuals and groups to hold their retreats and events
- Welcoming facility for addiction recovery groups ejected from other facilities.
- Volunteer empowerment and training facility for individuals and groups seeking volunteer opportunities and live out their faith
- Ecumenical retreat facility for confirmation groups and discipleship groups
- Strengthening families and friends through reconnecting for holidays, special occasions, and reunions
- Young Adult Ministry site for campus ministries graduated campers, and young adults to stay connected to the church in the absence of many young adult ministries in churches.
- Environmental awareness and preservation facility that models and teaches good eco-friendly stewardship towards our planet.
- A sacred place of healing and transformation for the community to visit, walk the labyrinth, or pray at Vesper Point or the River.
- Partner with local churches and organizations on various ministries and relief efforts.
- Located on the Guadalupe with Slumber Falls and many mini waterfalls adjacent to our property
- Cabins, lodges, arts and craft pavilion, and overlook decks
- Hiking trails and sitting spots
- Worship areas and campfires
- Outdoor prayer labyrinth
- Swimming pool with waterslide and diving board
- Basketball, volleyball, and Gagaball courts
- Archery Range and Frisbee Golf Course
- Outdoor games activity area
- Playground and playing field
- Exposed acres of Cretaceous fossils and calcite crystals
- Huaco Springs Indian ceremonial ground
- An incredible diversity of flora and fauna – butterfly migration site and a haven for bees
- Astronomy center where summer campers can look toward the heavens and gaze at craters on the moon, the rings around Saturn, and even the moons around Jupiter. Awe and wonder of creation abound here.
- Quiet, peaceful location away from the hustle and bustle of busy lives
Slumber Falls Camp programs
- Relationships are central to our ministry.
- Welcoming and affirming of all
- Camp is fun and powerfully transformative
- Camps champion many of the 21st-century skills and some of the important ones that schools do not or cannot address
- Variety of camps from traditional church camps to specialty camps – sports, ecology, and gaming (Geek Week)
- Leadership training programs for high school youth and young adults (Counselor In Training Camp, Summer Adult Leadership Team, Camp Power, and Counselor Training)
- Spiritual formation is fun, interactive, and alive in all our camps
- Constantly updating policies and practices that focus on camper wellness, safety, and development. Our policies are some of the best, life-affirming policies throughout the United States.
- SFC is a place of grace and moving forward – our policies and practices reflect this.
- Slumber Falls Camp continues to grow, adapt, and stay relevant to youth and true to the mission of the church
- The stories of camper and God moments are too numerous to count.
- An SFC camping experience lasts a lifetime and coming year after year shapes young people into remarkable adults.
- Summer camps are key in helping young people to connect to churches and continue their spiritual journey well into adulthood.
State of the Camp
Before the pandemic, Slumber Falls Camp seemed to be turning around in camper registrations, increased bookings from outside groups, and more involvement from individuals and churches. The real concerns that our youth were facing encouraged us to offer summer camps. Slumber Falls Camp and the summer staff utilized new resources and increased health and safety procedures this summer. We were blessed with families and volunteers that aided our camping ministries by taking measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at camp. We did not have a single suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 at camp or reports of campers or volunteers sick following camp. Slumber Falls Camp is blessed to have dedicated churches and people that go the extra mile to look out for this special ministry. We had 163 campers this summer with beaming eyes and mask covered smiles! If our efforts and new practices can benefit your church or organization, please let us know how we can be a resource to you.
As many have speculated, without many of our retreat groups and lower camp numbers, the revenue stream for Slumber Falls Camp has diminished greatly. We have reduced as many costs and expenditures as possible. Many contracted groups have allowed for reduced services or payments for a couple of months. We have also shut down as many facilities and appliances that draw electricity to further reduce expenses. The PPP loan helped us cover many of our staff expenses for May and June, but we still had expenses not covered through this program. While we still have a handful of groups that have met or are scheduled on our calendars, we are still estimating an income loss of $150,000 from March 2020 to March 2021.
I have asked the Board of Directors to allow me to go to quarter time (average 10 hours a week) for the rest of the year so that I can work on my dissertation and also save the camp and conference some money. The SFC and SCC offices will remain open. Many people do not realize that we start planning for summer camps in October of the prior year. The amount of work that goes into summer camp is immense. Terri and Stacey will still be available as always if you have needs. I will also still be around, but my time will be structured around the mission-critical elements of the camp, meetings, and staff oversight. Emails are still a great way to contact me.
Getting Involved and Safeguarding Slumber Falls Camp
Slumber Falls Camp greatly needs your help. We are trying to raise over $150,000 to offset and cover expenses through March 2020. Other conferences have done similar COVID campaigns for their camps. Monies raised above this amount will go into an emergency fund for the camp that will be used for emergencies and/or maintaining critical operations of the camp in times of financial shortage.
How to help
- Consider giving generously to Slumber Falls Camp’s COVID Campaign. You will also be recorded on our Friends of the Camp contribution list.
- Encourage churches to collect a love offering or set a large goal to collect over a certain period.
- Include the camp donation link on your website or in emails.
- Include the camp or aspect of the camp in your weekly prayers during your church’s prayer time.
- Lift of the camp and this campaign in your newsletter, social media site, and emails. The camp office can send you a blurb if that would help.
- Encourage campers to share their stories with the congregation and have them ask for support for the camp.
Other ways to support the camp
- Spread the word on SFC as a rental facility to families, organizations, etc.
- Check out our physical donation page for items that the camp can utilize or upcycle
- Add the camp to your personal and/or church’s budget (monthly, quarterly, or annual giving)
- Include the camp in your estate planning
- Adopt-a-Cabin (or space) at camp – great mission opportunity and bonding experience for church members
- Grant writing on behalf of the camp
- Promote summer camps – registrations and best deals will start in a few weeks.
- Plan an event at SFC when your church becomes comfortable gathering in person.
- Have families and friends sign up for the SFC Riverview Newsletter
- Encourage families to connect with the camp via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter – send pictures or stories that we can share or link to our site – we love videos!
- Provide feedback to the camp to help us improve our ministries.
- Come to a Fall or Winter Work Camp – these weekends are a blast and now free!
I believe in this ministry and I have witnessed the impact of SFC summer camps on people for over two decades. Many of them are friends who are also sending their kids to camp. Slumber Falls Camp is unlike any other camping program or facility that I have served or attended. It is truly a place of grace, connecting to God and creation, and discerning the next steps of life’s journey. Slumber Falls Camp also has the potential to grow and expand its ministries that will have real impacts on our churches and our ability to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your love, support, and prayers during this year of changes, challenges, and uncertainties. I look forward to the next time we can gather together over hot tea, a shared meal, or smores around the campfire. Slumber Falls Camp is more than a single story, and I invite you to help share the many facets of who we are and how we engage the world around us.