Annual Board President’s Report

Board President’s Report 2012

Dear member congregations of Luther Point Bible Camp:

Typically the annual report of Luther Point Bible Camp has not contained a report from the President of the Board of Directors. However, I am quite eager to share with you a number of significant events that have transpired over this past year. I need to start first by stating how much I enjoy working with the other board members and the executive staff. This is a group of individuals who are sincerely passionate about, concerned for and committed to not only Luther Point Bible Camp but also the future of outdoor ministry in Northwestern Wisconsin and Northeastern Minnesota. This passion, concern and commitment has motivated the more significant work attended to over the past year. The following are the highlights of our efforts.

The dominate focus for much of this year was the continued navigation of the Mutual Management Agreement with Luther Park Bible Camp in Chetek, Wisconsin. There was considerable concern with the living out of this agreement primarily at the organizational and service level, and yet tremendous potential for partnering in re-imagining the future of outdoor ministry at the regional level. The executive staff—Craig, Jesse, Marcel and Jon—expended substantial time and energy towards the integration of the agreement organizationally and programmatically over the past year. However, it became apparent to the Board of Luther Park Bible Camp that this agreement was no longer tenable and voted to terminate the Mutual Management Agreement as of December 31, 2012. What this means is that we will be separating all currently shared services and staffing by the end of the year. With that being said, there remains great interest on the part of both Boards to continue working together in re-imagining the future of outdoor ministry in Northwestern Wisconsin as well as being open to any future potential for shared ministry.

The Joint Executive Committee earlier in the year acknowledged that there is an urgent need for both camps to address the state of outdoor ministry and its future. We recognize that while we do traditional outdoor ministry well, nevertheless we continue to experience decline—decline in campers, decline in congregational support and decline in revenue. We not only conceded that we were at the limit of our knowledge and abilities with regard to these issues but we also began questioning whether, in light of the significant discontinuous change experienced within our society, we need to re-imagine outdoor ministry altogether. Therefore, the members of both Boards not only agreed but also desired to work together in order to explore and discern what God is doing and planning to do with outdoor ministry in Northwestern Wisconsin.

On July 13-14, 2012 a joint Board retreat was held at Luther Park Bible Camp. The Rev. Dr. Craig Van Gelder of Luther Seminary was hired to lead us through the process of :

  1. Becoming familiar with working through a theologically-framed planning process;
  2. Clarifying the core identity of each camp and its ministry;
  3. Engaging in re-imagining the mission of both camps for outdoor ministry;
  4. Developing clarity of vision for moving forward in carry out this mission;
  5. Determining if the current mutual ministry agreement is beneficial in continuing, and, if so, in what ways.

The retreat was effective and energizing. The work was rooted biblically and theologically and helped us attain a high degree of honesty in assessing our ministries and in identifying and differentiating our technical and adaptive challenges. A summary of the retreat can be found in the addendum following this report. One of the key insights gained from this retreat was gaining clarity on the presenting issues, which the Board defined as:

  1. Socio-Economic Shifts
    1. Economy
    2. Competition (alternative family vacation options [cabins, etc.] and other camps [Bible camps, sport camps, family camps, etc.)
  2. Perception
    1. For Lutherans only
    2. The Name of the camp
    3. For youth only
    4. Summer programs only
  3. Decline
    1. In campers
    2. Congregational support
    3. Revenues

The next steps in this process are:

  1. Review and refine the presenting issues and further differentiate between the technical and adaptive challenges.
  2. Identify new learning that is required as well as changes in beliefs (in regard to “traditions”) and behaviors in light of the adaptive challenges.
  3. Begin to re-define the mission and vision of outdoor ministry in Northwestern Wisconsin and Northeastern Minnesota.
  4. Develop a long-range plan for realizing the mission and present to the members of both camps at their respective annual meetings in October, 2013.

While the Board of Directors has attended to a considerable amount of other work over the past year, much of which will be detailed in the report’s of the Executive Staff, this is, in my estimation, the most vital work that the Board has been called and entrusted to do. God has given us a great gift and responsibility in stewarding this outdoor ministry; a ministry that has affected, and in many cases transformed, the lives of literally thousands of people over the years—more than likely even yours. I, personally, am eager to see what God is doing and planning to do.

Once again, Luther Point Bible Camp is blessed to have a group of passionate, concerned and committed Board Members and Executive Staff—all members of our various congregations. However, the future of Luther Point Bible Camp, as well as outdoor ministry in Northwestern Wisconsin and Northeastern Minnesota, is ultimately dependant upon the participation and support of all of our members. I ask you to not only pray for Luther Point Bible Camp and its leaders, but get excited with me and personally find ways to energize your home congregations to share in the blessing and responsibility of this great gift from God.

Rev. Mark A. Woeltge
President of the Board of Directors



Luther Park & Luther Point Board Retreat
July 13-14, 2012
Facilitator: Rev. Dr. Craig Van Gelder, Luther Seminary

Tasks and Outcomes

The boards desire to accomplish the following from this retreat time together:

  1. Become familiar with working through a theologically-framed planning process
  2. Clarify the core identity of each camp and its ministry
  3. Engage in re-imagining the mission of both camps for outdoor ministry
  4. Develop clarity of vision for moving forward in carry out this mission
  5. Determine if the current mutual ministry agreement is beneficial in continuing, and, if so, in what ways.

Dwelling in the Word

Luke 10: 1-12 – The Sending of the Seventy

Addressing *Technical and Adaptive Challenges

  1. Utilizing Technical Change to Address Presenting Issues:
    • Problem is typically clear and can be named
    • Known methods are available to solve the challenge
    • Expertise is available to use for addressing the challenge
    • Basic approach is to use a planning model (e.g. strategic planning)

*Technical planning approaches are often insufficient in being able to address many of the systemic issues now being faced

  1. Utilizing *Adaptive Change to Address Systemic Issues:
  • Real challenges underlying presenting issues are murky
  • New learning is required to address the challenge
  • God’s ordinary people on the front lines innovating experimental change
  • Basic approach is to use a discernment approach (e.g. communal Spirit-led learning)

*The Adaptive Challenge question:

“What issue(s) are we currently facing, for which we presently do not have an answer, but which we must address, if we are to live into God’s future?”

Presenting Issues

  • Decline in campers over the past decade – Luther Park = 50%; Luther Point 60%
  • Decline in revenue for both camps
  • Congregation involvement declining for both camps
  • Decline in retreat numbers for both camps
  • Camps utilized more by outside groups – but not as diverse as the broader community
  • Increasing campers from wide variety of camps
  • Backdrop of decline in the ELCA church attendance – fewer children, older membership
  • Huge changes in families
  • Economy, families are struggling financially
  • Traditional constituents declining
  • Consumer materialism – ever increasing choices (sports camps), contrary to discipleship, values
  • Camp is more appealing to traditional, rural congregations
  • Identity issues – Seclusion of location in a time of community involvement, no longer “attractional”
  • Perception: Lutheran camps for Lutherans only; summer camp only, nothing year round
  • Camp name: Luther Bible Camp – does the name help or hinder?
  • Vision/Mission: how does it relate to a broader set of constituents
  • Debt: Ratio to annual revenue – Luther Park = 50%; Luther Point = 25%
  • Infrastructure needs: Luther Park – has some concern; Luther Point – is in pretty good shape
  • Not yet as diversified as much as the market
  • Declining allegiance from the congregations as being “their” camp
  • No support from the Synod, little support from the congregations: Luther Park = 133 congregations; Luther Point = 77 congregations
  • Camping culture is shifting with a greater number of camps closing
  • Outdoor ministries have no staff or Synod level support
  • Short term mission trips compete

Additional Presenting Issues

T = Technical Issue;       A = Adaptive Issue

Luther Point

  1. Board members not clear on their roles and expectations – T
  2. Board does not have clarity on direction for ministry – T
  3. Board does not give clear direction to the staff and staff issues go unaddressed – T
  4. How does the current Executive Director’s (and executive staff’s) skill set fit the current and future ministry needs – T/A


  1. Lack of trust between the staff and Luther Park board members – T
  2. Level of politics is not being addressed, staff feels pressured to be “politically correct”, unaddressed issues – T
  3. Different cultures of the two camps: Luther Park focused on tradition; Luther Point is more flexible – T
  4. Staff feels that there is no vision for the future, ministry is year-to-year, hard to be effective – T/A
  5. Luther Park history of brokenness has not been dealt with, lack of openness, grief not dealt with – T
  6. Lack of feedback/direction from both boards to staff – T

Luther Park

  1. Development has not gone forward – T
  2. Constituents not supporting financially, don’t like the Mutual Ministry Agreement and debt – T
  3. Staffing has not been reduced in response to a reduced budget – T
  4. Interim: thankful for interim, but need a more permanent solution –
  5. Authoritarian versus Collaborative – between board and Exec. Dir. – T
  6. Need a functioning ministry plan that is self-supporting – getting worse –


Regarding the current and future ministry of Lutheran outdoor ministries camps in NW Wisconsin:

The Spirit of God is. . .


  1. Expanding our imagination to experiment with creative solutions – how to adapt our delivery
  1. Still drawing us to a deeper relationship to God through outdoor ministries
  1. Openly inviting us to open the invitation to all people:

–          Challenge us to look for opportunities in secular and ethnic arenas

–          (The Spirit of God is. . . ) bigger than “us”

  1. Challenging us to rethink our relationship to congregations and neighboring communities and schools
  1. Calling both camps to new ministry forms and functions


  1. Calling us to communicate on numerous levels
  1. Has given us a “place apart” – a gift to steward/share
  1. Teaching us that we do some thing better together than alone
  1. Calling us to serve through the holy Word and holy play
  1. Building healthy and holy relationships – yet, for those we serve
  1. Working through counselors to share and grow faith in those we serve

–          Living into our mission/vision in our ministries

  1. Shaping young leaders for those who serve as camp counselors


  1. Our outdoor ministry has yet to develop the practices of ministry that stewards our God-given outdoor resources for a new and wider population that leads to expanded relationships with God and one another.
  2. We don’t know how to adapt to the changing partnerships in ministry or how to best cultivate our present partnerships.
  3. Our current mindset has hampered us from embracing change and including “others.”
  4. Recognize or identify the wants and needs of today’s and future families and how to develop relationships with our partners with identifying those needs (wants and needs may lead to default).

“You don’t know how to connect with the future that God has given you. . .

You are blue zone leaders in a red zone reality. You need to do some green zone experiments; cultivating the conversation at the board level.”

                                                                            ~Rev. Dr. Craig Van Gelder