This is our why.
We have witnessed individual lives transformed by the experience of God in creation and time together in community apart from typical surroundings and everyday routines. Campers leave here and return to their local congregations revitalized and ready to engage in local community and congregational ministries with a renewed empowerment and relationship with God. The ministries of the Spirit that happen in this beautiful setting take children, youth, and adults into a place apart — a place where they are valued and loved, where they try new things that build confidence and broaden horizons. At camp, there are opportunities to grow into the person God plans for you to be.
The mission of Camp Tanako is to welcome children, youth, and adults to a place set apart where they can grow in their faith by experiencing God through nature and spending time in community and respond to the call of the Holy Spirit.
7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry
The 7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry began with a prayerful discernment centered on two specific questions. What must we do well in order to be truly effective now and into the future? What is absolutely vital for us to focus on in fulfilling the church’s mission within the unique camp and retreat setting? These questions sparked two national summits attended by many United Methodist camp and retreat leaders who gathered to listen and come to a shared vision.
The 7 foundations below are the fruit of those important gatherings. Each describes the nature of an essential aspect of Christian camp and retreat ministry and provide biblical and theological grounding. The 7 Foundations of Camp and Retreat Ministry provide valuable guidance and a sense of shared direction among the many camp and retreat centers across the denomination.
Partner with United Methodist Churches and Agencies
One of the most fruitful and vital dimensions of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries is our participation in a tremendous covenant connection. United Methodists deliberately choose to link together and join forces in a common mission together. Some camp and retreat centers are private, independent operations, but United Methodist camp and retreat ministries are not. Even when our camp, retreat, and conference centers are separately incorporated for legal, operational purposes, this in no way diminishes our promise to partner with United Methodist local churches, conferences, and agencies of the larger Church in a combined effort to nurture faith in God and to reach out to meet true needs in the world together.
Provide Sacred Places Apart
Camp and Retreat Center beckons people to pause from the journey of their lives – to find renewal in an embrace with God. The seeming contradiction of temporary separation as a spiritual path toward greater connection rests at the heart of the unparalleled power of these experiences. This invitation to a place apart includes some often unexpected rhythms and understandings. All of us in United Methodist Camp and Retreat ministries encourage guests and participants to receive through letting go, to move closer by being still, to hear the Divine Word in silence, to advance through retreat, to act on God’s behalf by resting, to learn community from solitude and strangers, and to discover ways to be more present at home by taking time away. Jesus’ teaching invites people to let go of grasping to their customary patterns to find deeper dimensions of life. This is part of the meaning of his promise – “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Extend Christian Hospitality and Community
Welcoming people and doing all we can to engender a true experience of community touches people profoundly. We live in a time when people long for connections, but often hesitate to reach out to form new relationships. Individuals frequently do not even know their own neighbors. Even members of the same congregation may know each other only on superficial levels. Moving from discomfort and at times general suspicion of strangers to friendship is a precious blessing prioritized within Christian camp or retreat settings. What is commonly referred to as “community” in general parlance falls far short of what people yearn for. Definitions of community run the spectrum from simply being in a homogenous group who thinks like me to a collection of homes in the same housing development. Genuine love, however, expands the meaning of community by drawing people together despite their differences. The movement from mere politeness and tolerance to a greater level of care and recognition emerges when a group opens themselves to the Spirit of God. Christ models a wide embrace, including those shunned by others.
Nurture Christian Faith and Discipleship
The word disciple means someone who seeks and incorporates the guidance of a teacher. Christian discipleship, then, refers specifically to a growing trust in Christ while learning to integrate Christian faith teachings as a way of life. Camp and retreat ministry has an enduring reputation for frequently inspiring people to new levels of Christian discipleship. Without a doubt, camps and retreats offer unparalleled dynamics that contribute immensely to this sacred aspect of what we are about. First, people enter an environment apart from daily distractions as a time to focus more attentively on God. Second, guest and participants actually live together as a community for an extended period of time. This creates a very real potential for moving learning beyond typical classroom conversation to applying Christian faith and principles in our interactions and priorities as a temporary but intentional community of faith while at camp or on retreat. Experiential learning or active learning draws people to move from concepts to practice, from Spiritual thought to decision, from passiveness to action. Here people can explore what is possible if we commit to loving interdependence as a people of faith. A close partnership with local churches enables local leaders to understand what participants are learning about Christian Discipleship and community, so it can be reinforced and incorporated in a participant’s return to an ongoing faith community where their growth in discipleship continues. True discipleship continues in other settings, and we never want to give the impression that camp or retreats are the only place discipleship happens. We don’t want people living for a single week of camp or for the next retreat, we want them living for God.
Develop Principled Spiritual Leaders
Leaders play a critical part in shaping the present and the future for good or for ill. The number of books and resources about the nature of leadership and how to lead are innumerable. Within the plethora of perspectives and possibilities, our United Methodist camp and retreat ministries help persons grow in a very specific type of leadership. A summary of dictionary references elicits this description – “To guide others in a way to be followed, especially by going first.” First, all leadership assumes that others will be involved. Leadership training has aspects of personal development for the leader. Second, leaders take the journey, too. They walk with individuals or groups. It is active, experiential learning and guiding. In drawing people to discern and move out in a shared direction that has great potential to lead to a more beneficial future, the leader’s willingness to go first to demonstrate the way is a significant spark to ignite the passion of others. Finally, one cannot be considered a true leader for long, if no one trusts and chooses to follow. From the perspective of Stephen Covey, who has authored numerous books on personal effectiveness and leadership effectiveness, being trust worthy is essential.
Teach Creation Care and Appreciation
The waters nourishing modern camp and retreat ministry run deep within United Methodist heritage. They sprang forth unexpectedly in the 1730’s when John Wesley made a fundamental decision that would launch the Methodist movement into the mainstream of an historic “spiritual awakening” flowing from Europe into North America. With colleagues, he boldly chose to move preaching and faith formation into the “open air” where the people would have new access and new opportunities to hear and respond to the Good News. At first, even Wesley wrestled internally about the appropriateness of what he was doing. He writes in his journal, Saturday, March 31, 1731: “In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.” During a reading of the “The Sermon on the Mount”, a realization eased Wesley’s heart and mind. If Jesus often taught outdoors and trained his disciples there, then how could it be wrong? Christ himself, also, set the example of regular retreats into nature for prayer, discernment and renewal. Nature renews, stirs a sense of awe, and reveals insights into the meaning of life. Faith communities have discovered time and time again that the natural world is a powerful avenue of God’s self-revelation. The natural world speaks of the Creator.
Inspire and Equip Lives for Love and Justice
Camp and Retreat experiences provide fruitful opportunities for people to gather and to live together for a time. These times of gathering at our centers dedicated to growth in love has great potential to inspire all guests and guests groups to embrace more life giving practices and to act more justly and lovingly. Our United Methodist Social Principles state the following about community experiences provided by the Church:
The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals.
Paragraph 161, The Book of Discipline
Support for those seeking to become more responsive and loving people is enhanced greatly by a community who truly appreciates ways in which people open themselves to growth and service. This dynamic is what makes camp & retreat settings and times so significant and memorable for thousand upon thousands of participants and guests.
Camp Tanako is part of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Along with local congregations and extension ministries spread throughout the state, we are bound together in a connectional relationship. In this covenant relationship, our goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ equipped to transform the world with excellence and passion.
Participants in the ministries at Camp Tanako leave this setting to return to local congregations revitalized to engage in local community and congregational ministries with a renewed empowerment and relationship with God. Camp is a part of the process that begins in the home and local churches. Camp is full of rich experiences that immerse participants in an array of opportunities to meet Christ face to face. Experiences at Camp Tanako offer participants an opportunity for spiritual revival by shifting focus from the trappings and stress of daily life to the One who is the Source of Life. Those experiences that happen at camp translate back to local churches. It is goal to fan an ember of flame that has been sparked in the local church. This flame is encouraged to burn even brighter through experiences at camp.
WE ARE CONNECTED
American Camp Association
One purpose of the ACA Accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. The standards establish guidelines for needed policies, procedures, and practices. The camp is then responsible for the ongoing implementation of the policies. Camp Tanako has voluntarily submitted to ACA Accreditation and been accredited since 2003. We are proud of this enormous accomplishment! ACA Accreditation ensures that Camp Tanako is providing the best in all areas of camp operation.
Arkansas Conference Camping and Retreat Ministries
Christian camps and retreats invite persons and groups to sacred settings typically within the natural world where the creation can speak to their hearts of God. In tandem with the Holy Spirit, [camps] will give guests and participants unparalleled opportunities to focus on the deeper meaning of their lives by inviting them away from normal routine and distraction. These intentional times apart are a catalyst for new possibilities that embody the Church’s mission to nurture Christian discipleship and to engage persons in the transformation of the world through love and justice.
United Methodist Camping and Retreat Ministries
UMCRM seeks to provide support and benefits in addition to the excellent resources currently provided by UMC Discipleship Ministries through its resource person, Kevin Witt. Formerly the National Camp & Retreat Committee (NCRC), the UMCRM Association was formed in 2013 with the vote of confidence and pioneering spirit of our Charter Members. As a member Association we intend to be a more agile and creative organization to respond to the changing needs of our ministries, our denomination, and the world in which we serve.