Guest Post by Debbie Deneke

A long time United Methodist in Missouri, I have been outspoken in my opposition to the recent proposals made and actions taken related to our camping and retreat ministry. While I am certainly passionate about our Camps, my objections are not simply based on emotion. Our discussion about camps must be grounded in facts. As such, access to accurate and complete information is important.  Unfortunately, many of the facts presented by the Camping Board thus far seem incomplete.

The only number that the Camping Board has presented concerning the number of annual participants in our Camps is 2075.  My own calculations put the average number of total participants on our sites near 11,000.  The Board has claimed that our camps are only used by around 20% of our churches.  However, according to my analysis, the percentage of viable Churches for camping that use our Camps could be as high as 57%.

I offer my below analysis to the Camping Board in hopes that the Camping Board might clarify its own position on these numbers [1]:


In the original news release, September 5th, and repeated in later documents was the following statement, “The Missouri Annual conference has an average of 2,075 UM campers per year.”

The following numbers are from a table prepared by Francesca Burton, employee in the Conference Camp office. (In the numbers I use you might see some variation from similar tables in the camp office but I found some errors in the original spreadsheets. I have the documentation to back up the changes I made.)

Total Number of UM Campers 2010 2011 2012 Avg.
Total Number of UM Campers/Users 6683 5773 5848 6101
Summer Season (not including UM Summer Program) 1355 706 683 915
UM Summer Program (counselors and campers) 2484 2746 2693 2641
Labor Day – Memorial Day 2844 2321 2472 2546

Certainly some people could be double counted because they were at the camps both in the summer season and the Labor Day-Memorial Day time but I doubt if the number is significantly large.

I believe the 2,075 number you reported is (1) UM campers, (2) during the summer season, and (3) registered through the Conference office. Given those qualifiers, the number may be accurate but does not tell the whole story and because of that is misleading.

More numbers:

Participants on Site 2010 2011 2012 Avg.
Total Number of Campers/Users 11,463 10,137 11,369 10,990
Summer Season 5,335 5,094 5,377 5,269
Labor Day – Memorial Day 6,128 5,970 5,992 6,030

Also, in this table there could be double counting by participants going during both seasons.

Percentages of Churches Using Our Camps

Another statement from the news release is “about 20% of our churches in the annual conference send one or more campers”

Churches on Site 2010 2011 2012 Avg.
Total Number of Churches 713 569 669 650
Summer Season (not UM churches) 89 25 91 68
UM Churches at Summer Camp 359 359 393 370
Labor Day – Memorial Day 265 185 185 212

In 2012 there were 836 churches reporting members at the beginning and end of the year. That number won’t be totally accurate for 2010 & 2011 because of church closing and starts but it should be within the ballpark.

370/836 = 44.2%

Also, in 2012, 188 churches reported having no children or young in Christian Formation groups. If you don’t have kids, you can’t send them to camp.

836 – 188 = 648 churches with kids

370/648 = 57.1%

I believe these results are somewhat high because a church could have sent children/youth to more than one camp. A St. Louis church could easily have sent children to Blue Mountain and Jo-Ota. That church would be double counted. So, these percentages are the highest they could be and likely the correct number is somewhat lower. Even taking that into consideration the results are high enough to cause me to question the 20% figure in the news release.

Do you understand why I am skeptical of your statements and will continue to be until I know how my figures are wrong?

Can you reconcile the large discrepancies between your reported numbers and my calculations? I need to see the figures you used to come up with your numbers.


[1] This analysis has been included as a part of a longer letter sent to Rev. Ron Watts, Bishop Robert Schnase, Rev. Garrett Drake on October 19th.