By Mark D. Burkhardt, Director for Outdoor Ministries, ELCA
Sometimes change happens suddenly and dramatically. We were all reminded of this again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Life will never again be the same for the residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast. In other situations, change happens more slowly; so slow that it’s almost unperceivable.
How is it with your outdoor ministry organization these days? What changing? Can you see or sense the change? Is it planned change? Or, does it feel like something is happening that’s hard to identify? I have had many conversations over the past two or three years that lead me to believe that there are some dramatic changes happening for many of our ELCA outdoor ministry organizations.
What are some of the signs of change?
- Declining or erratic summer camp enrollment
- Staffing challenges (year-round and summer)
- New patterns of financial support
- New opportunities for partnerships with other ministries (Lutheran and non-Lutheran)
- Outdoor ministry boards need to be attentive to change.
What are the stressors and possible signs of change affecting your organization? Do you have a way to talk about these important matters as a board? If it’s been awhile since your board talked about what’s changing, get it on the board agenda sometime soon. Ignoring the signs of change or leaving them up to the paid staff to decipher is irresponsible board behavior. Dealing with change requires the best efforts of everyone involved. As a board member, you have a responsibility to help your organization address change. Outdoor ministry boards need to address change.
Here’s something else to consider. A healthy outdoor ministry organization is not necessarily a calm, peaceful one. Healthy organizations realize the need to change and are not content to do ministry as usual. The board and staff challenge each other regularly to grow and adapt as the world around them changes. At the same time these organizations know who they are – they have a clear identity and the board and the staff have identified their mutually shared core values. So, what about your outdoor ministry organization? Have you had an opportunity to discuss and identify your core values? Being clear about your identity will free you as an organization to change in healthy ways. Outdoor ministry boards need to embrace change.
The world around us is changing. Sometimes the change is shocking and sometimes subtle. Your outdoor ministry organization needs to change in order to be effective in ministry. What will you do, as a board member, to be attentive to change, to address change and to embrace change?