Summer 2021 was one like no other. Each of our ministries had to adjust and pivot our approach to programming to stay as safe as possible. Executive Director, Dave Cairns shares some reflections on the summer as we look to fall ministry at CPM.
Grateful! As I reflect on the past summer of ministry, the word Grateful has been on the lips of many full-time staff members. We entered June with a sense of anticipation that was unique to any previous summer. It is typical that I experience the “first day of school” stomach flutters as the summer staff arrive. What was different this year was that there were fewer staff and they were younger than normal. Similar to the news reports on employee shortages, we also felt the crunch. Natalie Swanson, CPBC Program Director and Matt White, AC Camp Director did a phenomenal job of recruiting high school and college students to serve this summer. They were creative in structuring staffing configurations to ensure we would serve well and provide a God honoring experience. And the staff were excellent! They came together as ministry teams to love campers, support each other and be used by God. I am grateful for our 2021 summer staff.
Last winter, while we were still in the midst of uncertainty regarding summer of 2021, staff and board members worked to project what our summer attendance would be. In a normal year, our CPBC camp session attendance ranges from 150 to 200. With the information available at the time and with the knowledge that 2020 was zero attendance, we conservatively set out goals (and a budget) to serve 100 campers per week. We continued to revise this number and increased to 150 campers as the summer approached. In the end, we exceeded the initial number of campers projected with over 1100 youth campers at CPBC. It was also obvious that families and youth groups were looking for opportunities to explore the Boundary Waters. Adventurous Christians served a full summer of paddle groups composed of youth groups and families as well as neighborhood friends and adult groups. Campers arrived via cars, bus and van from Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. I am grateful for the parents who entrusted their campers into our care for a week.
The only ministry center in 2020 that remained full was Silver Beach Family Camp. The summer of 2021 was no different with nearly every week and every cabin being utilized. What joy it was to have two, three and four generations of families gather at Silver Beach. Memories were made while tie-dying shirts, fishing with grandpas, swimming with cousins (and new friends), as well as conversations about God around the campfire. I am grateful for the legacy of God’s faithfulness expressed through families.
As I reflect on all that was the summer of 2021, I am grateful that God was present and campers took a Next Step in Christian Faith. As one camper shared, “I’m the best of who God made me when I’m at camp.” Even as we transition into our Fall ministry season, we look forward in anticipation of what God will do next Summer. We hope to see you at camp in 2022!
Our Executive Director at CPM, Dave Cairns shares a message about about living into our value Open,Honest, Direct Communication. This is the fourth in a series where we will be sharing how we at CPM live into our six core values.
Open, Honest, Direct Communication
When I was asked to write this values highlight, I had a direction in mind that I thought I was going. After the events transpired over the weekend in the Twin Cities, I felt compelled to pivot and change directions. I share this with you – a supporter of Covenant Pines Ministries, as my goal is to communicate openly, honestly and directly about where my heart and mind has been this past week.
I’m hurting. Not physically, but on a much deeper level. Once again our community and region has seen the tragic death of a black man. Daunte Wright was killed less than 5 miles from my house and is the same age as one of my sons. I’m frustrated and angry. I’m hurting. And yet, I know that I can’t understand the anguish and pain that others feel. My emotions are limited by my experiences, my skin color, my privilege.
Why do I share this? One of CPM’s core values is Open, Honest, Direction Communication and I’m trying to live into this value. Over the past few months, different staff members have written on one of our six value statements. These statements frame our ministry.
And so, I write with a transparency that is uncomfortable for me. I share a vulnerability that makes me feel exposed, for I like to keep my cards close to my vest. I strive to be that pillar of strength and consistency. Not only do I share this with you all, but our staff have been openly sharing, praying and processing what is going on in Brooklyn Center this week as well. We have found that this year, communication has been key, even when it is difficult to understand each other or when things are painful to discuss.
In Zechariah 8:16, the prophet instructs us to “speak the truth to one another.” I fully acknowledge the difficulty this can be at times. As Executive Director of Covenant Pines Ministries it would sometimes be easier to create my own narrative about CPM. One that places our ministry in the best light, highlighting all our strengths, while covering up our shortcomings. While living into this value, my hope is that we at CPM communicate with transparency both externally, to our churches, campers, donors and supporters; as well as internally on our staff and board. At times, this is easy – like sharing a positive camper story or giving the update that we exceeded our goal for the Big Picture Campaign. At other times, this is difficult – when having to share the decision to cancel all youth programs in 2020 or like this week, lamenting alongside our grieving church communities after a tragedy. We strive to do both.
Our hope is that we continue to embrace this value by answering your questions honestly, communicating with transparency and effectiveness, recognizing mistakes and acknowledging a path forward. It is my prayer that as you interact with our staff, you will experience this core value being lived out.
To read our previous value highlights, click below:
Seeing the Big Picture Campaign Reflection
Take a step back.
When we do that, we gain a perspective that we can miss when our focus is in close. In July, Covenant Pines Ministries launched the Big Picture Campaign to raise $250,000 prior to December 31st. In essence, this was an attempt to step back from the day to day details of our COVID19 decision making and gain a better perspective on the financial health of our ministry. I’m thankful for the many individuals, families and churches who have responded. We have made progress, but still have a ways to go.
The COVID crisis has forced all of us to step back in different ways. I have appreciated the time to reflect on the ministry impact of CPM. As a former camper and counselor, I’ve thought of the many ways my life has been shaped through CPBC. From early childhood memories to hearing a call to ministry to being mentored as a young staff member, camp has shaped who I am.
As the picture above shows, on a sunny day in July, I was able to gather with my two predecessors: Mark Cairns and Bruce Peterson. Mark and Bruce represent 41 years of leadership for Covenant Pines. In 1973, Mark (who is also my father) was hired as the first Year-Round Camp Manager. I tell people that he was hired to run the summer ministry and winterize the property. In the Fall of 1977, our family left and Bruce Peterson arrived. During the next 37 years, camp would grow and expand exponentially in both facilities and breadth of ministry.
These two men represent years of care and investment in Covenant Pines Ministry. They also have cared for and invested in me throughout my life. And that is the Big Picture I want to remind us all of today. Yes, camp is a group of buildings located on certain pieces of property, but it is so much more. It is campers exploring the Boundary Waters for the first time. It is families slowing down enough to talk about faith matters. It is a junior high boy feeling God nudge them towards ministry. It is the summer staff of guides, cooks, counselors and life guards talking about Jesus with campers.
As you reflect on the Big Picture of CPM, I encourage you to envision the way God used staff, scriptures, worship, prayer and creation to shape you and your family. The Big Picture of CPM is Changed Lives.
To learn more about the Seeing the Big Picture Campaign, visit here.
Tate Randall has been involved with Covenant Pines Ministries for many years. In 1997, he boarded the bus at Crosstown Covenant Church with his two brothers for his first trip to camp. Tate came back almost every summer and attended several Fall & Winter Retreats. In 2009, he joined the CPBC summer staff as counselor. For the next 6 summers he continued to serve in a variety of roles including Audio Visual Tech. In that role, he gained skills in photography, video production, and social media.
After graduating, Tate was hired to be on the CPBC Ministry Staff team and then was brought on as the CPBC Marketing Director the next year. In 2015 the role expanded to encompass all of Covenant Pines Ministries and Tate was eventually relocated to the Twin Cities. In his time with CPM Tate has: evolved the ministry’s branding, created new relationships with churches, developed our new website, taken thousands of photos, edited hours of video, interviewed dozens of campers, put on the Egg Man costume a few times, and led an 80s-themed aerobics class for Women’s Retreat. Ultimately, Tate has helped us tell the story of God’s work through our camps.
Tate’s original calling was the classroom. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse with a degree in Social Studies Education. It was toward the end of his college career when he felt God calling him to camping ministry. After 10 summers and 6 retreat seasons, Tate felt a strong tug back to the classroom. He has accepted a position as a 7th & 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Hope Academy. We are very sad to see him go, but joyfully celebrate with him as he enters this next chapter.
“I love that the mission of Covenant Pines is to ‘encourage campers to take a next step in Christian faith.’ When I reflect on my own journey with Christ and the steps I’ve taken in my faith, it’s kind of ridiculous how many of those steps have taken place at Covenant Pines. In 7th grade, I remember walking out of Chapel reflecting on the lyrics of the song ‘Sanctuary’ and deciding that I wanted those words to be true about my life. On summer staff, I felt an inexpressible freedom when a time of extended prayer compelled me to surrender parts of my life that were holding me back from all that God had for me. In 2014, I led the Day Camp program and God taught me that servant leadership is not the same as trying to do everything yourself. After the CPM camera drone flew away at AC and I couldn’t find it, God led me right to it after I finally remembered to pray…about 6 hours later.
I fell in love with scripture at CPBC. I played guitar in front of people for the first time in Chapel. As a counselor, God taught me how to engage with young people and how to be patient with them too. In McGregor I cried about a hundred times and laughed about a hundred times more. It’s where I made life-long friends and it’s where I met my soon-to-be wife.
I would not be the man I am today without the impact of Covenant Pines. I have taken hundred of steps in my faith because of the people who give selflessly and because of the God who gives them the strength to do so. This is not goodbye, this is simply a page turn. I have enjoyed this chapter as a full-time staff member. I look forward to the next chapter as a volunteer, family-camper and whatever else God has in store. I also look forward to what God does through the next Marketing Director. May she or he fully embrace the good works that He has planned for them.”
In 2005 my family took a literal step into the unknown. We relocated across the country, I started with a new camping ministry and we built a house. Each of these three events shaped the next decade of our family. We eventually became comfortable on the East Coast and my kids readily identify with New England as where they grew up. Through new experiences and challenges, I developed greatly as a leader and Executive Director. The new house we built transformed from concrete, 2×4’s and drywall to our “Home”. It became full of significant life memories (first steps, broken bones, shared holidays and much more) that define our family. It was bittersweet in 2015 to leave our home to start a new chapter of our life with Covenant Pines Ministries (CPM).
CPM is now poised to embark on a similar bittersweet period. At the April CPM Annual Meeting, I announced that we are moving forward on three building projects in the near future. While exciting and new, each project will bring a sense of loss for some. Change always does that. One of the stated values of CPM is to “Embrace Healthy Change.” This is what we are hoping to live into.
Beginning in the Fall of 2018, we are constructing a new Lakeside cabin at Silver Beach Family Camp. In recent years, we have been able to replace two of the original seasonal cabins with beautiful year-round cabins. These cabins have been funded primarily through memorial and estate gifts by individuals who have desired to see families impacted through camping ministry. This new cabin will continue this vision.
While maintaining its wilderness feel, Adventurous Christians is striving to serve campers better by creating isolation space where sick campers can rest and bathe. (The Cook County Health Inspector has also asked us to create such space). We have received an extremely generous gift that will fund the construction of a Health Center. We are also intending to add a second level to the building in order to expand available housing for staff members.
In July of 1955, Covenant Pines Bible Camp was dedicated “for worship in prayer and praise; for the ministry of the Word of God and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.“ This ministry purpose has not changed over the years, but how we do ministry has changed. A large, seasonal building with straight rows, functioned wonderfully in our early years. But as we developed into a year-round ministry and the use of worship spaces changed, the Chapel remained the same. The Gospel, the lake views and maybe the smell have remained constant, but the building is functionally lacking. Looking towards the future, and needing to address structural issues, we have decided to build a new worship space. Beginning in the Fall of 2018, a building task force will be meeting to lead the construction process. A team is also being assembled to assist with the significant fundraising effort needed.
I recognize the bittersweetness of new buildings and the sense of loss that can accompany them. I feel them myself. I have sat with Ken Bosworth and listened to stories of the formative years at AC. I personally lived at Silver Beach and walked past the original cabins daily. I’ve sat in too many chapel services to remember and watched as counselors shared Jesus with campers in our beloved A-frame Chapel. At the same time, I’m excited to see what new reality we will live into. The vision of Covenant Pines Ministries is “to Change a Life.” While buildings don’t do this, they do provide the physical space where campers can meet God. I ask that you join me in praying for these three upcoming building projects. If you are interested in learning more about any of the projects, curious about volunteering to bring them to reality or want to contribute financially, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.