“Summer Camp develops identities and qualities in a child that are impossible to do in any other way. Nothing compares to the summer camp. The summer camp is something that offers conditions that are the most conducive to strong and standing and remaining impact. I said on another occasion; one, two, three weeks in a summer camp might do more than a year in an ordinary teaching condition.” -His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
Each summer across the country, young people flock to summer camps. They have fun, they make friends, they build bonfires and swim in lakes and pools, and at the camps of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, our campers and staff members also come into contact with Jesus Christ.
For much of the past 50 years, each Metropolis and the Direct Archdiocesan District offers summer camping ministry programs that have touched the lives of thousands of young people, clergy and staff members. And for the better part of the last decade, Leadership 100 has been at the forefront of supporting these ministries through generous grants made each summer to the Metropolises and Direct Archdiocesan District, to offer scholarships and support at the Metropolis level. “What Leadership 100 has done and continues to do for the youth of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is unparalleled. They have supported these programs, not just through words or by sending their children to these camps, but they have stepped up and offered the Metropolises and the District a financial solution to ensure that no child gets left behind when it comes to summer camp” remarked Father Evagoras Constantinides, Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Camping Ministries and Ionian Village. “And it must be our priority to make sure that these programs we offer are the absolute best, competing with all the other secular camps our children can choose from. We don’t want to have campers who were just sent to camp by mom or dad, we want campers who WANT to be at camp, who yearn to be at camp. And we are getting there, each year, by the grace of God.”
To continue working together and finding new solutions for unity and cohesiveness, over 30 camp directors and leaders of the various regional Camping Ministry programs of the District, Metropolises and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America met Feb. 26-28, 2018 at the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Southgate, Michigan for the first Annual Greek Orthodox Camping Ministries Leadership Conference. Hosted by the Archdiocesan Office of Camping Ministries in conjunction with the Metropolis of Detroit, this was the first time that representatives from the Greek Orthodox camps across the Archdiocese came together for the sole purpose of discussing Camping Ministries, their development and growth across the Archdiocese.
The conference began with opening remarks from Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, Director of Ionian Village and the Archdiocesan Office of Camping Ministries. His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit then offered the first keynote address. He spoke to the attendees about leadership and emphasized that camps need to focus on the “why” when building and promoting their camps. The second keynote presentation was offered by Christy Buck, the Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, who spoke about the mental wellness of campers and staff, and how to address mental illnesses at camp with an approach that is both pastoral and respectful of appropriate boundaries.
Through a series of participant-driven reflections and discussions, the Conference identified three main aspects of Camping Ministries to address: the camper, the staff member, and the organization. Lefteri Sitaras (Director of All Saints Camp in the Metropolis of San Francisco) spoke about the Camper, Father Elias Villis (Director of Camp Saint Paul of the Direct Archdiocesan District) spoke about the Staff Member, and Eva Konstantakos (Youth Director of the Metropolis of Detroit and Director of Saint Nicholas Summer Camp) spoke about the Organization. For each topic, the presenters shared a short reflection, which stimulated further discussions and break out groups. Conversations among the participants were lively and wide-ranging, which gave the camp directors and leaders from across the Archdiocese the opportunity to learn more about each other’s programs and ministries. In addition, each break out produced content and direction for the Office of Camping Ministries to further develop its mission and the resources it provides.
The Conference fostered a collaborative environment that encouraged discussions and participation from the attendees. Participants continued conversations about topics through meals and other appointed breaks. Other topics of discussion included the new Policies for the Safety of Youth and Children that was created by the National Youth Office and how its implementation will affect the Camping Ministries programs of the Archdiocese, and marketing and fundraising practices. This ground-breaking opportunity for the camp directors to come together set an important precedent for the leadership of the Greek Orthodox camping community to remain engaged with each other and to continue to meet annually to discuss policies, methodologies, and content so that the quality and safety of all Camping Ministries across the Archdiocese will improve substantially. Throughout the Conference, the camp directors reaffirmed their commitment to work with each other and the Archdiocesan Office of Camping Ministries to collectively strengthen all the camping programs of the Archdiocese that provide such a unique and important ministry to our young people.