Even Retreat People Need to Retreat

Last week, Gary Lawson and I left one retreat center for another in search of rejuvenation, inspiring ideas, and new (and old) friends who are passionate about camping ministry. Nearly 30 camping professionals from Las Vegas to New York, from Michigan to Alabama and everywhere in between gathered in a sleepy, magical town called Beersheba Springs for three days to soak up the wisdom of wonderful speakers and the brilliance of each other.


We talked about how to best tell our story and who to tell it to. We talked about all the social medias, how they are different, how they are alike and what the rules are for each. We talked about white space and clean design. We discussed brand as an overall personality of the organization.

Most importantly, we talked about The Power of Why, and how even if you get all the other stuff right, if people don’t know why you do what you do, it really doesn’t matter that you have an awesome water park or a slingshot course or the coolest zip line around.


For three days, in this sleepy, magical little town, we got to learn some tools to share with people why we do what we do, all within the context of The Why. We meditated on that as we learned all of these things.

After a long, hot summer full of crazy-busy-can-I-nap-yet days, it was good to mediate on The Why. Why do people love Lakeshore so much? Why do they keep coming back? Why do we work so hard to program great events? Why do we call this place home and these people family? Why is this work so important?

Because God loves you. Unconditionally.
Because Lakeshore is a place set apart, offering ways for all people to experience life, love and the God of grace.
Because camp is sacred ground where you can often hear that still, small voice.
Because the Spirit moves and lives are changed here.

That is why. That is why we went to learn how to better communicate our story. Not because we have something to offer, but because God does, and we have found that sometimes it is easier to see when you retreat away from your ordinary surroundings.

It was for me. Three days in Beersheba Springs, and we are back, ready for retreat season. Ready to welcome you to a place set apart, so you too, can be reminded that God loves you.


-Jennie Dickerson


The Ultimate Fall Retreat Guide

Summer camp may be over, but the year-round ministry of Lakeshore is alive and well. Retreat season at Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center is well underway after the Scrapbooking group came and created beautiful things last weekend.

Our Fall is full, and we have a little something for everyone at every age group. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of returning to our everyday routines, don’t forget to take time to retreat and reflect on what is most important. I often find that whatever anxiety I am facing melts as soon as I see the Lakeshore sign on Pilot Knob Road. I immediately switch gears and see with clarity the big picture that God is Love, and I am His and the worries of this world are fleeting.


I encourage you, too, to allow yourself a weekend this season to fix your eyes and your heart on Him at the shore of the Tennessee River.



Elementary O.W.L.S. #3 9/23-9/25 (ages 9-12) – This is a tent-sleeping, fire-building, outdoor safety, knot-tying, meal-cooking, Jesus-worshiping kind of weekend. Safely learn outdoor skills during a weekend under the stars.

Jr./Sr. High OWLS #4 10/7-10/9 (ages 12-18)This, too, is a tent-sleeping, fire-building, outdoor safety, knot-tying, meal-cooking, Jesus-worshiping kind of weekend. Safely learn outdoor skills during a weekend under the stars.

Older Elementary Retreat 10/21-10/23 (ages 9-12) This year’s theme is “Mighty”! Join us as we discover what Paul is meaning in the book of Ephesians when he says to “Put on the full armor of God.” As a community of God’s children we will answer one very important question: what do we do when life is not easy? Travel with your youth group for this retreat.

Jr./Sr. High Retreat 11/11-11/13  – We aren’t revealing the theme on this one just yet, but it’s going to be a good one. If you’re missing your friends from camp this summer, this is the place to find them. Travel with your youth group for this retreat. Age limits are dependent on the ages your church considers junior and senior high ministry.


Young Adult Wilderness 11/4-11/6 (ages 18-35)Remember before you had to adult and the best thing was going to camp in the summer and trying to explain to your friends why it was cool not to shower for a whole week? Remember good nights and mud volleyball (sans the volleyball) and archery and s’mores? Let’s go back to that shall we? Never did that? It’s about time, then isn’t it? Forget the adulting for a few days and worship God in the woods in the place we love most.

Scrapbooking 11/18-11/20 – Do you ever feel like you just have to express yourself or create something? The scrapbooking group gets your inner crafty side. Come relax and craft while the fall leaves are creating an unmistakable masterpiece themselves.


MCSAM 9/23-9/25 – The Memphis Conference Singles Adult invites you to relax and reflect at the Shore. This group is the place to make great memories and long-lasting friends. Register online at: Memphis-umc.net/mcsam-registration

Men’s Emmaus 9/29-10/2 – The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. Sign up through your home church.

Retirees Retreat 10/4-10/5 – A two-day reunion gathers the retired clergy in fellowship and worship. It is a testament to the relational aspect of the Methodist church and the relationships formed in ministry.

Women’s Emmaus 10/13-10/16 – The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. Sign up through your home church.

United Methodist Women 11/5-11/6 – This retreat is an opportunity for women to learn and grow in their faith while meeting others from throughout the Memphis Conference. The United Methodist Women’s purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ, to develop a creative supportive fellowship and to expand concepts of mission.

Scrapbook 11/18-11/20 – Do you ever feel like you just have to express yourself or create something? The scrapbooking group gets your inner crafty side. Come relax and craft while the fall leaves are creating an unmistakable masterpiece themselves.



Last week we said goodbye to Summer 2016 and to the staff that made our camping ministry possible. We reflected on nine weeks of progressive games, watersports, archery, worship, God talks and more. Nearly 2,000 campers spent time at the Shore this summer, and more than 39,000 volunteer hours helped make memories with all of them.

While camp has suddenly become awfully quiet, and there were definitely tears and heavy hearts when everyone left last week, we know that Lakeshore is not just a fun place to escape in the summer. In fact, I have always thought of it as a training ground—a place of spiritual formation.

One of the last worships of the summer focused on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The worship team talked about how they should not be sad about leaving, but excited to go and share all their experiences from the summer. They even mapped out their mission field. We are sad to see them go, but we know they are going to be #aboutthefamilybusiness in their communities, and we are proud of the work they will do and the love they will share.

Go forth among the nations.jpg

The summer may be over and the grounds may be quiet, but we are not finished with this year yet! We are merely transitioning to a different phase of our ministry–one that is based on retreating away from the every day routine and seeking renewal on the shore of the Tennessee River. We have many wonderful things planned for this season. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s retreat schedule release!


Camp Hope Series: Highs and Lows

This is the final post in our Camp Hope blog series. Our guest blogger today is Megan Montgomery, former Camp Hope director. Megan is another camp staffer I have witnessed grow from camper to summer staff to director, and she reminds me that campers are not the only ones changed by their experience. Lakeshore trains excellent leaders through summer staff. These leaders can assess a situation and adjust for the group. They can handle conflict and emergencies, and they have an out-of-this-world work ethic. Megan is one of these leaders, and this is what she has to say about her summer.

Megan Montgomery

“One thing we do often at Lakeshore is refer to our “highs and lows.” Sometimes it’s at the end of every day or every week or even the summer as a whole. Throughout my time at camp, there are a few highs and lows that will always stick out to me.

I had just finished counseling the first week of Camp Hope, and I remember crying after the girls left. It was one of my personal “lows” because I felt I had failed to connect with them—especially one girl in particular—and that I had not provided an atmosphere for them to see any real truths about themselves, much less about God. I always felt uneasy on check-out days, especially working with the Camp Hope series. You never know once they walk out the door whether or not they will ever be back or if their experience was one that would hold any weight once they returned home.

The next summer I returned as the director for the Camp Hope series, and miraculously, the camper from that week showed up grinning ear to ear! Gone was the girl I knew, and before me stood a mature, intelligent, bubbly young woman (who was excited to see me, much to my surprise.) She carried herself in a way that demanded respect, much unlike the previous summer. Looking back now, that week as a whole turned out to be one of my all-time “highs.”

In my faith, I have discovered many big truths in the contrasts. How the deepest pain leads me to believe even more in God’s great love. How the guilt of my sin makes me so much more thankful for His grace. In the same way, the best part about working at camp summer after summer was having the opportunity to see change in the kids that return each year—especially in the Camp Hope program. The contrast between the girl I struggled to connect with when I was a counselor to the young woman who greeted me the next summer reminded me that God works in our lives even we can’t quite see the relevance.

While working with the Camp Hope program, I watched a girl who was scared to speak in public lead a group in song and dance. I saw a boy overcome his fear of swimming to spend his afternoon laughing on a tube at the lake. I saw anger replaced by peace in the hearts of kids who might otherwise only view themselves as a problem. I saw the look change in kids’ eyes as they realized that they are not defined by their circumstances. Time and time again, I have seen God manifested in the seemingly insignificant moments at camp.

I know there is power in all of the small things, and I believe that they build on each other to create an even bigger story. The Camp Hope program gives kids an opportunity to look at their lives—all the “highs” and all the “lows”—in relation to the magnitude of God’s love for them. I cannot speak for every kid that I met at Camp Hope, but my prayer is that they have found as much significance in their time at Lakeshore as I have merely having the opportunity to know them.”

Today, I urge you to pray for our leaders. Pray for summer staff, directors, volunteer counselors, leadership teams and permanent staff. Pray that we may be lead by the Lord to facilitate more highs and be a comfort during the lows. Pray that God will use us all in ministry to His children through their time at Lakeshore.



Camp Hope Series: Director’s Cut 2.0

With just over 24 hours left in our crowdfunding campaign for camp scholarships, last year’s Camp Hope Series director would like to share with you some reflections on her experience working with this ministry. I have known Sara Mischke since she was a camper and a VC and watched her grow up to serve on staff for four summers. This program is near to her heart, and I’m so grateful that she is willing to share what it means to her.

Sara and kiddos.jpg
Sara with Lakeshore Volunteer Counselors. Summer 2015.

“How do you describe the experiences shared at Camp Hope? How do you put into words the joy and love you feel as you walk down the gravel road singing songs or throwing a football? What is that emotion you feel as you let a child braid, unbraid, and re-braid your hair while craning your neck to actively engage in eight conversation happening around the room because each one of those girls deserves to be heard? Would it suffice to label this feeling as happiness or bliss? Would boundless encompass the energy you display playing countless hours of basketball because that’s the time you see that one kid light up, and you all of the sudden share something with this kid who thought he was too cool to sing a prayer before each meal? Does sadness include all of the thoughts you have as you see your campers driving away heading back to those situations they got to escape for four nights; those situations they opened up and shared with you including their deepest fears and darkest stains?

I’m not sure I can describe these feelings to you. These words I have used to attempt this task do not even scratch the surface. However, let me assure you; the campers feel these indescribable emotions much more intensely. They feel that joy, love, happiness, bliss, boundless energy, openness, acceptance, sincerity, and community. Most importantly, they get the opportunity to experience God and what His love feels like. Offering a chance for these campers to experience life, love, and the God of grace has been the most fulfilling work of my life. I say this because when I was a camper at Lakeshore this was the place I found the person I could be in Christ, and I am so thankful for that life altering experience.”

Thank you to everyone who has been faithful to support this ministry through a gift to the Lakeshore Campership Fund. We could not create moments and memories like the ones Sara describes without your help.


Camp Hope Series: Life-Altering Truths

Over the last few days, you have read about the long-lasting impact of the Camp Hope series both from the camper and director perspective. Today, I want to share with you some of the things our Camp Hope girls had to say about their experience last week. These are the moments, the feelings and epiphanies that are happening right now. Each week, lives are being changed, memories are being made and life-altering truths are being discovered. These are the comments they shared with us.

Camp Hope Cross
Camp Hope Series. Week 3. Summer 2016.

What have you learned this week to help you when you head home?

“Help others. It doesn’t matter what others think of you. Be yourself and trust others.”

“Forgive, trust, and don’t live in the past.”

“I am not a mistake, and God always loves me.”

“I’m not the only person who has things going on. I learned that if anybody doesn’t like or need you in life, God is always there with me, every step of the way.”

“You should love yourself as you.”

“No matter what happens, God is on my side.”

“No one is a mistake.”

Why do you think this camp is important? Why should others attend?

“This camp helps you through things.”

“Camp is important because it helps you realize you are loved.”

“Others should attend because camp helps to grow a family.”

“I think it’s important because it relieves stress and shows you what love is. It teaches you about God, and shows you that you are important. It also makes you feel open to people because we are in foster care.”

“It was important because I learned so much about lots of things. I think know everyone should come to this camp because the counselors would love you like a mom you never had.”

“It really helps to talk about your problems to people who care.”

“It helps us learn that we have to forgive others and trust people in life.”

Where did you see God this week? What moment did you feel the most loved?

“I saw God when we were all together talking and having fun. I felt the most love on the last night when we were all together like a family.”

“I think it would be girls’ night the most, but I did see God everywhere.”

“The middle of this week because that’s when I met new people and learned how God loves us no matter what happens in your life.”

“I saw God in worship and theme time because he opened me up to learn how to love myself for me.”

The summer is just getting started, and more and more of these moments are left to be made. Pray for Camp Hope. Pray for these girls as they go back home, that they may always remember what they learned at Lakeshore. Pray for all the other campers who need to hear the same truths — that God will always love them and that they are not a mistake.


Camp Hope Series: Director’s Cut

We have another guest submission for the blog today! Katie Strickland Swift has been a dear friend for fifteen years. In fact, she is the one who brought me to camp for the first time. Ten years ago, we started on summer staff and counseled our first Camp Hope Series camp together. Brionna Martin was one of our campers. When Brionna shared her story last week, Katie got in touch with me, excited to hear about the lasting impact of a program that means so much to both of us and to Lakeshore.

Jennie and Katie Oxley
Jennie Dickerson and Katie Strickland Swift. Summer of 2006

In 2008, Katie was the Camp Hope director, spending her whole summer with the Camp Hope program. The next year, I received a letter from Katie as I was about to embark on my own director experience with the Wilderness camp. She told me that over the summer I would learn to love more deeply than I knew possible. She was absolutely right. Read below as she shares her story of the impact of the Camp Hope Series from the director’s perspective.

Oxley 2008
Camp Hope Campers. Summer of 2008

I remember my first week counseling Camp Hope. It’s been 10 years, almost to the day actually, and I can still remember how nervous I was. It was probably partially because I knew these campers had been through far more than I ever had, and partially due to the fact that in those days we stayed in a house in the middle of the woods that I was told was haunted. I never saw the ghost I was told about, but I was changed by the experience. Two years after counseling my first Camp Hope I became the Director and had a summer that changed me.

Directing Camp Hope was the most challenging and most fulfilling job I’ve had to this very day, and almost a decade later I think of that summer and those campers often. My memories are full of serving up pancake breakfasts, bonding as a team at the ropes course, cookouts at the waterfront, making crafts, and decoupaging journals. I remember laughter and giggles, singing around campfires, staying up way too late, and everything else that summer camp should be made of.

I also remember really hard things. Stories of abuse. Meeting the toddler children of teenage campers. Learning about kids that had been in more foster homes than the number of years they had been alive. Listening to tales of fathers that didn’t care, or mothers that were addicted to drugs. Distributing so many meds that were prescribed to help them deal with depression, with mental disorders, with side effects of rape and abuse…

I remember one camper in particular who tested my patience more than any other. During 3 years of working at camp, he is the only one that ever flat-out refused to participate in low ropes activities, no matter what tactic I tried, and he proved that stubbornness over and over all week long. I cried with frustration at night, not knowing what to do to get through to him. And I sobbed with sadness when he left to go home to a dad who, I had discovered throughout the week, didn’t seem to care at all about his son. I realized there was a reason he acted the way he did, and underneath it all was a boy who just wanted someone to care.

I remember another girl, who was probably 12 or 13 at the time, whose social worker pulled me aside when she was dropped off to let me know that she had suspected abuse, and was looking into it. This camper was quiet, and she had what looked like cigarette burns on her arm. But she was full of kind smiles and got along really well with the other girls in the group. This young lady celebrated her birthday with us that week, and we had the privilege of throwing her first birthday party she had ever had, complete with hats and noisemakers, and birthday cake with candles.

After she blew out the candles, I heard another camper exclaim, “This isn’t camp! It’s home!”

That’s the beauty, and the hard truth, of Camp Hope – for many of these children, this one week of camp feels more like home than their own home does. During that week, we strive to give these teenagers a chance where they can just be kids, where they can laugh and play and make things and swim and not worry about anything. At Camp Hope we also add a layer of life skills, teaching them how to handle the tough situations they often find themselves in, how to control their anger, how to find peace in stressful situations, and how to find their value and their worth. That summer, I witnessed so many campers who desperately needed a break, find a break. Find peace. Find God’s love.

These days, I work at an organization whose goal is to help children have fullness of life. And that’s what I think Camp Hope is all about, too – fullness of life, if only for a week. But I pray that their experiences at Camp Hope have stuck with them, as they have for me, and continues to for a lifetime.

When you give a gift to help fund a camp scholarship, you can help kids who need it the most have a break and have a lot of fun! Please consider giving a gift to the Campership fund to help make Camp Hope possible.