On Monday the CFA (Council on Finance and Administration) of our Indiana Conference received a very positive report of the feasibility study conducted by Mission Advance Professionals regarding the vision to build a new Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest. Based upon that positive study, CFA voted unanimously and enthusiastically to recommend to the 2015 Session of the Indiana Conference that we immediately launch a $6 million capital fund campaign for this purpose, and that we include two additional “challenge goals” beyond that $6 million to (1) build the Buck Lodge in memory of Rev. Stan Buck at Epworth Forest, and (2) complete the lake project at Camp Indi-co-so. Finally they decided that all funds received beyond these three projects will go into the Camp Scholarship Fund.
Why a new Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest? One obvious answer is that the old wooden auditorium has served us well for over 100 years, but it is more and more outdated and expensive to maintain, and of course it offers no usage during bad weather months. The new Discipleship Center will replace the old auditorium with similar capacity as a worship center, but it will also be flexible use space for recreation and other activities during the “off season” from summer camping. The space will be flexible, with good heating and air conditioning, modern equipment for media usage, and just a huge improvement over the old auditorium. The Discipleship Center will also include break-out space for leadership development events, and in general it will help us to reach, develop, and nurture Christian discipleship for people of all ages year-round.
A second important reason for the new Discipleship Center is that this fits into our Indiana Conference mission and vision of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Our camping, conference, and retreat ministries – working in collaboration with our local churches – are the best methods we have for bringing people into a commitment to Christ and then growing into Christian leaders. Given the new school schedules with limited summer time, we need year-round facilities to accomplish this mission. Many of us, including me, made commitments to Christ at Epworth Forest or other camping facilities, and still today we reach hundreds of young people every year through those same facilities. Imagine how that might include with updated, year-round facilities.
The other two “advance goals” are also related to this mission. We have built two new lodges already at Epworth Forest (the Duecker Lodge and the Fenstermacher Lodge), and interested persons have already given nearly one-half of the dollars needed to construct the Buck Lodge. Having that third lodge completed will help provide year-round housing for the Discipleship Center.
The lakes project at Camp Indi-co-so was put on hold when we discovered a major problem with the sewage system at that camp site. Our Conference Trustees and CFA spent about a half-million dollars to install a new system. Now with that fixed, the CFA and our Camping Board have approved going ahead with the project to repair and replace the old “lake” or pond to make the area more attractive and to provide some water recreation for campers.
The final option, of course is for any additional funds to go into camp scholarships to help kids go to our camping ministry programs and events.
The professional firm who conducted our feasibility study found STRONG support for these projects and for our discipleship mission. In fact, the study identified some key persons who are ready to make lead gifts to help this project happen. So CFA has approved a campaign, and that proposal will come to this year’s Annual Conference Session for approval.
I am very excited about these possibilities, and I look forward to the presentation and vote at Annual Conference. More information will be coming to you, but I want to give you this early indication of this wonderful opportunity to expand our ministry and to keep on bringing new generations to Christ.