The 2015 Session of the Indiana Conference approved the launching of a capital campaign to build a new $6 million center at Epworth Forest, with additional challenge goals of finishing the Buck Lodge at Epworth Forest, completing the lakes project at Camp Indi-co-so, and establishing an endowment fund for camp scholarships. I was asked to name a Campaign Committee, which I have done (see previous announcements), and they have begun their work and have established a total goal (including the challenge projects) of $9 million.

The Campaign Committee has approved calling this campaign "Building Discipleship Centers" – and the plural terminology denotes that we are building at more than one site, and it also denotes that every local church is a "discipleship center." By combining our local church efforts with our camping ministries, we can have "discipleship centers" all over the state. I like that plural terminology, because it reminds us that our mission is not about buildings, campgrounds, or even specific programs – it is about developing disciples and new leaders.

In addition to a Campaign Committee to raise these funds, we are organizing a Building Committee to help design the new Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest, the lakes project at Indi-co-so, and the Buck Lodge:

  • the Discipleship Center at Epworth Forest will replace the nearly-100 year old wooden auditorium with a year-round facility that includes a large multi-purpose room for worship and indoor activities, along with meeting and break-out rooms that will be a "Young Leaders Center."
  • the project at Camp Indi-co-so will replace the old lake (which has never held water) with newer technology lakes for recreation and for inspiration.
  • the Buck Lodge at Epworth Forest will be our third and largest new lodge for housing of participants. In recent years we have built two new lodges named the Duecker Lodge in memory Bishop Sheldon Duecker and the Fenstermacher Lodge in memory of Anita Fenstermacher. The proposed Buck Lodge will be named in memory of Rev. Stan Buck who was a huge supporter of camping, youth ministry, and discipleship. Stan's own family and friends have already given over $400,000 toward that new lodge.
  • the final component of the campaign is the dream to develop an endowed scholarship fund to help local churches send their young people to our camps. My own vision is that we will have a million dollar endowment which would generate in perpetuity 500 annual scholarships of $100 each – to be used to match any local church which gives a $100 scholarship to one of their young people. That would be a great partnership between the Conference and local churches, and it would help send more and more young people to our camping ministry discipleship centers.

I am pleased to announce that Coach Brad Stevens, currently the head coach of the Boston Celtics in the NBA and previously the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs, is giving his support to this scholarship fund. Brad and his family are active United Methodists, and he has offered these comments about why scholarships are important:

"It's great that the UMC is focusing on raising funds to provide camp scholarships. Some of my more cherished memories came from church-sponsored activities in my youth. Whether it is a mission trip, a regularly scheduled youth group meeting, or a camp – these experiences can have such lasting impact on the kids that attend. All the best, Brad"

So how are we doing on our campaign to date? We are currently in the "quiet phase" of seeking leadership gifts to get our momentum moving. I expect that we will soon have some numbers to report which will encourage others to give to this effort. Ultimately we will need lots of gifts from individuals, groups, and perhaps even churches – although there is no plan for any kind of local church "goal" or "apportionment." We believe that special gifts from willing donors will fund this campaign. It is important to note that the Indiana Conference approved this whole campaign as a "special gifts" campaign with only gifts by individual donors, and it also approved a "cash campaign" so that we will only build these new buildings and developments when the cash is on hand to do so.

I am honored that the Conference voted this campaign as a way of honoring my legacy, and I do believe that we need what the Campaign Committee is calling a "legacy of leadership" in our efforts to develop disciples and young leaders for our Indiana Conference.

We will continue to provide updates on the Campaign as we have more news to share. Meanwhile, I echo what Coach Stevens has said: "these experiences can have such a lasting impact on the kids that attend." May it be so for generations to come.

For more information on supporting this initiative, please click here.