LAKELAND – United Methodist camps have long been a springboard for youngsters pledging themselves to God's work, as well as a hub of ongoing spiritual development during those formative years.
So it seemed like a natural fit to place the Florida Conference's youth ministry under the auspices of Camps and Retreat Ministries, said Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, Connectional Ministries director at the conference.
As a result, Joel Pancoast, program manager at Warren Willis Camp, will assume duties as conference youth ministry coordinator, according to Mike Standifer, executive director of Camps and Retreat Ministries. Kelly Minter, part-time coordinator of the Conference Connection on Youth Ministry and the youth delegate agenda at Annual Conference in June, reports directly to Pancoast. The change took effect Jan. 1.
"They [camps] have a staff with subject matter expertise and the relationships with the various stakeholders," Fogle-Miller said, identifying two of those stakeholders as Methodist-supported Youth Ministry Institute and the Conference Connection on Youth Ministry.
"It makes a lot of sense to ask those folks that have the expertise and influence to take that on."
From a practical standpoint, staff members of both programs are knowledgeable about best practices in child and youth protection and safe sanctuary guidelines, Fogle-Miller said. The shift also recognizes priorities set by the conference Strategic Leadership Team, including stepping up support for youth disciple development and strengthening and equipping local churches, she added.
In recent years, the trend in youth ministry, including camp youth events, has turned to programs geared toward local churches looking for ways to build young disciples, Fogle-Miller said. Although summer camps remain a strong focus, other programs designed to cultivate leaders in Christ's work are being offered year-round.
"Some years ago, the conference shifted away from doing youth events that are primarily fellowship-oriented," Fogle-Miller said.
"The events we do now are primarily leadership-oriented."
|Mike Standifer||Joel Pancoast||Kelly Minter|
The move creates a bit of déjà-vu for Standifer, who was conference youth director from 1993 to 2005 before transitioning to work for Camps and Retreat Ministries. The youth director position has been part time or vacant for much of the time since then.
He said he envisions his new role as an opportunity to strengthen partnerships between camps and retreats and local church youth ministry programs, and he is confident that Pancoast, with a strong background shepherding church youth groups, can make that happen.
"I think that is a gift that Joel has, bringing people together and moving youth ministry in the Florida Conference forward," Standifer said.
Pancoast is a former youth director for congregations in DeLand and Lakeland. He said he believes young United Methodists and the adults who work with them will benefit from the reorganization, which will continue a conference emphasis on developing youth leaders.
"My passion is geared toward youth ministers and seeing that they're networked and equipped," he said.
He emphasized that he will work to help church leaders find the best retreat location for their ministry, whether on conference-owned property or elsewhere. Camps and Retreat Ministries already is reaching out to local churches, offering help with designing retreats that appeal to their membership, Pancoast said.
For example, he recently worked with churches in Jacksonville to plan a youth event at Epworth By The Sea, a United Methodist retreat center in Georgia. Pancoast said he understood that the type of experience the churches wanted and the proximity to Epworth made that location the best fit.
He said he also expects to work closely with Youth Ministry Institute, a conference partner organization that provides youth worker training and related services. With years of experience working in youth-oriented programs, Pancoast said he has the background to help connect local church youth leaders to the contacts and resources they need to accomplish their ministry goals.
Minter will remain the Conference Connection on Youth Ministries coordinator and point person for youth delegates planning to attend Annual Conference. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other information related to youth ministries, contact Pancoast at email@example.com.
* Susan Green is the editor of Florida Conference Connection.