About The Program

Compass Points is a cooperative program of the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association, United Methodist Camp and Retreat MinistriesOutdoor Ministries Association of the United Church of Christ, Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, and Episcopal Camp and Conference Centers Inc. in partnership with Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. It is designed for those looking to deepen their understanding of camp and conference ministry. Prospective students may be new to the field or may be seeking to widen their base of knowledge.

The certificate program is comprised of eight courses of study, which are scheduled on a repeating two-year cycle. Each class covers key areas that are relevant to this unique ministry. These courses are:

  • Articulating our Mission, Role, and Value
  • Biblical and Theological Foundations
  • Program Design and Implementation
  • Personnel and Leadership
  • Nonprofit Business Management
  • Development
  • Site Administration
  • Capstone Event

Participants have the option of taking one or more classes in order to expand their knowledge. A certificate is awarded to each participant who completes all eight classes. Faculty for the courses will include seminary professors and camp/retreat professionals. The classes will be offered in the fall and in the spring. The only exception is the Site Administration course, which is an independent directed study. Participants can exempt out of a class if they have previously received sufficient course credit in a related program or can demonstrate an experience level with the course content that satisfies the Compass Points Coordinating Council requirements. Please check out the calendar of upcoming certification courses.

Below is a full description of each course:

Articulating our Mission, Role and Value
Do you know where your ministry is going? Can you clearly articulate for others who you are, and why you exist? Identification and implementation of mission, core values, and philosophy are central to all aspects of successful outdoor ministry: program, site management, hospitality, marketing, finances and more. Participants will delve into their organization’s mission and core values. This course involves organizational introspection and will engage with a wide variety of concepts, ideas and activities. Course work will challenge a new, or clearer perspective concerning mission, philosophy, vision and core values in your outdoor ministry.

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Be challenged to clearly understand mission, philosophy, vision and core values in their outdoor ministry.
• Articulate their organization’s purpose.
• Develop an elevator speech in order to share that purpose with constituency.

Biblical and Theological Foundations
What makes our church camps so uniquely wonderful and sets us apart from other camping organizations is our firm foundation in our beliefs as Christians. This course will enable participants to deepen their knowledge and strengthen their understanding of our biblical and theological roots as the core value for all that we do in our outdoor ministry settings.

At the end of this course, participants will:
• Articulate Biblical themes that form the foundations of outdoor ministry
• Have tools for training staff to lead effective Bible Studies
• Learn how theology should shape the practice of ministry in each outdoor ministry site
• Engage in guided theological discussions
• Understand how campers/participants may encounter Christ through the mundane and extraordinary events of living in community

Program Design and Implementation
Program is the most important facet of outdoor ministry. From determining the need for a program to evaluating the final product, today’s camp and retreat leaders need to be knowledgeable in how programs are designed and implemented. This course will focus on an overview of human growth and development in relation to outdoor ministry, and will look at program models and how they serve as an extension of a ministry’s mission statement. Participants will also study how our summer programs can be a year-round ministry.

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Identify the characteristics that differentiate program structures
• Analyze the progression we find in program offerings
• Consider how their program is portrayed through their marketing image.

Personnel and Leadership
The quality of leadership at all levels relates directly to the growth and sustainability of the organization. Purposeful leadership promotes staff retention, an effective board of directors, and well served campers and guests. This course will focus on the role of top leadership in the organization, how ones’ faith is played out through service and role modeling, and policies and procedures for staff, board, and volunteers.

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Be able to assess their leadership skills and draft a plan for growth
• Be able to critique personnel policies and procedures in their organization
• Be able to identify ways to live our Christian values in their setting

Nonprofit Business Management
Success for our Camp and Conference Center ministries depends upon the use of sound business practices. Understanding and implementing these non-profit management practices can spell the difference between a thriving vibrant ministry and one that fails to meet its potential. This course will challenge students to adopt effective practices in such areas as communications, risk management, finances, and an administrative plan.

By the end of the course, participants will learn best practices in:
• Budgeting, budget management, cost analysis, key financial reports, and financial sustainability
• Facilities management and risk assessment
• Operational management, policies, and procedures.

Strategic planning in the camp and retreat setting is built upon the concept of knowing where your camp and retreat ministry is today and then outlining the steps to move to a relevant and sustainable future. The Master Site Plan, and the Financial Development Plan are the road maps to the future.

This course will focus on best practices in Strategic Planning, using tools and techniques to assess where you are today and your future; The Master Plan, looking at design characteristics, the role of architects, planners, officials, and consultants; The Financial Development Plan, focusing on annual appeals, capital campaigns, consultants, development staff, and materials; Board and staff development, looking at roles and responsibilities in concert with the mission, vision, values and strategic plan.

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Understand the role of a Strategic Plan in the life of an organization
• Understand the steps needed to put together a Master Plan for an organization
• Understand the role and importance of annual appeals and capital campaigns, financial stewardship, budgeting, reporting, cash flow management and the basics of attaining or sustaining 501(c)3 status

Site Administration
Learning from others in outdoor ministry is so important and can be a wonderful way to grow in this ministry. The Site Administration course is a self-directed study helping one to do just that. For this important course, participants will choose and visit a camp and conference center different from one they are currently serving or have served. While there, participants will tour the site and interview the staff relating specifically to areas such as hospitality, food service, facilities and administration. Afterwards, a 5-7 page paper summarizing the visit and making observations about one’s own as well as the visited camp’s ministry will be due.

Through the self-directed study, students will:
• Learn how to look at another site through the lenses of Hospitality, Building and Grounds, Food Service, and Communication/Administration in order to learn and grow in their own ministry.
• Tour another site that is unfamiliar and different from their own camp experience, interviewing staff members and observing them in their roles.
• Collect their observations and share their own feedback, including suggestions, praises and concerns with the site visited.

The Capstone event is the eighth and final class of the Compass Points certificate program. It is a time to celebrate the completion of an arduous learning journey and to demonstrate an understanding of how the previous course contents can be applied to current and future church and outdoor ministry issues.

The course will:
• Celebrate the completion of the Compass Points program
• Reflect on what each participant has learned and how she/he has grown
• Discuss ways to implement what has been learned
• Challenge each participant to think critically about how their camp/retreat center/organization can become a more relevant voice for Christ in today’s culture
• Share final projects in a workshop format with each other and workshop attendees
• Give thanks to God for these time of learning and growing and ask for strength and guidance in moving forward in each one’s ministry

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Demonstrate a basic grasp of the seven Compass Points content areas through the presentation of a final project
• Engage in times of reflection about and celebration of their Compass Points journey
• Spend time discerning how their ministry has been informed and how it might be enriched in the future as a result of the Compass Points Program
• Articulate a vision for how their ministry organization might have greater impact on relevant issues of our day

Do you have any questions about the program? If so, please go to the Frequently Asked Questions page.