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. The courses are designed for camp and retreat professionals seeking to widen their base of knowledge in this vital specialized ministry. Directors, program directors, and seminary students have found this training invaluable as they advance in their career.

The certificate program’s eight courses cover key areas relevant to this unique ministry, scheduled on a repeating two-year cycle. These courses are:

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

Participants may select individual classes or seek a certificate by completing all eight. 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 exceptions are the Site Administration course and the Capstone final project, which are both independent directed studies. 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.

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 personnel policies and procedures.

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 out 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 nonprofit 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. This course will focus on best practices in strategic planning, using tools and techniques such as a site plan, a financial development plan, and board/staff development in concert with the mission, vision, and values.

By the end of the course, participants will:
• Understand the role of a strategic plan and the steps needed to create and implement a site plan for an organization
• Learn how to develop key relationships with board members, judicatory leaders, and local officials
• Understand the role and importance of annual appeals and capital campaigns, financial stewardship, and the basics of attaining or sustaining 501(c)3 status

Site Administration
Visiting other camps and conference centers helps develop skills to think critically about our ministries. For this self-directed course, participants will choose and visit a camp and conference center different from one they are currently serving or have served. Participants will physically tour the site, interview staff who serve in various roles, and summarize the visit using comparative observations between this site and their own.

Through the self-directed study, students will:
• Tour another site that is unfamiliar and different from their own camp experience, interviewing staff members and observing them in their roles
• 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
• 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 and give thanks to God for 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:
• Reflect on what each participant has learned and how they have grown
• Discuss ways to implement what has been learned
• Challenge each participant to think critically about how their camp and retreat ministry can become a more relevant voice for Christ in today’s culture

By the end of the course, participants will:
• 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
• Demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the seven Compass Points content areas through written papers and oral presentations
• Share final projects in a workshop format with each other and workshop attendees

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