SHARON (03-08-2016) -- "God is bigger than any ministry you can do here."
This was the reminder from Silver Lake's new Executive Director the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer as he addressed the deans of the 2016 Silver Lake Summer Conferences on March 4 & 5.
"You have the skills," said Gackenheimer to the deans. "You simply need God to walk with you."
Over 30 deans and chaplains gathered for Deans Retreat at Silver Lake Conference Center to plan and prepare for the approaching summer camp season.
"Our goal for this retreat was to provide some of the required training our deans need, to offer program and scheduling support, to introduce Ryan, and to announce a few changes intended to strengthen both the conference programming and the partnership between deans and summer staff," said Silver Lake Administrator Jennifer Kronholm Clark.
Some of these changes will surprise veteran Silver Lake campers. The long-standing tradition of Sunday night dinner on the ball field will be replaced with a family-style dinner where counselors will act as wait persons and model this task for campers who will take on the server role during the week. Another change involves Thursday's barbeque by the lake, which has been moved to Friday evening in order to allow large worship groups more access to the Social Hall before their Friday night worship. Staff will be joining campers daily at lunch time in order to allow deans and counselors more time to plan and communicate daily changes as a group.
"I think these changes are great," said Debby Page, a long-time dean who will co-dean Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during week 5 this summer. "That first dinner has always been a tricky time for deans and counselors to get to know the campers. A family-style dinner will certainly help, especially with children who may be nervous during those first few hours of camp."
Another change this year was an addition to dean training that involved creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ youth. This workshop, led by Silver Lake alumna Missy Sturtevant, helped deans understand ways in which some gender stereotypes can make youth uncomfortable and gave the deans methods that help show campers that they are "important, respected, and safe."
Other workshop topics included managing challenging behavior, recruiting all-star counselors, discussing all-conference worship best practices, and educating youth about environmental justice issues, including ways to focus the camp's Mission Day efforts on the situation in Flint.
The two-day retreat ended with a special appreciation dinner for deans prepared by Silver Lake Food Services Manager Lynn Boettger.
"Deans Retreat is my favorite weekend of the year," said Kronholm Clark after the retreat. "I love seeing all of our deans in one room! It never happens any other time of year. The year-round staff at Silver Lake is so grateful to have Ryan on board as Executive Director. Planning for the summer is well underway, and we are enjoying his clear and fun-loving leadership style."
Registration for the 2016 Silver Lake Summer Camp is open. You can find information at www.silverlakect.org.
Drew Page is the News & Media Editor for the Connecticut Conference, UCC and a week 5 dean for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Emily Hale is Office Manager for the Connecticut Conference, UCC and a week 7 dean for FAITHBOOK.