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Camp Announcement: Dec. 12, 2023

Dear Camp Friends,

Since Monday, November 20th, 2023, we have actively shared updates to remain transparent about our work addressing the annual operating deficit in excess of $1,000,000 for the ministry during the 2023 fiscal year.

This week, we presented a realistic budget with a reasonable surplus to the NovusWay Board. The budget includes revenue to begin paying back a portion of the operating debt from this year, addressing some deferred maintenance at each site, and providing some level of increase for staff in 2024. Our ability to do this comes through a combination of very painful decisions that affect every area of the ministry in some way. Today, we write to share how those changes will affect Lutheranch.

The church and camping ministry was different when Lutheranch was only a vision. Lutheridge and Lutherock were bursting with campers all ten weeks of the summer. Building at either site could have resulted in the potential loss of the wilderness character of either site. Post-Covid, camps around the country have seen a decrease in camper registrations. Churches are not yet to pre-pandemic attendance numbers, and our congregations have fewer children. While our camper numbers grew at each site in 2023, we are not close to capacity at any site.

During the November board meeting, the board set two objectives for Lutheranch. The first objective was to move the summer camp program to the Holy Trinity house and maintain horse programming. This decision was designed to allow utilization of the McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center for groups throughout the summer to help increase revenue. The Center has individual hotel-style rooms that are not well suited for camper cabin groups. The second objective included establishing a task force to determine how Lutheranch best fits into the overall mission and vision of NovusWay, considering the new realities and current facilities. The Board did not want donors making new investments in Lutheranch without a viable long-term plan for how their generosity could best serve the ministry.

It is a difficult truth, but there was no scenario where maintaining a horse program at this time allowed for a balanced budget at Lutheranch. Due to this insurmountable challenge, we have begun the work of helping our horses find new homes, and we are suspending summer camp programming at Lutheranch for 2023 while we consider the future.

We are grateful for our Lutheranch donors and their desire to invest in a sustainable future. Donors and other stakeholders will be a part of our Lutheranch task force, and we will begin recruiting members this week. Bishop Kevin Strickland of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA will be part of that team. We have also been in conversation with Bishop Strickland about how we can partner with the Synod to ensure groups using the site are well cared for and experience the joy of being at Lutheranch. There are multiple pieces we still need to work out, but through the work of this task force, we will lean into the incredible resources already available on the site. Specifically, this includes the McKanna-Sandrock Retreat Center. This provides a more solid financial footing for the ministry. The task force has been directed to provide a report to the board at the March meeting.

We will work to contact everyone affected by these changes in the coming days. Any 2023 Lutheranch summer camper may register for camp at any of our other sites and receive an additional $100 off the Early Bird Rate if they register by March 15th. Luther Springs offers programs with horses for those interested in that type of experience. If you have questions, you may continue to send those to Mitzie at mitzie@gsbfr.com. As we continue to navigate these difficult decisions, we invite you to join us in praying for the ministry of Lutheranch, the task force, and those who help make the ministry there possible.

In Christ,

Mike Ward & Mitzie Schafer
Intentional Interim Co-CEOs