New position expands the Dakotas and Minnesota camping impact

Posted on September 11, 2017

“I believe in the power of the camp experience. It has always been a big part of my family's life and my personal faith journey,” Laura Eiesland who will serve as the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Marketing and Outreach Project Coordinator.

Eiesland will step into a new position created as a result of collaboration between the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences of The United Methodist Church.  In 2016, the two conferences embraced a new leadership and governance model. The collaborative venture, endorsed by leadership and governance teams of the Dakotas and Minnesota Conference, supports the efforts of the camping ministries’ strategic changes and builds a system to serve the next generation.

The Area Camp and Retreat Marketing and Outreach Project Coordinator will have responsibility for marketing and promoting the camping ministry including: creating and implementing a marketing plan, the camp ambassador program, equipping volunteers and engaging more churches in the camping program.

“We are so excited to have a position that is dedicated to the marketing of the Area Camp and Retreat Ministry. Someone whose primary role is to help share stories of changed lives through an experience at a camp or retreat, to connect these stories to what’s happening in our local churches, and to help even more people to get excited about camping. This has been something that both of the conferences have been dreaming about for a long time.  It is now a dream come true,” said Keith Shew, Dakotas-Minnesota Area director of camp and retreat ministries. File photo: Keith Shew.

The new position represents a synergy among all of the staff positions across both conferences. Eiesland will work out of the Dakotas Conference office in Mitchell, South Dakota.  She will be part of a team that includes a registrar for camping and a financial specialist that work out of the Minnesota Conference office in Minneapolis.

“Having a larger team that collectively serves both conferences rather than smaller teams or individuals that support just one has allowed us to hire people who specialize in areas like marketing, finances, or programming. This will create a deeper skill set across the Dakotas and Minnesota,” said Shew.

The field of candidates for the position was plentiful. There were several applicants for the position with a great variety of skill sets and a passion for camping.  “I was so encouraged by the number of applicants for the position,” said Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Dakotas Conference director of ministries. “I think the quality and number of applicants can be attributed the strength of the Camp and Retreat ministries across the Dakotas-Minnesota Area.  It is also attractive to part of a team effort.”

Getting to know Laura
Laura grew up the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area. She is the youngest of nine in her family. She graduated from Augustana University majoring in Communications, Business, and Health Administration.

She describes herself as a positive person who is fun natured and very caring. “I love to meet people and hear their story.” Photo: Laura Eiesland.

Church camp has been a significant part of Eiesland’s life. “One of my lifelong friends I met at church camp in fifth grade.  We were in a canoe and it tipped over.  We still laugh and talk about it today.”

Laura describes the camping ministry as vital to her to grow in her faith. “Camping allows me to take time to be still. It is important to listen while you are at camp, take in all of the beauty around you.”

She was employed with Lutheran Outdoors in South Dakota as registrar and assistant so she brings a wealth of knowledge of the daily business of the Christian camping ministry. Her other work experiences involve, marketing, public relations, event planning and administration in the professional minor league baseball, health and education sectors.

One of the challenges Laura will face is addressing the needs and desires of a three-state area. She states that being part of a team will help map out a strategy that is effective for all the individuals, churches and camps across the entire Area.

“Joining the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministry team is an exciting opportunity as we look forward to sharing the good news of the camp and retreat experience for all God's people. I look with hope about the changing church and world of outdoor ministry and see what has remained the same is the strength of Christian camp community. I am thankful for the impact those relationships have on faith formation and rejuvenation and feel blessed to be a part of that calling,” said Eiesland.