Common Ground Camp & Retreat Certification Courses

The courses offered meet The United Methodist Church course requirements for certification in camp and retreat ministries. For certification, students must take three core and two elective courses.

Core courses are offered for one week in the month of January, and are only open to students enrolled in the Camp and Retreat Certification Course Program. Elective courses are offered for one week in the month of October, and are open to non-enrolled participants for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). CEUs do not count toward United Methodist Certification.

Courses are held at camp and retreat centers around the United States. This allows participants to experience hospitality at various sites. Each course allows time to experience the features of the particular site, and to be in conversation with the site director and staff. Students are responsible for their own transportation to the course sites, and for the cost of room and board at the sites, in addition to course tuition.

Core Courses

1. Faith Formation and Christian Living (Cert 301)

This course explores the biblical foundations of camp/retreat ministry and faith formation. It includes creative strategies for reaching out and welcoming persons of the 21st century into faith formation experiences; preparing intentional pathways for people to connect and deepen their relationship with God; effective methods for teaching core elements of Christian faith and discipleship; and providing participants and guests with opportunities to actively practice Christian discipleship with one another and all of God’s creation. Strengthening the partnership between camp/retreat ministry, local congregations and conference ministries for long-term faith formation and developing spiritual leaders is an important aspect of this course. It also covers the unique dynamic of Christian hospitality, faith formation when hosting culturally diverse guests and groups that are not church-related.

2. The Theology and Ecology of Common Ground (Cert 302)

This course focuses on the role of camp/retreat ministry in inspiring and training spiritual leaders who shape society by engaging communities and congregations in ministries of earth care and social justice as an expression of holy common ground. Students will study biblical and theological perspectives on the link between faith in God and loving interdependence among people and all of creation. The course further gives a basic overview of key ecological principles and environmental concerns facing contemporary society; studies in global social justice aspects of the ecological crisis; explores site operational practices that establish camp/retreat/conference centers as Common Ground Centers where people practice Christian stewardship of creation, justice and mercy; and discuss strategies for training and involving both urban and rural leaders for Common Ground Ministries that reach out beyond the camp/retreat site or local congregation.

3. The Ministry of Camp/Retreat Center Management (Cert 303)

This course provides an overview of Christian camp/retreat/conference center administration that includes: leading a mission-driven ministry; discerning shared visions of implementation; offering Christian hospitality and hosting guest groups; selecting and developing volunteer and paid staff; partnering with local churches, judicatory entities and other organizations; managing food services; maintaining grounds and facilities; providing risk management and health care; assuring the safety of all participants; creating and managing budgets; marketing and public relations; office management; establishing operational standards, procedures and guidelines; strengthening boards and committees; spiritual nurture and renewal of residential staff; continuing education opportunities and resources.


1. United Methodist Studies

(Required for United Methodist Certification unless the student has already taken an approved graduate credit course in this area. This course is offered online only.)

2. Biblical Foundations for Camp/Retreat Ministry (Cert 310)

A survey course of the Bible with emphasis on its use as the foundation for ministry through camps and retreats. Concepts of Christians as caretakers, the stewardship of resources and global sustainability will inform the exploration of texts on creation, justice, covenant, and community. Same as: BIBST 107.

3. Developing Christian Camp/Retreat Curriculum and Events (Cert 311)

This course will include hands-on experiences in creating and using activities, programs and curriculum for weekend retreats and overnight and day summer camping experiences. Participants will spend the first weekend in an adult retreat setting, focusing on retreat leadership and then spend three days in a summer camp/retreat setting focusing on children, youth and multi-age programs. It will also include educational theory for faith formation for all ages. Same as: PASTH 635.

4. Developing Environmental Education/Social Justice Programs & Resources (Cert 313)

5. Partnering with Ethnic Leaders and communities in Camp/Retreat Ministries

6. Fund-raising and Financing for Camp/Retreat Ministries (Cert 315)

Charitable fundraising in support of the outdoor ministry programs of the various denominations is facing increasing challenges to the previous “routine” processes by which the extra-congregational services are funded and maintained. As congregational/parish allotments are reduced to provide funding for more and more local interests/needs, the amounts left to support broader service ministries are diminished. These ministries, then, are forced to develop their own support bases and “asking techniques” in order to provide both basic services and new initiatives. This course will offer a presentation of the basic tenets and concepts for charitable fundraising, an investigation of the requisite elements for a successful program and the specific techniques used in the design of a fundraising program for specific initiatives, the “asking” process, and the specific “ask.” Since the course will provide several opportunities for the application of concepts to a specific case situation, students should come prepared with the descriptive details (financial, population, and program descriptions) of an independent ministry program to be used in these exercises. Same as: PASTH 551.

7. Volunteer and Staff Hiring, Training and Supervision for Nonprofit Organizations (Cert 316)

This course will focus on the recruitment, interviewing, hiring, supervision, disciplining, evaluating and dismissal of paid and volunteer staff. In this interactive course, students will use their past experiences and present policies to develop new skills for their ministry of personnel management. The theological underpinnings of Christian leadership and role modeling will be woven into the course curriculum and classroom discussion. Amount of credit established at time of registration. Same as: PASTH 554

For more information on the Camp/Retreat Certification Program, contact Nancy VanderVeen, Director of Lifelong Learning for the Theological School at or (973) 408-3084.