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How LCEF Recharted a Course of Clarity for Lutheran Island Camp

Lutheran Island Camp offers a variety of activities and experiences for children to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new.

There is always much excitement when organizations set out on a mission to serve people and share the Gospel. Ideas abound, plans are made, more and more people become involved, and time passes. 

Sometimes, decades pass.  

With all the wonderful work happening, it often becomes challenging to keep the focus on the one mission that started it all. Board members begin to ask, ‘Why are we doing it this way again?’ Or worse, that question doesn’t get asked quite enough. 

At Lutheran Island Camp, campers are encouraged to exercise their brains and bodies.

Maintaining clarity can be challenging for organizations, including Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). 

Lutheran Island Camp and Retreat Center was established 70 years ago on 67 acres of land – a true island – in Henning, Minn. In 1949, a group of Lutherans built the causeway from the city to the island, creating a camp for children to enjoy the outdoors in a uniquely Lutheran setting. Today, the camp serves people of all ages year-round.  

“The mission statement that we live by is to ‘Nourish the whole person for joyful, Christ-centered life and service,’ and we provide programs to hundreds of people each year to accomplish that,” shared Susan Borglum, chair of the board of directors for Lutheran Island Camp. 

The board itself, on which Borglum serves as chair, is an active group of a dozen volunteers. 

“I’m continually amazed by the people on this board who contribute their time and effort,” Borglum said. “It’s a very committed board. We always say, this is not a spectator sport. On some boards you just show up and sign your name. Our board is not that way. Everyone does a lot of work.” 

Guests at Lutheran Island Camp are met by a peaceful island setting, in which they can connect with God's most beautiful gifts in creation.

That’s why, when Lutheran Island Camp’s new Executive Director, Stacy Lung, met Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s (LCEF) Tim Kurth at a conference, she knew that more could be done to unlock the potential of this dedicated board and clarify the mission of Lutheran Island Camp.   

This introduction to Kurth, who serves as vice president of Ministry Solutions for LCEF, turned out to be an unmatched blessing for the future of Lutheran Island Camp.  

“We had an opportunity to chat about some of the challenges that Lutheran Island Camp was facing, and we invited him to speak to the board about development and governance,” Lung said. “After that meeting, the board considered moving to the policy governance model.” 

Certified as a “governance systems professional,” Kurth provides governance coaching and advice to ministry partners. 

“Many organizations aren’t sure how to navigate it,” Kurth said. “For Lutheran Island Camp, there was a bit of confusion about the camp’s mission. They had a foundation, a camp board and a for-profit LLC that had been formed and acquired land. Sometimes ministries back into these situations after many years, and they need someone to help them as they clarify their mission, governance, authority and accountability. Lutheran Island Camp employed two processes simultaneously to right the ship, and we were there for all of it—not as consultants, but as ministry partners.” 

Time for some hard work
Lutheran Island Camp got to work in 2022 with its first policy governance training session. By September 2023, they were all in and started their new year with a board retreat to get some serious work done. 

“Tim [Kurth] was adamant we had to have a board retreat, and it was fabulous,” said Borglum. “He walked us through the whole procedure from the opening to the closing of the meeting. The board can now figure out where we are going with this camp. We were used to being responsible for absolutely everything, and we are still responsible for the outcome, but the executive director is now more clearly responsible for the operations.” 

“I think that it’s been a helpful process and has led to some great conversations,” Lung said. “It’s also provided the type of clarity that allows the organization to move forward and adapt more quickly to change, [and] more effectively invest time and resources into the mission without being distracted by confusion or unhelpful conflict.” 

All for the glory of God
Any organization blessed to serve people for 70 years and counting is easily liable to need some mission clarity work over time. Lutheran Island Camp is just glad that Kurth and their executive director were in the right place at the right time. 

“Without LCEF, we would have been struggling with things that are not important,” said Borglum. “This process gave us a way to say, ‘We don’t do that anymore’ with many things that were only done this way because it had always been done that way. Now we ask, ‘Is there a better way to do it?’ It’s very eye-opening for people, and this way, we don’t miss any time to be forward-thinking and consider where the camp will be in 5, 10 or 70 more years. We pray for wisdom and discernment. Everything on camp is God’s, and everything we do is for the glory of God.”