Wisconsin dioceses launch cooperative ministry

Campers pose on the shores of Mission Lake at Waypost Camp. Photo/contributed

The Wisconsin dioceses of Fond du Lac and Milwaukee announced a new cooperative ministry to provide a joint summer camp and youth ministry resource person for diocesan congregations. Each diocese has a strong heritage of ministry with youth, including camping, having pursued a variety of models, approaches and methods over the past decades.

“For many years, there has been conversation about coming together for camp,” Bishop Matt Gunter of Fond du Lac (based in Appleton) said in a news release. “The positive comments about this idea have grown, especially these past two years. I’ve heard from youth and adults, clergy and laity, campers and staff, asking why we aren’t doing camp together,” he said.

Bishop Jeff Lee of Milwaukee said he also heard similar comments. Fond du Lac summer camp sessions in 2021 and 2022 included campers and staff from the Dioceses of Eau Claire (based in Eau Claire) and Milwaukee.

Two bishops model the 2022 EpiscWisco camp t-shirt.

“In addition to camp, several diocesan leaders recognized a need for a youth ministry resource person to be available for congregations to reach out to for support, guidance and direction,” noted Matthew Payne, lay canon for administration for Fond du Lac. “After we had conversation with diocesan leaders, it became clear that one proposal which encompassed both areas was feasible in terms of time and financial resources.”

That proposal was to create a position of Youth Networking Coordinator (YNC). This full-time position would have two key components – summer camp director and coordinator for networking youth ministries. This integrated approach would see camp as a foundation for a year-round networking resource person to build connections and relationships to expand networking with congregations.

Each diocese had youth staff funding in their 2023 budgets whose combination allows implementing the full proposal. A steering committee, with members from each diocese selected for camp or youth work experience, will provide oversight to the ministry venture.

Camp sessions will be held over three weeks in June 2023 at Waypost Camp, east of Wausau. Having been the site of the Fond du Lac camp for the past two years, its facilities have proved suited to the program. Waypost is owned and operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Working with a Christian camp allows for collaboration unavailable from secular facilities. Because the Episcopal Church is in full communion with the ELCA, there is also an ecumenical benefit.

Youth networking will involve building relationships with diocesan and congregational leaders and offering support and assistance to those engaged in youth ministry. The coordinator will be aware of and informed of ministry resources, programs, and church-wide networks in youth ministry. The coordinator will also directly engage each year with at least 1/3 of congregations in each diocese over a 3-year cycle.

Erin Wolf, who has experience in camp management and youth ministry and was already employed by Fond du Lac, was hired as youth networking coordinator, starting Jan. 1. Wolf has been diocesan youth ministry coordinator and camp director since 2016 and director of youth ministry at All Saints, Appleton since 2012.

“As another sign of our deepening cooperation with Episcopalians across the State of Wisconsin, I am delighted we will share in supporting Erin Wolf’s expanded role as youth networking coordinator,” Lee said.