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May Visitor Explores How Camp Meetings Adapt to Change

Story by Elizabeth Anderson & Beth Michaels
Published 4/2/2013

Phyllis Morgan remembers when camp meeting was mostly about
fellowshipping with old friends and singing hymns as a large assembly of Christian believers. “We always associated singing with camp meeting,” she recalled. But Morgan—who, along with her husband, James, are founding members of the Burnt Mills church in Silver Spring, Md.—noted that when they last attended Potomac Conference’s camp meeting three years ago, they were surprised by the new format.
“It was so entirely different than it was from the 80s,” she noted. Although Morgan appreciated the guest singer and other soloists, she missed the joy of participating in song. She also appreciated the plethora of seminars to choose from—and especially benefitted from one about how to give Bible studies—but believed the tradeoff was fewer gatherings to socialize. 
For the Morgans, however, the one discovery that has kept them from returning is that very few of their old camp meeting friends still attend. “It could be that we have been in Potomac for over 50 years. Maybe we just see all the same people in this area that go to camp meeting,” she proposed. “We just didn’t see a lot of people that we used to see there.” She also noticed that the grandkids traveling with them had the same experience. “They didn’t seem to find friends. I remember making friends and seeing people year to year,” she said.
The changes the Morgans noticed have been purposeful. Camp meeting is changing. How it operates. The way it looks and sounds. Even who attends.
To keep camp meeting relevant to the majority of members, and to tackle dwindling attendance at many locations, conference leaders have put on their thinking caps, conducted surveys and implemented a number of savvy methods to keep members coming back. Click here to read about these changes in this month’s issue.

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