Q and A interview with Patric Newton, Executive Director of Blue Lake Camp

August 09, 2021
Blue Lake is excited to announce its new Executive Director starting this month. Patric Newton is no stranger to the camp as he served as the Blue Lake Program Director from 2008-2012. He heard his call to ministry while at a camp. He is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University and has a degree in Christian Education.  He has served multiple camps around the country, including most recently overseeing camping in another annual conference. He has accumulated over 20 years of camping and retreat experience. Please welcome Patric, his wife Brianne, and his daughter Beatrice (and baby number two coming in October) back to Blue Lake.

Tell us how new leadership is reshaping the work of Blue Lake Camp (BLC). 
While the past year was full of challenges it also provided an opportunity to evaluate, assess, and plan for the future of Blue Lake. Part of what excites me about coming back to the AWFUMC is the opportunity to support a vision that seeks to transition Blue Lake toward a vibrant and sustainable future.  
Blue Lake board members, staff, and conference leadership came together to work on an initial evaluation and assessment of the entire ministry. Under the leadership of our Implementation Coordinator, Beth Allen, and our new Board Chair, Rev. Dr. Hunter Pugh we have committed to using these findings to make progress in several key areas including financial sustainability, program development, hospitality, long range facility planning, and communications. 
Jessie Spangler, our Program Director, has incredible vision for the future of programs at Blue Lake and her leadership throughout the pandemic has been exemplary. She stepped up and took on so many challenges that were well beyond the scope of her job. We are grateful for her leadership and excited to see how our programs thrive through her efforts.
There are some new faces in key leadership positions at Blue Lake, but we must also recognize our leadership staff and the job they have done navigating the pandemic. Lisa (Office), Mark (Maintenance), Paige (Hospitality), Tracey (Housekeeping), and Tracy (Kitchen) are pillars of Blue Lake that keep the ministry running day in and day out. Our future successes will include the hard work of the entire team. We are grateful for the multitude of ways each of our team members support our ministry. 
As I transition into my new role as Executive Director, I am fortunate to have previous experience at Blue Lake which is enabling me to get up to speed quickly. I have also supported several other camps throughout my career. Seeing other models informs my understanding of how the landscape of camp and retreat ministry is changing and I have experience with implementing various degrees of change in camping and retreat ministry. These are going to be keys to moving into a future that I know is possible here. I am excited to see the ministry potential of Blue Lake fully realized.

When is the best time to plan for sending children and youth to BLC for the summer? 
Summer camp planning with young people begins now. Preparing now ensures that camp is a priority and a normal part of the summer experience. Some things that you could do soon to prioritize camp includes Inviting Blue Lake Staff and Board Members to come speak at your church, promoting programs as those become available, arranging a time to visit camp to take a tour, putting camp promotions on the church calendar, and planning camp fund raisers.
What are some types of retreats you can host at BLC? 
Blue Lake hosts a diverse spectrum of retreats and events. These include small groups, large groups, children, youth, adult, families, hobby groups such as sewing and scrapbooking, day trips, meetings, long-term visits, short-term visits, churches, religious organizations, non-profit groups, family reunions, and so much more. 
Those interested in more information can contact our office to learn more. We are open once again for groups and look forward to seeing you here soon.

Talk about facility upgrades and how they will enhance the BL experience, especially technology?
Our present focus is getting Blue Lake opened back up for full use and to finish repairing the 17 buildings that were damaged during a storm earlier this year. We have been blessed to receive financial support to make those repairs and to have volunteers on site to clean up the trees and limbs that fell. Most of the site is back online, and we are steadily getting things back to our pre-pandemic normal. As we transition more fully into being at full operations then we will continue working on long-term plans to make necessary updates throughout the site.
We are excited to share that we plan to upgrade our internet throughout the site this fall. Soon, reliable high-speed fiber internet will be available to those with that need while at Blue Lake. We recognize the importance of disconnecting as much as they are able while on site. We also recognize, however, that connecting to the internet is important and at times necessary to meet the needs of our guests. This will give groups more options and enable our staff to work more efficiently. 

How is BLC different from other camps?
Blue Lake is open to all people but is uniquely United Methodist in its identity.
Our setting and diverse facilities, with over 500 beds, set us apart as well. These include traditional cabins, hotel style rooms, numerous meeting spaces, recreation areas, three different gymnasiums, and various dining facilities. The site is in the Conecuh National Forest and the center piece is beautiful Blue Lake. While there are other locations to host a retreat, there are few that can boast the beauty of this special place. 

In the past, BLC hosted visitors from around the southeast. While those camps are critical revenue streams, it is important to keep the United Methodist connection strong and active. Many clergy and laity felt their first calling into ministry at BLC. What is your plan for engaging our local UM churches and connecting camping to their ongoing work of discipleship?
As a United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministry we are invested in making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. We believe that Blue Lake is not a replacement for church, but an extension of the local church. Many lives are changed at camp as individuals hear about and accept Christ for the first time, go deeper in their faith journey, connect to a supportive community of fellow believers, and answer a call to ministry. We celebrate each of these moments, but those moments do not and should not stay at Blue Lake. 
Stepping out of a normal and busy life into God’s creation at Blue Lake often creates a spark or even sets a spiritual life on fire. However, those experiences must continue to be fanned and fueled once you return to the real world. The local church is the community that can celebrate a life changing moment at camp and foster that into a changed life.
It is through that lens that we desire to be a partner and a resource to our local UM churches. There are a variety of ways in which partnering with camp happens and this will likely differ depending on the needs of each church, but we look forward to exploring these possibilities with those that are interested.

What is the long-term vision for BLC? 
We envision that Blue Lake would not be a hidden gem, but a beacon throughout the region. We seek to be standard bearers of what modern and effective camp and retreat ministry looks like. There is already so much to love about Blue Lake, but there is also so much potential and much more work to do. The vision is that the full potential of this ministry can be realized so that we can impact even more lives, making more disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. This means we must recognize that the world has changed, ministry has changed, camping has changed, our churches have changed, and it is time for Blue Lake to rethink the future, cast a new vision, stay connected to our past, but also chart a new course that moves us from surviving to thriving.
How can a UM church best support BLC? 
The best way to support Blue Lake is through your prayers, your presence, and your gifts. As we move forward toward the future, we need God’s guidance and wisdom to ensure Blue Lake continues to impact generations to come. Your prayers help sustain us, comfort us, and give us hope that God is unfolding a new vision for God’s ministry at Blue Lake.
You can be present at Blue Lake in several ways and each one of them is vital to the long-term health of the site. Volunteers help us maximize our resources as many hands coming together enable us to accomplish so much more than our staff alone could ever do. Using Blue Lake as a gathering space for your retreats, meetings, and camps supports us financially, but also brings new people here, allows UM Church members to connect with us in person, and allows everyone involved to become better ambassadors for this special place.
Your financial support is also vital to the long-term health of Blue Lake. We thank God daily for all those that continue to generously support your camping and retreat ministry. 

How can someone reading this donate? 
We have been incredibly blessed by the support of our friends throughout the AWF Conference. Though we are open, we are not yet back to pre-pandemic operations. Your continued support has allowed us to navigate these unprecedented times. 
You can support Blue Lake through giving online or by mail using the addresses below. Thank you for your continued support! 
Donate online through our website: www.bluelakecamp.com
Donate by mail: 8500 Oakwood Lane, Andalusia, AL 36420