Recently I had the opportunity to ask Gregg Hunter, President of CCCA a few questions. It was a great exchange. Please enjoy the dialogue.
ED: What is the CCCA Team hearing most from the CCCA Members?
GREGG: We are hearing hope and cautious optimism for the summer of 2021. There is still a lot of uncertainty about how this summer will play out, but there is hope. We are hearing about the need for God’s provision, mainly through donors, in a year with little or no revenue. And we are hearing typical, though more urgent, prayer requests for summer staff – especially males – which has been a consistent pattern over the last few years. The need just seems significantly more intense this year.
ED: What are some of the ways God has “showed up” for CCCA through this time of pandemic? A surprising blessing.
GREGG: With one exception, the CCCA team is intact and holding together well, praise the Lord. The surprising blessing is that we seem closer as a team now than before the pandemic because of the increased Zoom meetings together and the shared experience we’ve all gone through. A huge blessing that God has given CCCA is cash reserves that have allowed us to offer dues relief to members who had trouble paying their membership dues this year. It is evidence of His provision over many years, from my predecessors John Pearson and Bob Kobielush to current days. God also blessed us through a fantastic turnout for last year’s online experience, Resilient, in December. Approximately 1,500 registered for this event, which we were able to provide free of charge to members.
ED: Will there be a national conference this year?
GREGG: Yes, there will be some kind of event in December this year, Lord willing. We feel it is best not to plan an in-person conference this year, with so much uncertainty over the finances of our members. We’re likely to deliver another online event in 2021, then look to 2022 to host an in-person event again.
ED: What is the biggest challenge you think about in relationship to CCCA?
GREGG: Balancing a frugal approach to providing programs, products and services to members with the high demand for help they have at this time. In other words, we need to balance the need to keep expenses low while still delivering benefits that meet the needs of members. We are not currently fully staffed, and we need to be sure we don’t overload or burn out the reduced staff who need to pitch in to meet member needs and expectations.
ED: What words of hope are you sharing with Camps these days?
GREGG: “We are nearing the end of the ‘Valley of the Shadow of COVID.’” As we track what’s happening all across the country – including state health dept and governor’s regulations, we are seeing a loosening of restrictions, which allows most CCCA members to plan for some summer camp in 2021 – and for some, it’s back to “business as usual.” There’s also great hope expressed in our parent survey, which showed that 83% of parents who responded (almost 6,000) plan to send their kids to camp this summer. And finally, it’s clear that God has preserved and sustained Christian camps through this time so that this global movement can continue its effective programs to draw new children to Himself and encourage those who are already His kids. Donors have supported so many camps during this season, providing a lifeline to keep going even with little or no revenue. He has us all in His hands and He has a plan for our future.
ED: Didn’t you accept Christ at Camp? Tell us about it.
GREGG: My first camp experience was at the age of 17. I went to a Young Life camp to meet girls and met Jesus instead. Just like millions of kids before and after me, I found the camp setting so positive, so loving, accepting, fun and disarming, that I dropped my guard and actually heard and understood for the first time that Jesus loved me and offered a relationship with His Father. He proved His love for me through his willingness to endure crucifixion and all that led up to it. It was His love I responded to, and I only took the time to ponder His invitation because I was at camp, where my daily life and its distractions were not preventing me from hearing. My life changed dramatically upon my return from camp. My mom, with whom I had a horribly tense, combative relationship before camp, remarked one night at dinner: “Isn’t it nice we can sit here and have a nice, civil conversation over dinner?” My dad said, “Yeah, we should have sent you to that camp a long time ago!”
ED: What ways have you found to give back to the larger body of Christian camping?
GREGG: I see my work with CCCA every day as giving back, as applying the skills, experience, and education I’ve received to bless and enhance the work of Christian camping leaders: to help maximize their ministry. When I have done camp tours – which have taken me to about 150 Christian camps in the U.S. – I thank them for what they do to impact lives of adults and kids like Gregg Hunter, who gave his life to Jesus at camp. I tell them their work is part of a global movement of God, and what they do is so important. I have taught scores of seminars at sectional conferences, with the hope that my experience and the content of my workshops will somehow make their jobs, their lives, easier and increase their impact on those they minister to. Throughout my years at CCCA, I have implemented “Monthly Ministry Meetings” with leaders of other ministries to help gain a seat at the table of larger conversations that may be connected to Christian camping – conversations that bring camping to the forefront and make larger connections to expand the reach and impact of camps. And, the team at CCCA has implemented the initiative “The Power of Camp” to raise the awareness of, and the esteem for, the Christian camp and conference experience. Over the years, millions have been exposed to a positive message about camp because of this initiative. My hope is that thousands, or tens of thousands, of kids have gone to camp because parents or grandparents have seen and heard those messages. And finally, while the effort may pale in comparison to many camps’ scholarship efforts, I created the “Corners of the Field” scholarship program shortly after coming to CCCA. Over 10 years, we have allocated nearly a half million dollars, helping to fund more than 3,500 campers who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford a camp experience. (By the way, I was only able to go to camp at 17 because of a scholarship, so my heart rejoices at the thought of 3,500 kids who, like Gregg Hunter, may hear about Jesus for the first time and begin a relationship with Him because we helped fund their camp experience.) Finally, I currently serve as the board chair of Christian Camping International – Worldwide.
ED: Where would we find you if we found you in your favorite place?
GREGG: My favorite place is out in nature, hiking with Penny or hunting and fishing with one of my sons. But the ultimate for me is spending time alone in creation with my Creator. As an example, a few years before he passed away, Ted McKenney – a dear friend and former CCCA board member from Alaska – secured a 24-hour stay for me at a remote, public-use cabin on a frozen lake. We hiked in together, hauling firewood and water on a sled because there is no water or electricity there, then Ted left me alone in the wilderness. It was one of the richest experiences of my life – to be far from human contact, but so close to God, without distraction or interruption. I find places like that as often as I can here at home (in Garden of the Gods, on a lake near Pikes Peak, or on the trails near my house) for much shorter periods of time. But even on frequent drives out away from human populations and surrounded by natural beauty, my family has heard me say for years: “This ministers to my soul.”
ED: Is there anything else you want to speak to?
GREGG: I am so blessed by the people of Christian camping. During the COVID-dominated last year, I have seen the resilience, strength and faith of camp people as they have relied on God and pushed through really dark and uncertain times to stay faithful to His calling on their lives. From camp leaders to front-line staff to CCCA team members to the CCCA board of directors – all have been an example to me of faithful service and commitment to God and His will for their lives. It re-energizes and encourages me to press on, to lead the Association faithfully and diligently. It is an honor to serve such a remarkable group of people.
Did you know?
Christian Camping International traces its beginnings to a meeting of 13 camp / conference centre directors at Mount Hermon Conference Centre in California in November 1950. They were called together by Dr. Fulton Lytle, the host, and Dr. Walter Warkentin and Graham Tinning to discuss mutual concerns for Christ-centred camping.
Gregg, thank you for your faithful service in leading CCCA!