Sumatanga appoints Strategic Planning Committee


The following is a message from Mike Byrne the Acting Executive Director of Sumatanga and the Chair of the Sumatanga Board of Trustees.

Sumatanga first opened Pool Camp in 1951 with simple, open-air cabins. By 1960, the Lodge had been built to accommodate a greater number of guests with greater comfort. By the mid-1990’s, the Retreat Center had been built to offer an even higher level of comfort.

Sumatanga realizes that it must change and evolve to meet the current and projected camping and retreating needs of our Conference. Thus, we have appointed a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), consisting of individuals with specific skills or knowledge in selected areas such as engineering, finance, and programming. The chair of the SPC is Ty Warren, who has been a professional communications and strategic planning consultant for more than 30 years. Ty’s for-profit clients have included Microsoft, Walt Disney, and Nike. His non-profit clients have included the World Bank, NATO, and the Washington National Cathedral.

Other current members of the SPC are:

  • Haynes Smith, Engineering
  • Alyce Hartley, Programming
  • Laura Sisson, Programming
  • Timmy Collins, Youth
  • Melanie Nichols, Finance
  • Bill Gandy, Mountain Lakes District Superintendent
  • Mike Byrne, Chair of Sumatanga Trustees
    • Rick Owen, Methodist Foundation, will serve as an Advisor to the Committee

The SPC’s approach to developing the Plan will broadly consist of

  • Conducting research, such as
    • What do successful Camp and Conference centers have in common?
    • What do unsuccessful Camp and Conference centers have in common?
      • What does Sumatanga share with each?
    • Analyzing Sumatanga’s operating and financial results
    • Market analysis
      • What are the specific needs in north Alabama for Camp and Conference centers?
        • What does, or can, Sumatanga provide?
      • What do others already offer to meet those needs?
  • Developing an outline of a strategic plan
  • Communicating that outline and soliciting feedback from our Conference membership
  • Finalizing a strategic plan
  • Communicating the strategic plan

The SPC is holding its initial meeting this month, April. Gathering research and developing an outline of a strategic plan will require several months, so the SPC will not likely be communicating the outline of the strategic plan to the Conference for feedback until this summer.

In a related move, Camp has asked, and the Bishop has agreed, to appoint Reverend Paul Messer to Camp’s staff. Paul currently serves as a Missionary to Senegal, Africa, though many of you know him as a District Superintendent or long-time local church minister in our Conference. Paul will fill a new position at Camp. Paul’s role will be as a liaison to the churches and groups within our Conference. Once the outline of the strategic plan is developed, Paul will be active in communicating that outline within the Conference and soliciting feedback. We expect the strategic plan to be finalized by the end of September. Once finalized, Paul will be active in communicating the plan and letting our Conference members know how they can play a part in the execution of that plan. In making the appointment, Bishop Willimon noted, "Paul Messer has served us admirably as pastor, district superintendent, missionary to Africa and now Paul returns for this special service to our beloved Sumatanga. I am thrilled that we have been able to call Paul back home for this new post. He is a great servant of Christ and his church."

Paul’s role will also be to strengthen the bonds between Sumatanga and the local churches. He will be the eyes and ears of Sumatanga, helping us to better understand the needs of our churches, and allowing us to be better partners in ministry with those throughout the Conference.

The Strategic Plan is likely to include items that cost little, yet have a significant impact on our guests’ experience. The Plan is also likely to include items that entail the need for capital. Over time, Sumatanga has grown to over 1,700 acres. Much of this acreage lies directly in the valley, is visible from the valley, or is on the crest of Chandler Mountain. However, some of these 1,700 acres are not an integral part of “Camp”. In particular, there are 40 acres near Gallant Road (not Sumatanga Road) that are not visible from the valley floor or from Chapel Road. Sumatanga is exploring options to sell these 40 acres to assist in funding some of the Strategic Planning Committee’s recommendations. If we can negotiate an attractive price, we may present a motion at Annual Conference requesting approval to sell this acreage. If we prepare a motion, we will present information as to the exact location of the property, proposed price, etc.

The Strategic Plan will also provide Sumatanga’s Board of Trustees with a clearer picture of the skills and talents needed for our next Executive Director. Thus, until that Plan is finalized, the Board has determined that it will not name a permanent Executive Director and will continue to operate with an Acting Executive Director.

Sumatanga is currently preparing for another successful Summer Camp season. The theme is “Rebirth”, and the curriculum will cover the Old Testament prophesies of Jesus’ coming, and His birth, death, and resurrection. This theme is apropos for Sumatanga at this time – we have been given the opportunity to take a hard look at who we are, what we do, and how we do it. With God’s grace and blessing, Sumatanga will continue to be a special place for the North Alabama Conference.

Mike Byrne
Acting Executive Director, Sumatanga
Chair, Sumatanga Board of Trustees

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