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Year of outdoor ministries: Lutherans expanding their markets.

A 675,000 grant. More than 35 presenters. Ocean breezes and pounding waves. More than 360 directors and board members from most of the 200 Lutheran outdoor ministries centers in the United States and Canada.

So began the Year of Outdoor Ministries Training Conference, sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, last November. The training conference forms only one component of a major marketing effort for Lutheran outdoor ministries, dubbed 1993: Year of Outdoor Ministries. The effort is funded by a grant from the Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL), a Lutheran fraternal insurance company.

In planning for more than three years, the Year of Outdoor Ministries will try to communicate to the estimated 8.5 million members of the ELCA and LCMS the quality and diversity of outdoor ministry programs. In addition to summer resident and day camps, outdoor ministries sponsor year-round conferences and retreats, environmental education programs, and personal growth seminars. The new marketing effort is being coordinated by Jerry Olstad, the ELCA Director of Outdoor Ministries and chair of the Religiously Affiliated Camps Council (an ACA kindred group).

As a kick-off to the year, the conference last November was designed to provide professional training in and motivation for strategic marketing concepts and techniques. Since earlier market research had determined that a stronger relationship between outdoor ministries and individual pastors is crucial to effective marketing, the theme for the year's marketing efforts was presented as, "Building relationships through shared experiences."

Professional Training

At the training conference, outdoor niinistry leaders were introduced to strategic marketing, which was defined as, "a process of developing, implementing and evaluating a plan of action to: 1) assess needs in the marketplace, 2) create products to meet those needs and 3) promote those products in such a way that targeted segments of the public will buy them. The plan takes into account a variety of environmental factors within the organization and within the marketplace that could influence desired results."

In the field of outdoor ministries, "products" are outdoor ministries programs and facilities and "publics" include both current and potential users who are Lutheran individuals, families, congregations, and regional church bodies and their officials, as well as other selected non-Lutheran groups (i.e., environmental education schools, senior centers).

The first general session included the presentation of two marketing videos produced in conjunction with the Year of Outdoor Ministries, "Lutheran Camp... boring? I Don't Think So!" (for youth) and "Lutheran Camping and Retreating: It Makes a Difference" (for adults). The videos were given to each center, along with permission to dub information specific to that center.

Both national and local plans and programs for the Year of Outdoor Ministries were detailed at the conference. Direct training and practical suggestions were given for local development and implementation of each center's strategic marketing plans.

In one general session, Bill Hodge, a marketing consultant with camp leadership experience, presented the following key marketing principles: 1. Don't assume you know what other people need or want. 2. Ask people what they need. Then listen. Listen. Listen. 3. Don't try to be all things to all people. Define your target markets. 4. Know what your customer's options are. 5. Develop products and markets that capitalize on your organization's strengths. 6. Define your uniqueness in the marketplace. Then focus all of your marketing efforts on promoting that uniqueness. 7. Always keep in mind that "The packaging is the product." 8. Create a promotional program that reflects the quality of your product. 9. Produce a product that's even better than advertised. 10. When a customer's needs are met they talk. When their needs aren't met they talk even more. 11. Ask people how satisfied they are with your product. Then listen. Listen. Listen. 12. Fine-tune your products and your promotion to target markets.

Hodge made several additional significant points: * Each center needs to define its uniqueness

in the marketplace. What sets your

center apart from others? What needs

of your constituency are not being met?

This begins by defining the strengths"

and "weaknesses" of the organization

followed by an analysis of the "opportunities"

and "threats" present in the

marketplace. The center's mission

statement, uniqueness, targeted constituencies,

and the needs it intends to address

must be consistent. * The "products" are not merely programs,

but rather, the benefits potential

users will see from participation in outdoor

ministries experiences. * Marketing is done with a specific target

population (i.e., senior citizens in a specific

geographic area, adventure-seeking

youth, or single parents) and not a

general "mass media" campaign. Marketing

is responsive to the identified

needs of a selected group and includes

them in the development of the product. * Therefore, for the development of each

new product (program or service), an

individual marketing plan should be

designed and implemented. * Implement only the number of marketing

plans that can be effectively and

successfully completed at any one time.

Within a year, it may be essential for a

center to limit itself to the implementation

of one market plan with a targeted


1993 and Beyond

Lutheran Camp and Conference Centers were invited early in 1992 to apply for $3,000 grants to be used for grassroots marketing efforts. The conference marked the kick-off for local, grassroots efforts by each Lutheran outdoor ministries center. With the training received at this conference, each center is better equipped to choose, develop and implement their own marketing plans in 1993 and the years that follow.

Glenn C. Oswald, CCD, is a Lutheran outdoor ministries director who has served with Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center, Oregon, Ill., and Miami Valley Outdoor Ministries, Centerville, Ohio. He lives in Kettering, Ohio.
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Title Annotation:Kindred Korner
Author:Oswald, Glenn C.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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