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Planning a Camp Retreat During COVID-19

COVID-19 adds an entirely new layer to planning & organizing a retreat at Camp. Here are our answers to the top 10 questions retreat leaders ask us.

No matter the group type or size, planning and organizing a retreat is a significant endeavor. As the leader you are responsible for coordinating registration, housing, schedule, site logistics, volunteers, dietary requests, and so much more.  Now add in the “COVID Factor” and you have an entirely new layer with your preparations! How does COVID impact our plans?  Can we still have a retreat? Will it be fun?

Camp Lebanon wants to come alongside you and help make your retreat as smooth as possible, pandemic or not. Let’s start by answering the ten most common questions asked by retreat leaders.

1) Can we still have a retreat during COVID?

Absolutely! Camp is working closely with the Morrison County Health Department to ensure we follow  appropriate guidelines and has developed a COVID Preparation Plan. When it comes to working with rental groups, we have found differing levels of comfortability during this time. We know Camp Lebanon has permission to conduct in-person events, but ultimately, you’ll need to gauge your people in making a decision if your group is ready for a retreat.

2) How do meals work?

One of the biggest changes during COVID has been Dining Hall capacity and meal service. Currently, Camp functions much like a restaurant, operating at 50% indoor capacity with social distancing.  Under County guidelines, we serve buffet style with appropriate safety precautions. For larger groups, our most common seating solution has been to use both the Dining Hall downstairs and Main Hall upstairs as dining areas. We have also used meal shifts and encouraged guests to enjoy their meals outdoors when the weather is comfortable. Whatever you choose, the food is still fantastic, dietary requests are still available, and our Camp staff is happy to do the dishes. Your Camp Retreat Coordinator will work with you to find the best solution for your stay.

3) Can we still gather for chapel and group gatherings?

According to current guidelines, indoor gatherings and worship services are limited to 50% capacity and require social distancing between guests. As a result, the maximum COVID capacities for Camp’s meeting spaces are as follows: Chalet Main Hall (125), Lodge A-Frame (35), Lodge Rec Room (30), Scandinavia Room (30), Gazebo (15), and Eagle’s Nest (75).  To safely accommodate larger groups in 2021, Camp is purchasing a 40’ x 100’ foot tent to allow for up to 250 guests outdoors (May – October). Here are additional considerations for chapels and meeting spaces:

  • Take advantage of our outdoor meeting spaces! Camp’s amphitheater is a prime spot for an outdoor gathering. Camp will provide the sound system and equip the stage with lights for an evening service as well.
  • Use “pods” to safely maximize the indoor meeting spaces. Have the people in each housing unit act as a pod and sit together at a table or group of chairs.
  • Larger groups (100+) will be encouraged to use Camp’s outdoor tent. The tent will be equipped with a stage, sound system, and lights to help you all worship together in one place!
  • Sometimes alternative scheduling helps, such as small groups, split chapels, or seminars.
4) Can we still enjoy all the activities Camp has to offer?

Yep, the activities are still fair game! This past year we set up an Activity Center for guests to check out boats, lifejackets, frisbees, BB guns, wiffleball equipment, and so much more.  The Activity Center allows staff to sanitize equipment between uses as necessary.  Zipline and Laser Tag will both be available as well! Activities like swimming, boating, hiking, and campfires are also open. As always, guests are welcome to bring their own yard games, board games, or boating equipment.

5) Are guests required to wear masks?

Camp follows the Minnesota “Stay Safe” Mask Mandate, which means facial coverings are required for guests in indoor public spaces. Masks do not need to be worn outdoors (unless social distancing cannot be maintained), in housing units, in the shower, or while eating. Masks are not required for those with health conditions per CDC guidelines.

6) Is there anything different when it comes to lodging and sleeping arrangements?

All-in-all, lodging is functioning close to normal.  Camp’s 18 hotel rooms, 12 dorm rooms, 15 cabins, and 2 log cottages are all available.  Family groups are the easiest to accommodate, as each has their own housing unit. The majority of guest concerns involve retreats where guests from different households are housed in the same unit (e.g. youth camps, women’s retreats). You’ll need to gauge the comfort level of your people, but we would recommend spreading out your housing assignments as much as possible while still meeting the guaranteed minimum requirements outlined in your contract.

  • Housing Maximum – The current maximum is 10 people or fewer in a housing unit.
  • Seat housing groups together during meal times and chapel events.
  • Limit housing access only to people residing in that room.
  • Bathrooms – Guests staying in hotel housing have their own private shower/bathroom. Guests in dorm or cabin housing use community bathrooms/showers which are cleaned daily.
7) Does COVID impact anything with our schedule as we plan our retreat?

The biggest schedule items impacted by COVID are the mealtimes. Meals take a little longer to serve, so allow for an additional 15 minutes than you normally would. Check in with your Guest Retreat Coordinator to see if they have any other schedule items involving meals, gatherings, or activities.

8) How does check-in work?

A healthy Camp starts with healthy guests. Pre-screening guests (forms provided as a PDF) is the single most important step in promoting safety. Guests will be greeted by a Camp Staff Member upon arrival and asked to submit their COVID Pre-Screening & Waiver forms (one per household required). If pre-screening did not take place, retreat staff will check their temps and have them pre-screen onsite before moving into their housing. Guests who show symptoms or have been recently exposed to COVID will not be allowed to remain at Camp. There are NO exceptions to this policy.

9) Do you still serve coffee?

Yes, coffee is served! In fact, this was one of the items Camp’s Year-Round Staff Team fought for the hardest! Guests can self-serve coffee, tea, and cocoa.  It is required that guests wash and sanitize hands first as well as take a new cup each time.  Water fountains are available only for filling a cup or bottle.

10) Is there anything else we should know as we plan our retreat?

Yes, please know Camp is still Camp!  For an entire year now, Camp has proven guests can safely enjoy the “funnest fun,” build relationships, rest from life’s busyness, and grow in their faith, even during COVID. Some things are required to function a little differently.  Come to Camp with the expectation of adopting new processes and methods to accomplish your original goals.  Also, COVID guidelines and protocols are continually changing and being updated as legal requirements shift and protocols change. Your Camp Retreat Coordinator will keep you apprised as your retreat nears. On that note, we invite you to join us as teammates in our pursuit of “flexcellence.” COVID adds more work to all our plates, so we are in this together! A burden shared is half the burden…and the joy of a successful retreat shared is double the fun!  As always, do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.  We are here to serve you and remove any obstacles keeping you from enjoying this “Meeting Place with God.”

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