Cell phone signals and wireless Internet connections don't exist in the California mountains where Forest Home is located. But this hasn't prevented the 72-year-old Christian camp from using Facebook and Twitter to attract campers.

Faith-oriented camps' embrace of technology is part of their proactive approach to stay open at a time when the economy has hastened the demise of already struggling camp ministries.

"Our industry can't escape what has happened to other industries," said Bob Kobielush, president of the Colorado-based Christian Camp and Conference Association (ccca), which has shrunk from 1,093 members to 929 over the past five years. "In camp- and conference-centered ministries, we are in a consolidation and readjustment phase."

Camp attendance has been declining since the 1990s, according to Kobielush, due to rising operational costs, government regulations, competition from sports and music camps, and the growing popularity of summer mission trips. He also noted that many churches no longer value the traditional camp experience, and that many megachurches now offer their own camps.

Kobielush likens this season of change to what many churches went through a decade ago when the number of megachurches burgeoned. He said Christian camps must reinvent themselves if they are to remain open. Many have responded by connecting with megachurches, developing programs that appeal to ethnic groups, or offering day camps at churches.

"They're reaching into the church and into the community," said Kobielush.

Forest Home's Web presence is one way to reach that community. Dave Grout, vice president of marketing and communications, said while Forest Home is not "out of the woods yet," the camp has fared well.

Decreases in individuals' ...

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September 2009

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