If you have ever served in student ministry like I have, you know the importance of a good camp experience. The fun, the games, and the camaraderie, all make for wonderful memories. However, the liability, the accidents, and fear of something going wrong are all part of the camp experience, as well. Our student teams had all but moved completely away from camp, but COVID-19 gave every church a greater desire to connect with students through any way possible. In an effort to provide a great experience for students in the midst of a pandemic, Christ Fellowship Miami teamed up with forty nine other churches in the South Florida area to provide an online/offline camp experience. The result was overwhelmingly positive with over 1,500 registered students engaging in different experiences.
During the day, students were tasked with a range of activities that involved serving their communities. Partner churches were responsible for providing the experience in a safe, sanitized, and socially distanced manner. Activities included packing backpacks with supplies and food for students in need on Tuesday, creating videos to encourage orphans on Thursday, and a food drive on Friday.
Students were encouraged to gather in small and large groups via zoom during the day to continue to connect with each other. Groups from our church were organized by grade level. The engagement was awesome. Students were connecting with group leaders in ways that we thought were only possible through having camp that took place in the middle of nowhere. They were discussing real life situations that were affecting their families. All the connection and personal engagement that we could hope for with camp happened through online and offline avenues.
At night, students and leaders would engage through the broadcast on multiple platforms. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram Live were all utilized to facilitate content driven conversations between students and leaders. The content was divided up amongst the churches that participated. Student pastors divided up teaching and hosting privileges so each church could be represented. Worship teams for the five nights were provided by the churches. All content was pre-recorded by three creative teams. Twenty three students gave their lives to Christ over the week. It was amazing.
As amazing as this was, it was incredible how many students this impacted at a minimal cost. Production cost was the bulk of the load, but shared between the churches, it added up to six dollars per student, which the churches covered. I have done many retreats, but I could never have come up with an experience for that many kids at so small a cost. This was a major success. The teams are already considering a winter experience for December, and they should! All this to say, I’m grateful that this season has given us all an opportunity to rethink our typical ways of connecting with students. For more information, you can check out the camp website or YouTube channel for the content. I would love to see how God will use your church to create a digital experience to change the lives of students.