“It just wasn’t going to work to host an in-person soccer camp this year because of health concerns with the coronavirus,” explains Kurt Wetzel, pastor at Cross of Christ, Boise/ Nampa, Idaho. “We had a fantastic group of teens, though, who still wanted to do something to reach out in our community and bring soccer camp to their homes. So, we did a virtual soccer camp.”
“We sat down to brainstorm how we’d pull it off,” continues Wetzel, “who we were trying to reach, how we’d pull it together and promote it. Then we started video recording. It was a full week, but the teens did a fantastic job! It was a great opportunity to ask foundational questions about how to reach people and being gospel-intentional.”
Congregations across WELS had to ask themselves similar questions as they wrestled with how to reach out to their communities this summer. Many came to the same conclusion as Cross of Christ and held virtual Bible camps and Bible schools.
The team at Resurrection, Maumee (Toledo), Ohio, rallied together to put its five-day vacation Bible school (VBS) program online.
The director of Resurrection’s VBS, Julee Sipes, notes, “Resurrection has always had a VBS program. Before we had an indoor space to house everyone, we rented a giant tent and would hold VBS outside. For me personally, I love the in-person connection we have with each child and parent. But this year we decided to plow ahead and see what would happen. While our overall numbers were a bit less than in the past, the few comments we received were of gratitude for our willingness to still organize something the kids could do at home. We haven’t missed a year yet, and our purpose of spreading the gospel is still going strong!”
Hope, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has a legacy in its community of holding a music camp each summer. As Mark Henrich, pastor at Hope, explains, “Hope Music Camp is one of our main outreach events. The majority of our campers are not from Hope, and many do not have a church home. In fact, we always have students who have no idea who Jesus is. This year we had some amazing leaders and tech people who said, ‘We need to do this.’ So they put together a free daily program of 30- to 45-minutes of an online music camp for a week.
Teresa Johnson, a new member at Hope whose daughters attended the camp, says, “This was a great opportunity for them to learn new skills and fellowship with those in the church community. Music is a powerful form of expression and worship. A bonus to having the music camp virtually was that the kids could tune in at any time—and I was able to take part as well.”
St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., saw similar benefits to its virtual science camp. “I talked with two good family friends who do not have church homes . . . and we invited their boys to do science camp with us,” says St. Andrew member Renee Roloff. “As it turns out, we did a lot of talking about Bible stories from the Old Testament they didn’t know—starting with Abraham’s promise. It was so cool. We opened up a children’s Bible, and the kids took turns reading. And they loved the treats and science experiments that came in the science kits we took home.”
Circling back to the soccer camp at Cross of Christ, Wetzel concludes, “Moving this event online helped us with our outreach as a multi-site ministry. Rather than having to confine ourselves to one location for a week, this is something we could share and promote with prospects at both locations. The whole time, our motto was, ‘God sometimes changes our plans. Let’s try something else and see how it goes. No matter what, we’ll proclaim the gospel and let God take it from there!’ ”
Volume 107, Number 9
Issue: September 2020