09 Jul 2020

4 Approaches to Church Summer Camps During COVID-19

Miranda Hendricks

I saw a joke circulating online that a 2020 planner ended up being a waste of money because of how useless it has become. As we try to navigate this unpredictable season, it's not easy to make concrete plans—we have all had to be flexible with our schedules. Creating a set plan for next month seems almost as uncertain as trying to plan something 20 years into the future!

Maybe for you, one of the plans you've had to reconsider is your annual summer camp program for your church. You had everything organized, and are now wondering how you can still show up for your community in a safe way this summer. The camp experience may look very different this year, but your church can still create an event that will positively impact your youth and their families.

 Many churches and organizations have taken events entirely online, while others have created a hybrid between online and limited capacity in-person experiences. Whatever your church's situation, there are many ways that you can create fun and bring joy to your youth this summer.

Here are four different approaches to traditional summer camps that your church can use this year.

1. Live Virtual Summer Camp

Consider organizing a live virtual summer camp for your youth. By hosting live sessions online, kids can enjoy the benefits of camp from the comfort of their homes. Depending on the number of participants, you can use video call platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts

Like a traditional camp, you can create an itinerary of events to email campers with the links to join each video call. For example, you may host one main live session for all campers with worship and a message, and then separate into "breakout" groups where campers can join smaller virtual meetings with instructors. Topics can range from bible studies, worship leading, to arts and crafts, and more.  

To keep campers connected, take advantage of social media platforms and your church's website. For example, you can create one main Facebook group for all campers, or create multiple groups for each age range. These groups are also an easy way to keep parents in the loop with the camp schedule. As far as registration is concerned, it's your decision to charge an entry fee or make admission free for camp participants.

2. At-Your-Own-Pace Online Summer Camp

Another way to conduct a summer camp is to create an at-your-own-pace online event. Your church can pre-record videos and upload them to your website, Youtube, or Facebook. Also, you can add supplementary content that will go more in-depth into the curriculum concepts. The benefit of pre-recorded camp sessions is that kids and their parents can complete the courses on their own time. They won't have to worry about missing anything when camp is already accessible online.

You can provide a tentative schedule to go along with the curriculum. That way, parents and kids can track their progress. Some  ideas to use in your curriculum include crafts that go along with a bible lesson, cool science experiments, or worksheets that pair with a bible reading. 

At StartCHURCH, we created a free outreach package that includes a kit for your church to assemble and send to campers. Consider mailing them or creating a drive-thru at the church for parents to pick them up. You can add your curriculum along with any materials your campers may need in the package. Some ideas for additional items to include are treats, stickers, documents, arts and crafts supplies, and snacks. Get as creative as you would like!

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3. Neighborhood Summer Camp

If meeting in-person is the best option for your church, you can create socially distanced neighborhood camps. This scenario may be the best option if your youth group is smaller, or your area is more rural, and internet connectivity may be an issue. You can designate a few leaders for communities in your area to host groups and implement safe social distancing measures. 

Again, it is at your church's discretion to charge entry fees to fund supplies, snacks, disinfecting supplies, and anything else that may be needed. Before hosting this type of camp, be sure to stay up-to-date with your state's current guidelines on group gatherings.

4. Schedule a Fall Camp

Who says that summer camp can't adapt and become fall camp? Your church can host a fall break weekend camp or a back to school kick-off. This may be the best choice if meeting in-person is your top priority, and you need more time to organize the details of the camp. You can use one of the above approaches to help plan this camp for later in the year or resume your traditional summer camp plan when it is safer to do so.

I know it's hard to feel like you are letting kids down by not having camp this summer, but giving your community something to look forward to this autumn will be a huge morale boost. In the meantime, your church can create flyers and event promos to get kids excited about the rescheduled camp. 

Staying Connected

For each of these approaches, you will need the email address and phone number of parents who wish to enroll their children in your program. Many churches are still erring on the side of caution and not meeting in person yet, so make sure to keep parents informed by online communication. It's essential to have an online platform for your community to be able to access your services and events with ease. If you don't already have a Facebook, Instagram, email, or a website set up for your church or ministry, StartCHURCH would love to help you with StartSITES

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Make a Difference

No matter what your youth programs look like this season, you can intentionally reach your kids with hope and help them to spiritually grow in Christ. If your church can't do camp in any form or fashion this year, find ways to still bring some joy to the kids who would have attended your summer event. Pray over the decision your leadership thinks is best, and expect the Holy Spirit to show up and meet your community as you adjust to the new plan. 

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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