COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus circulating around the globe in 2020, altered a lot of plans this year. For churches and schools used to offering summer camps or Vacation Bible School, ministry staff had to come up with alternatives.
Pillar Church, a dually affiliated congregation of the Christian Reformed Church of North America and the Reformed Church in America in Holland, Mich., created a “Summer Passport Adventure.” Clare Hall, Pillar’s children’s ministry director, developed the “passports” with the theme “Watch for God.” They offer kids the opportunity to do a daily activity and take a picture to document that activity and note where they see God. Hall included a devotional with Scripture for each activity so children would be engaged with the Word of God as they completed their passport.
“Our main hope is simple: a child's faith will continue to be formed beyond the walls of the church. We pray that children and their families will realize that God is in every part of their daily life, and faith can be formed in simple ways—(from) a short walk near a lake, to noticing the people around you, to simply wondering about life together,” Hall said.
During a typical summer at Elmhurst (Ill.) CRC, activities include children’s worship, preschool and kindergarten VBS, and a SpringHill day camp. This year Kara Hackert, director of children and family ministries, relied on some online tools and a low-tech library to stay connected to the families and children of the church.
“This is a different time we are in. I want to help parents by providing them with the tools they need to disciple their children,” Hackert said.
She has been updating the church’s family resource page regularly, adding weekly Bible story videos; craft, game, and activity suggestions; parent guides; and helpful links so that families can have needed tools for growth. Hackert and her team have also created a summer reading plan so that families can read the Bible together and took the church’s library outside so families could retrieve books from the reading guides.
Sherri Van Spronsen-Leepink, who attends the church, said her daughter Phoebe, 9, misses her friends at church, especially the GEMS girls club. However, Sheri and Phoebe have made use of the resources Hackert and the ministry team supplied. Phoebe listens to the online channel of books and other materials that are available, and she also enjoys reading the “Who Is and Who Was” series.
“I am so glad we found new ones in the lending library outside,” Phoebe said. “I also just read to my mom ‘God Made Me and You,’ and my mom loved it!”
Sioux Center, Iowa
Dordt University, a Christian university in Sioux Center, Iowa, usually hosts an annual four-day on-campus camp for middle school students, offering activities such as photography, dance, and science experiments every June.
Diane DeWitt, the school’s event coordinator, said they still wanted to host the camp because “Dordt Discovery Days has been very popular for many years. ... So many parents and students were disappointed the campus event was canceled for this year.”
An alternative, Discover E-Days, took the on-campus experience and adapted it to be shared through technology. With classes led by Dordt professors, alumni, and community members Discover E-Days ran June 12 to July 2 and offered 30-minute interactive class sessions in dance, cooking, and engineering.
Registration for the online camp was far lower than for typical Discovery Days—55 attendees this year compared to 326 in 2019.
Bethany Van Voorst, marketing program manager, said, “Our resident camper spots, when students get to live in the dorms and get more of the “college” experience, typically get filled up first—even with local students. I think that the experience of being on their own at camp with all their friends is a big draw for many of them.”