The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced the cancellation of Foursquare’s popular kids and youth camps this summer, but the heartbeat of the longtime events, which have been formative in so many young lives, is being captured in a virtual initiative that organizers believe could significantly extend their reach.
Teaching, worship, fun and games, and interactive projects will feature in the Summer 2020 Digital Experience (SDE), created by NextGen leaders from across the country. The kids program, for first- to sixth-graders, will run July 16-18, with the youth version taking place July 23-25. While around 16,000 young people attend Foursquare camps each year, free registration for the digital events means that many more are expected to sign up for the SDEs.
In addition to keynote messages and devotionals, there will be breakout sessions for special interest groups where participants can learn new skills, from cooking and Lego building to game design and videography.
Kids will meet children’s entertainer Dan Garza, known as Puppet Guy; illusionists David and Teesha Laflin; and make a digital visit to a zoo. Youth participants will connect with Foursquare keynote speakers around the country; the worship team from C4 Christ Centered Community Church (Diamond Head Foursquare Church) in Honolulu; and take part in games and challenges organized by a team from Life Pacific University. Among Foursquare leaders taking part in the programs will be Vice President of Global Operations and Foursquare Missions International (FMI) Director Ted Vail, who will introduce FMI to a new generation.
“Though it cannot replace the past, it opens new and exciting means of making friends and enjoying time together in a different way. We are making a new kind of history.”
—Tammy Dunahoo, general supervisor
The SDE initiative was born as NextGen representatives including Ashton Fish (Southern California District) and Brittany Johnstone (Pacific Southwest District) began working on camp alternatives for their districts. All 11 districts expanded the vision to a national effort, supported by Foursquare Vice President of U.S. Operations and General Supervisor Tammy Dunahoo.
“The Foursquare Church has a long and rich history with summer camps,” Tammy states. “Many of our ministers began following Jesus, were baptized with the Holy Spirit, sensed a call to vocational ministry, and some even met their spouse, at camp.”
With physical gatherings not possible in many parts of the country, the districts have “co-created a Jesus-centered, fun-filled opportunity for children and youth from across the country to have a virtual summer experience together,” explains Tammy. “Though it cannot replace the past, it opens new and exciting means of making friends and enjoying time together in a different way. We are making a new kind of history.”
Both SDEs have been designed for flexible use, recognizing coronavirus restrictions differ across the country. The programs can be used at home by individual families or at churches where socially distanced small gatherings are allowed. After being livestreamed, the content will be available for viewing at any time.
“We are not calling them camps because we know that we can’t recreate all that they provide,” says Brittany, “but we can offer a lot of what they do—a unique environment for our kids and young people to experience Jesus.” Ashton adds: “We all wish we were able to be at camp, but through these alternatives I believe that we will be able to reach more people than ever.”
For Ashton, the SDEs—which have been planned and organized in just a few weeks—have brought a renewed sense of vision to NextGen’s focus on reaching children and youth. Youth SDE participants who feel God calling them to pursue some kind of ministry preparation will have the opportunity to join NEXT, a new NextGen network for junior high and high school students who sense a call to marketplace or vocational ministry.
The first 10,000 SDE registrants will each receive a free SDE box in the mail, containing discipleship materials and camp-style “swag.” Find out more about the Summer 2020 Digital Experience.