[Photo Courtesy of the Euro-Asia Division]

General Conference

Online camp for children and teens held in the North Caucasus

Children’s ministry finds a way to provide beloved summer camp experience virtually

North Caucasus, Russia | Nelly Kropinova, SCM Children's Ministry

A sk most children in the Caucasus region of Russia what event they are looking forward to all year, and you will likely hear one answer: "Summer camp." But under the circumstances, due to the restrictive measures associated with the COVID -19 pandemic, it turned out to be impossible to hold the camps in person this year. Organizers did not give up, however, and thought long and hard about what could be done instead. The Lord answered prayers and gave ideas on how to organize an event that could partially replace the summer gatherings so beloved by everyone.

"Online camp" - this idea was not pleasant at first, given the mood of children and parents after distance learning. But in reality, everything turned out to be much more interesting than the name might imply.

The idea was supported by the leaders of the North Caucasus Mission, and the children's department and the Pathfinder Club agreed to conduct this project together with the aim of involving children and teens of the community and their friends in the project.

The summer online project "Who is He?" Perfectly combined two forms of conduct: for pastors and trainers online, and for mentors and participants in church or at home. 

Pastors, teachers, Pathfinder mentors, athletics instructors, music, creativity and other areas of the program were preparing to conduct classes through Zoom - conferences of three hours over four days. A WhatsApp group for mentors and leaders was created to transfer information, provide links, and encourage dialogue.

Classes were planned to be held in a variety of interesting blocks. The coordinators of the children's and Pathfinder camps actively participated in the development of the program; Svetlana Skorikova, Nina Boronina and Svetlana Medvedeva united through Zoom conferences with the organizers of the project both in the preparation process and during the program at evening planning meetings.

The youth missed each other deeply and happily gathered in churches, where local leaders made sure to supplement the program, and thus the children had a day camp.

The first hour was devoted to Bible lessons taught by pastors and their assistants. Spiritual instructions were given through videoconferences by Alexander Sakharov, Vasily Fishtriga, Svetlana Medvedeva Timofey, and Nina Boronin. Community group mentors guided the discussion and the assignments.

The children in the communities were grouped into three age groups. For each of them, a separate video was edited daily, and some blocks of the program were recorded at different levels of complexity.

The second hour was already in the finished video, assembled from several parts. The young people could do exercises together with the master of sports Murat Zanilov and his children. Everyone looked with interest at the Gospel Experiments block, which had been prepared by Alexander Antonov, and five-minute videos about miracles in nature left no one indifferent. The section “Secrets of Myself,” about feelings and emotions, presented by psychologist Svetlana Skorikova, became informative for both the participants as well as mentors and parents. 

Then the children joined the “Time for English” block, which was masterfully conducted by Elena Oreshkina. Everyone liked the brain exercises presented by Alexey Vasiliev, coordinator of the Pathfinder club. Alexey Dedov and Alexey Vinogradov shared their personal experiences, and Anna Shilo recorded the master class for making healthy sweets.

The third hour enthralled all the participants with creativity; right-hemisphere drawing became the final part of the program. Master classes were held both in real time and in recordings.

Every day, local leaders sent photo and video materials to the event coordinators, and the next day everyone was shown the video of the groups across the region from the previous day, edited by Ruslan Vasiliev.

Of course, this program required sufficient technical equipment for both the presenters and the project participants. About 110 children and adolescents were able to join this non-standard format, among whom 45 participants did not attend church services, and many were in church for the first time. All project participants received prizes of valuable books and souvenirs.

In general, both children and adults liked the program very much. Here are some reviews:

Ruslan: “I really liked everything: exercises, drawing, and joint cooking classes.”

Daniella: "I really liked drawing, sports exercises, biblical experiments, stories about animals and experiences with God."

Arnella: “I really enjoyed the summer camp, especially the brain exercises, drawing and the Secrets of Myself. Many thanks to all the organizers!"

Lana: “I liked everything, I didn't even want to go home. Thank God for everything!"

I would like to add to these words and sincerely thank the Lord for this project, in which online classes and offline meetings were so unusually combined!

This article was originally published on the Euro-Asia Division’s news site