North New South Wales ‘Big Camp Online’ a resounding success

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James Pontil being baptised by Youth Ministriies director Pastor Dana Howard.

Youth and young adults from the North New South Wales (NNSW) Conference recently teamed-up to host “Big Camp Online”, a weeklong virtual Big Camp that was livestreamed across Facebook, YouTube and online from April 20 to 25.

The programs were made possible by a small team of hard-working volunteers—including cinematographer brothers Nick and Karl Lindsay, creative business coach Emma Lemke, and Brazillian husband and wife team Juliana and Henrique Felix from Adventist Volunteer Services, among others—who collaborated to create a professional product.

“Our team had been super excited to run what we’d planned, [so] when Big Camp got cancelled, we couldn’t not do anything,” explained Youth and Young Adult Ministries director Pastor Blair Lemke. “We let other teams know but no one else was really in a position where they could put in the effort. It’s a lot of work. So we just hosted Big Camp Online with a young adults tent.”

Throughout the week, nightly sermons presented by NNSW conference youth members Tom Kent, Morgan Vincent and Mark Sutherland were livestreamed, each centered around the theme of the week, “A most precious message”, inspired by a passage by Ellen White on righteousness by faith:

“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God . . .” (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92).

Pastor Blair Lemke interviewing Pastor Justin Torossian and Dr Allan Lindsay.

In addition, 2pm workshops were hosted by Pastor Justin Torossian entitled “People of the Book”, which explored Adventist identity and Ellen White’s writings within a Biblical narrative framework. During one session, Pastor Torossian interviewed Dr Allan Lindsay to answer more than 40 questions that were submitted by people during the week.

“During the live we had a tonne more questions sent in, and only had time to get through about two thirds of them. The engagement was so high,” said Pastor Lemke.

In addition, morning prayer groups were held and workout sessions were run by Mr Sutherland—who also presented Friday night’s message—and Youth and Young Adult Ministries departmental assistant Caitlin Cloete.

On Saturday, all of the churches across NNSW tuned into the livestream to raise funds for the annual mission projects appeal. This year, a focus was on establishing Adventist Society On Campus (ASOC) groups in all universities across the conference. In addition, attendees celebrated the baptism of James Pontil, and enjoyed a performance by the “couch choir”, which has received more than 240 Facebook shares.

The “couch choir” performing “When We All Get To Heaven”, produced by Nick Lindsay. Watch the video here.

In total, the videos—which were scattered across various platforms—accumulated more than 40,000 views during the entire week.

“Nightly attendance was also between 150 and 350 depending on the night. Our biggest audience on Facebook was the 25-35 age group, followed closely by the 18-25 group,” explained Pastor Lemke.

When asked whether Big Camp Online will change how future Big Camps are run, Pastor Lemke explained that there will be a larger focus on livestreaming and online promotion in the future.

“Usually we just tag on a dodgy livestream, but we’ve discovered that it’s not that hard to do a really good livestream and have an intentional online marketing campaign around it, so we’ll definitely do that,” he said.

Despite the success of the programs, the lack of in-person interaction has meant that this year’s Big Camp has resulted in less decisions for Jesus.

“One big plus of doing it in person is that we have more decisions for baptism and Bible studies,” explained Pastor Lemke. “Last year, we had 30 baptisms and 50-60 Bible study sign-ups. This year, we had four decisions for baptism and less than 10 for Bible studies, and there’s probably a plethora of reasons why. But in saying that, we’ve had a lot more spiritual conversations during the week and new people tuning in online, so that’s another sort of measurable.”