Youthworks is praising God as new COVID rules allow school and summer camp ministries to resume. 

The Coronavirus affected Youthworks greatly, with restrictions preventing many of its usual ministries from running. The lockdown saw the stream of winter camps and retreats disappear, and when NSW Health banned school camps, things looked grim. One hundred and fifty Youthworks staff had to either step down or slow down their employment. 

With the ban lifted and restrictions easing, there was much celebration and praise. 

“While face-to-face ministry and overnight school camps were on hold, Youthworks’ ministry teams worked hard to adapt to COVID and, when that wasn’t possible, to focus on planning for the safe return of ministries they love,” says Canon Craig Roberts, Youthworks CEO.

School camps and overnight camps are now able to resume, and many of Youthworks partner schools have already confirmed bookings for their end-of-year retreats. Youthworks hopes to see many youth and children participating in overnight stays from Term 4 and over the summer. Safety plans and procedures have also been developed for all outdoor activities run at campsites, including archery, abseiling and canoeing. 

“It was a great day for Youthworks and the spiritual wellbeing of students from our partner schools when the NSW Minister for Education announced last week the return of overnight school camps in Term 4,” Mr Roberts says. “This assurance means that school camps can once again play their proven role in boosting student mental health and spiritual wellbeing outcomes.”

Large groups are also permitted to return to Youthworks Conference Centres

It’s not just students and young people, but church groups and large gatherings that are invited to return to Youthworks Conference Centres. 

Any other summer, some conference centres would have 400 people gathered onsite, but this year numbers will be smaller for safety. Youthworks has implemented social distancing policies to make this possible. 

“We are looking forward to restrictions easing further, so we can safely double the capacity of our dining rooms for large groups at our biggest centres,” says Darren Robertson, the head of Youthworks Conference Centres. 

Sixty two members from Bayside Anglican recently enjoyed a weekend retreat at a Youthworks site. It is the first parish to host a weekend away at one of the centres since the lockdown began  in April. 

Bayside’s rector, the Rev Zac Veron, feels that a church camp, sharing meals and doing life together is integral to building a healthy church community. 

“You can often do more in one weekend with a group of disciples of Jesus, to get them focused for mission as a church in the name of Christ, than you can in 50 consecutive one-hour gatherings on Sundays,” he says. “Virtual church, although necessary in a period of emergency and for a short time, is an illusion compared to real church.” 

He adds that there were many benefits in getting away with the congregation, especially in such uncertain times. 

“It allowed us to leave the distractions of everyday life for just two days, to be focused on what Jesus has done for us, what that means for our individual lives, and also for the life and mission of our church family.” 

Cover Image was taken at a Youthworks Site pre covid-19.