Bringing the Dream to Life

September 01, 2021 | Church | Dick Duerksen

Most good experiences begin with a dream. For the Oregon Conference, the dream was crystal clear: Create a virtual camp meeting experience that help people fall in love with Jesus.

The pandemic eliminated the ability to hold an in-person camp meeting on our Gladstone campus this year.

“Okay. How can we get a Jesus-filled Gladstone experience to as many church members as possible?”

The Oregon Conference administration had already selected the main seminar and devotional speakers, the Hispanic ministries department was already planning a “caravana” touring camp meeting, the young adult ministries were designing creative approaches to personal growth and the children’s ministries department was knee-deep in planning a program that featured the African jungles! That was a great beginning, but we still needed to figure out the best ways to deliver the programs to our members — and make it feel as much like camp meeting as possible.

“What if our conference churches meet in-person and watch camp meeting together?”

“How about having hosts who interview each presenter with questions submitted by online viewers?

“If we are going to put all the programs online, we need a high-quality place where the speakers can look professional and feel at home.”

The communication department's large white board was quickly covered with ideas. Some were awesome. Some were awesome but impossible. Some were terrible. All required hard work. After weeks of dreaming, plans started coming together into what promised to be a feasible and fun camp meeting.

  • Create a camp meeting app that will make it easy for people to register, choose their programs and interact with the presenters.
  • Invite all conference churches to be "partner sites" that will run in-person programs for adults and kids.
  • Provide partner sites the resources to help make this an easy process for congregations and their A/V crews.
  • Upgrade all audio capabilities so people will be able to hear clearly.
  • Design and construct two different TV sets, one for seminar presenters and another for the evening worship speaker.
  • Ensure all wiring and Wi-Fi connections are secure and able to deliver a consistent signal to both YouTube and Facebook.
  • Use the GleanerOC Connections, local church publications and more to share details about the camp meeting app and featured programs.
  • Design and implement a traveling “Gladstone Today” program that will broadcast from a different church each evening.
  • Discover and produce stories featuring members from around the conference to showcase during “Gladstone Today” programs.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

We had used the app last year and it worked pretty well. Building on that experience, Gary McLain, Oregon Conference communication director, worked to add more functionality and simplify it for easy use.

Mitchell Kessler, Oregon Conference communication multi-media assistant, upgraded cables, added microphones and tested the audio till his ears hurt. He and Dick Duerksen, Oregon Conference storycatcher and storyteller, worked together to design the sets. McLain and Scott built the walls and floors, Duerksen cared for the furniture and art, Krissy Barber, Oregon Conference communication assistant, worked on staging and Greg added 32 lights to ensure everything was illuminated perfectly.

Jonathan Russell, Oregon Conference assistant to the president for communication, and Kessler made sure all of the computers, screens, interfaces, cables and volunteers were tuned to perfection in the production streaming trailer.

Barber designed postcards, digital ads, video thumbnails and never-ending pieces for the Partner Packets.

Someone dared to ask what we were doing with our time since it must be so much easier to operate a virtual camp meeting. Not true! We’ve discovered it’s much more difficult — especially if you want the programs to run enough that viewers don’t think about the cables, sets and cameras.

The most difficult part of the plan was taking a 25-minute in-person "Gladstone Today" show on the road to five different churches around the Conference. That took five people planning, scheduling, driving, setting up, writing, working through local internet challenges, producing, tearing down and trying to stay healthy.

Are we tired? Yes. Are we happy? Yes. Especially since YouTube and Facebook statistics show that people continue to watch and re-watch the video programs and stories every day.

By the way, the Snack Shack was open for business during the week and sold 4,325 Pronto Pups, 1,463 vegeburgers and a gazillion(ish) bags of kettle corn.

How do we feel about our original dream? According to the phone calls, texts, emails, YouTube comments and Facebook shares, viewers were blessed, challenged, encouraged and affirmed in their personal relationships with Jesus.

How does the production team feel about the experience? Glad you asked. We’re exhausted but already dreaming of ways to create another wonderful experience next year!