After 35 years of evangelizing thousands of youth and youth leaders over action-packed weekends in the Smoky Mountains, Resurrection has been recreated as a free, two-hour, online gathering on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m.
Now that the pandemic has forced the annual ministry event to adapt in the name of safety, a new app and other new ideas could expand and enhance the Resurrection experience into the future.
Months of planning have gone into creating the virtual experience, after the Resurrection design team foresaw that gathering in person would risk the spread of COVID-19, said Evan Nester, design team member.
“It was really hard making that call last summer. People were upset, understandably,” Nester said. “But we thought it was in the best interest for everyone’s safety that we go virtual.”
Resurrection 2021 will go on with the same speaker (Mark Oestreicher) and band (Roger Williams & the All Mixed-up Quartet) selected before the pandemic required an overhaul of the winter weekend.
In January 2020, Resurrection was attended by 8,322 at LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Youth participation will be an important part of the virtual event, just as youth were often on the stage in the traditional event, Nester said. Earlier this year, youth were invited to send in videos of their talent presentations, which will be shared during the Jan. 23 online gathering or through a new app.
The new “RezYouth” app is now live and available free through Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
“We wanted kids to have Resurrection in their hands and a place to be connected,” Nester said. App users can request prayer, buy T-shirts and other merchandise, connect to social media, and learn more about Resurrection’s speaker and band.
The design team also hopes to include photos of youth groups in the Jan. 23 virtual event. Between now and Jan. 19, leaders are requested to email photos of their youth groups to firstname.lastname@example.org, said Laura McLean, Holston associate director of connectional ministries for youth and young adults. (Older photos are acceptable, since many youth groups have not met this year.)
“Of course, we would much rather be in person, but we are excited about virtual Rez,” McLean said. “We have discussed that there will likely be families who will watch together, and that is a new opportunity for us.”
As coronavirus cases surge throughout the nation, many leaders will probably decide against gathering their youth groups to watch Resurrection online together, McLean anticipates.
“We’ve talked about how we can offer resources and follow-up questions that work for families as well as youth groups,” she said. “I never cease to be amazed by the creativity of our youth leaders. I have heard of some who have talked about follow-up Zoom calls, and others have been exploring ways they could watch together, drive-in movie style.”
Interactive games for youth at home will be incorporated in the two-hour Jan. 23 event, reflecting the interactive activities of recent Resurrection years, Nester said.
The design team also decided to take advantage of the moment to redesign Resurrection’s logo. “We felt in this time of transition, things were not going to be traditional. We thought it would be time to change things up,” Nester said.
The new logo recalls the mountains of the previous logo while adding the “worship, experience, grow” goals of the ministry event.
Resurrection 2021 will be livestreamed at ResurrectionYouth.com and on the Resurrection Facebook page. Participants are encouraged to pre-register at ResurrectionYouth.com or through the app.