By Lainee Pegelow

In the ever-changing times of COVID-19, Arizona Southern Baptists’ Zona Administrative Team announced earlier this spring that Zona Camp, set for late June at Biola University in California, was being canceled but they would offer an alternative resource for churches.

Zona Camp is a collaborative effort of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, pastors, youth ministers from around the state and college students who are recruited through Christian Challenge AZ. 

The decision to cancel was not made lightly, and the team recognized Zona is an important week for hundreds of teens across Arizona.

The team arrived at its decision out of concern for the safety of the students who could be exposed and spread the virus among each other and back home. Another concern was the financial burden that sending students to camp could place on local churches and families.

“We value the spiritual health of these students and leaders,” said Chad Murrell, Zona camp director and lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale. “We also value their physical health and safety, and this decision was made to avoid placing students in situations where they would be at high risk.”

Not wanting to leave a void for the youth ministries in Arizona this summer, the Zona Team has created “Zona in a Box.” This resource — still with the 2020 camp theme “Apologia” and a focus on apologetics — will contain main speaker videos, discussion questions, leadership resources and examples of how students can be involved in missions. Zona in a Box, to be provided free of charge, will be geared for youth groups to use in any setting when they start meeting in person once again. 

“Canceling Zona was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make,” said David Johnson, AZSBC executive director. “We recognized the need to protect the health of our students and sponsors, as well as the financial strain on families and churches in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I am extremely proud of the Zona Team for making the pivot to offering Zona in a Box to every church in Arizona to use with their youth in whatever setting works for them. I hope many of our churches will take advantage of this great tool, especially with the resources for apologetics helping build stronger faith in our young people.”

For details about Zona in a Box, go to zonacamp.com.