First Annual Virtual Reality Camp

Rob Guenther (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

About the presenter

Pastor Guenther attended Calvary Lutheran School through 8th grade and then Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma, Washington. He went to Martin Luther College, receiving his BA degree in 2000, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, receiving his MDiv degree in 2004. Guenther spent six years at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, then eight years at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenai, Alaska, and now, back in New Ulm, Minnesota at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
[As I was formatting presentations for this conference, I received word from Pastor Rob Guenther of St. John's Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota, about his "first annual" Virtual Reality Camp. With his permission I have extracted essential information from his email and present it here as his report. Since the Camp is ongoing during this conference's discussion period, I invite you to check back here again to see updated reports among the comments. — the Conference Host]


We have officially launched our first (annual?) VR camp!! Here are the stated purposes of the camp:

      1. Spread the Gospel
      2. Teach
      3. Train
      4. Laugh
      5. Explore
      6. Envision
      7. Expand

To make it happen I hired three second-year Martin Luther College students. They came up with curriculum, themes, bought snacks, set up the equipment (the hardest part), bought the apps, and are running the camp, troubleshooting with the students, and monitoring what they see (okay... maybe that's been the hardest part... not the monitoring, but figuring out how to do it with multiple Quests). They've even been taking notes to make it better next year and all plan on coming back next year.


The Camp is running on the first four Sundays in October with the 5th being a play date. Five young people have signed up for the 5-7 p.m. sessions, with two more in a 1-3 p.m. session (we have only five headsets). The first week's focus was "Music," and the second was "Art" — VR Sculpting and (hopefully) 3D printing of their creations. Sunday the 15th is "Science" night. Sunday the 22nd is "Phy Ed."

You can click here to look at the Day #2 Lesson Plan devised by the MLC students.


Please comment or ask questions in the discussion forum below. All Camp leaders are available for more private consultation via email:


[Parents gave permission to use the pictures of the students.]


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Rachel J Pierson 2023-10-17 1:36:26pm
What a neat idea! I'm sure there are many excited camp participants.
You have stated seven purposes for your camp. Were those purposes intentionally built into the planning materials?
How do you plan to take feedback from the participants to improve the next iteration of the camp?
Rob Guenther (St. John's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, MN) 2023-10-18 11:24:51am
Great questions. Here are the short answers: 1) "No. Those weren't all built into the planning. We are figuring things out as we go this year." And, 2) "We plan on giving campers a paper survey to fill out on the last day of camp. And we plan to email a survey out to their parents. We're hoping feedback from both groups will help us improve. We're also hoping to collect 'testimonials' to share with professors and teachers to show them the potential of these tech tools."

Now the long answer: We did intentionally want 1) A gospel focus: How can we use this technology to teach God's Word? 2) An educational focus: How can we use this tool to help students grow in knowledge and become better servants in God's Kingdom? 3) A style of "edutainment": How can we make it fun for the kids to learn? And 4) Modeling/demonstrating: How can we show professors and teachers (and future teachers) some of the possibilities this tech contains for future classrooms?

So far, I think we've hit the first three objectives very well. We're hoping that next year we can get music teachers to come on day 1, art teachers to come on day 2, science teachers to come on day 3, and Phy Ed teachers to come on day 4, so we can showcase the potential use in classrooms moving forward.

To give you and ides of what we do, the current format/schedule is...

15 minute devotion with me based on a biblical location (Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Galilee)
15 minutes of exploring that location in "Wander." (Google Earth in VR)
30 minutes of an educational theme (For music we did an app called Maestro. For art we did "Sculpt VR," first playing virtual Pictionary, then they started sculpting something to print with a 3D printer. For science a Rube Goldberg machine app and "Mission:ISS" at the International Space Station. And this Sunday is Phy Ed. I forget what the app is.)
15 minute snack and social break.
15 more minutes of that week's educational theme.
25 minutes of "student's choice" of anything we'd done so far (and a few other games...)
5 minutes of recap (recharge headsets) and close with prayer.

Having only 5 headsets (and maybe internet bandwidth to only accommodate that many) we kept it low key this year. We also weren't entirely sure how smoothly things would run or how many snags we'd hit on the way. We hit a few so far, but quickly overcame them. And I'm honestly very impressed with how smoothly it's running, how great the student teachers are, and how quickly the campers pick up on the technology and jump right in. What took me hours to figure out, these guys have all done in minutes! Guess I'm getting old.) :)
Rob Guenther (St. John's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, MN) 2023-10-18 11:27:10am
Join our Facebook Group: I hope to post updates and reports there when the camp is over. (PS. I should have named it "welselsvr." Sorry, my ELS brothers and sisters.) :/
Judith A Kuster (CIM Institute) 2023-10-19 2:01:39pm
Pastor Guenther - I can see lots of challenges you have worked with to create and use this technology - getting funding for headsets and laptops (computers for monitoring what is going on), having a space to accommodate the participants, finding acceptable internet service, recruiting helpers to find materials online and set everything up, recruiting participants with parent support, maybe learning how virtual reality affects some people (headaches, dizziness) and probably a lot I’m not thinking about. I challenge you to figure out virtual reality snacks;-) I’m impressed. You are leading the way by creating a “virtual speech camp” and I believe others will learn from you and create these opportunities for other groups as well.
Rob Guenther (St. John's Lutheran, New Ulm) 2023-10-20 8:09:10am
Thanks, Judy! It's exciting to see something finally take shape after years of working toward it! And I feel it has momentum now as the MLC guys are (at least they say they are right now) committed to doing it again in the future. And the grade schoolers are talking it up at school building some excitement for future campers. :) (Though we've talked about taking it to the high school level next year, so they may be disappointed.) :) But the biggest excitement to me is getting more people engaged in how VR can be used for educational and spiritual purposes and not just for video games. Thanks for your encouragement and support! It's very appreciated!
Pastor Rob Guenther (St. John's Lutheran, New Ulm, MN) 2023-10-31 8:01:32am
The first annual St. John's VR Camp is in the books! We finished on Sunday with free time, some games, and a pizza party! I was happy to hear one of the campers say, "Awww! I'm not ready for VR Camp to be over!" :) The student teachers did an amazing job! Now we're gathering feedback for next year to make it better. And I'm considering ways of raising funds for new apps and stipends for college "coaches" for next year! The camp was great! Looking forward to doing it again!
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2023-11-01 11:04:59pm
You are a pioneer among us, Pastor Rob. Thank you for your dedication to this dream.