Ministry in the 21st Century: Willemina Zwart

Date Published

July 10, 2024

Home / Blog / Ministry in the 21st Century: Willemina Zwart

Published by Calvin Seminary

SOCO Beach Project, 2005 EPMC Alum

Over 25 years ago, Willemina Zwart was a staff mentor at the Ocean City Beach Project, a summer discipleship and leadership initiative of the Coalition for Christian Outreach. Little did she know that decades later, God would call her to launch a beach project on the south coast of Ontario in Port Dover! Willemina followed this call, and God—by his grace and by the generosity of his people—provided a permanent house and property for the South Coast Beach Project (SOCO).

The SOCO Beach Project is an ecumenical partner initiative with Resonate Global Mission. The primary aim is equipping young adults with a Christ-centered kingdom imagination through:

  • intentional Christian community living
  • speakers who integrate faith and vocation
  • meaningful connection to a local congregation
  • local seasonal employment
  • one-on-one mentoring and spiritual coaching

With many young adults leaving the church and walking away from faith, a Canadian study known as Hemorrhaging Faith was conducted to determine underlying factors for this phenomenon. A follow-up study, Renegotiating Faith, focused on young adults who retain and cultivate their personal faith commitment. Young adulthood is a common time when individuals “renegotiate” their values and identity, including faith. According to the Renegotiating Faith findings, young adults who experience a formational Christian leadership summer opportunity are more likely to integrate and practice a lifestyle of faith. Another pivotal factor for young adults who continue to identify as Christ’s disciples are adult Christian mentors who walk alongside these young adults through their emerging adulthood.

SOCO runs from early May to late August for young adults ages 18–29. Through the SOCO experience, young adults learn skills and have space to discern where God is working in their lives. They have time to explore what living out God’s kingdom means in everything they do. This happens within a supportive Christian community while experiencing intentional discipleship in the regular rhythms of life. They learn practical skills like cooking together for groups, budgeting, shopping for food, and life skills like balancing time and responsibility in work, play, and community. Young adults experientially learn how to navigate conflict in ways that lead to more profound friendship, understanding, and connection.

A key factor in making the program affordable is that participants can hold summer jobs and keep their earnings while participating in SOCO. They “pay” for the summer through fundraising, which covers a portion of their expenses. The whole ministry relies on the generosity and support of churches, donors, and grants. It provides a critical opportunity for the larger Christian community to invest in young adult faith formation and demonstrate our love for them.

The community can house up to seven young adults. In addition, an annual summer camping retreat is hosted the third weekend in July to extend SOCO’s impact beyond the core summer participants. Having a house and a property opens up further possibilities for young adult discipleship and leadership formation throughout the rest of the calendar year—an avenue for further ministry exploration!


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