VBS programs address racism, pandemic in virtual setting
By Kevin Johnson
Summer months in children’s ministry means vacation Bible school or camp for children within the faith community and neighborhood. This summer, every church is having conversations about how to do summer VBS within its context. Below are two good examples of how churches are responding to both the COVID-19 pandemic and racism. Churches identify the importance of providing programming to continue to offer children and their families hope, fun, and a reminder that God loves them deeply.
The first VBS is in response to providing a creative virtual way for children to explore the world and extend the connection of the United Methodist Church beyond the local congregation to families all over the world.
'Where in the World is God?'
WE ARE TOGETHER ON THE JOURNEY.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, children's ministers around the country have developed innovative ways to connect with children and grow disciples. Some of those leaders have come together to create a program that can extend those connections from the local congregation to children and families from all over the nation and world! Where in the World is God is a user-friendly, virtual summer program that can fit any church context. The website provides the information users need to use the free curriculum, including video downloads and streaming, as well as promotional material and ideas for implementation in churches of all sizes. It can be used as a traditional five-day vacation Bible school/camp, weekly programming for the summer, or family devotional time.
WHY DO WE NEED SUMMER PROGRAMMING DURING COVID-19?
Because children need:
- to remember that God is active in our world.
- to know that God loves them deeply and is with them.
- to have joy, fun, and play!
- to remember what a blessing they are.
- to connect with other Christian children and adults around the globe.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM THIS CURRICULUM?
Each session is a forty-five-minute video experience. Stories include:
- Day 1: The journey of Jonah and a whale (The Book of Jonah).
- Day 2: The journey of Balaam and a talking donkey (Numbers 22:21-23).
- Day 3: The journey of a son who finds his way back home (Luke 15:11-32).
- Day 4: The journey of Ruth and Naomi (The Book of Ruth).
- Day 5: Our earth: The place where we are journeying together (Genesis 1).
HOW CAN I SUPPORT THIS PROJECT?
Where in the World is God is free, thanks to the generosity of the North Texas Conference United Methodist Center for Leadership Development and the presenters who are donating their time and talents. You can support them by spreading the word! Or better yet — by using this curriculum in your congregation.
The second vacation Bible school program responds to this country’s need and embracing of love for all God’s children. Edmonds United Methodist Church in Washington state has spent years creating and building its VBS around inclusivity and social justice. These elements are critical for a child’s faith formation and are equally critical during this time of our nation’s grief and confusion. This program can be provided either by a church or family unit.
COMING TOGETHER WHILE APART - A VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL EXPERIENCE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
This unique VBS curriculum grows out of a deep desire by the developers to walk more fully in the values of love and connection. Building off previous VBS work in anti-racism, inclusion, and social justice, CommUNITY Allies uses arts and crafts, movement challenges, music, and more to celebrate and inspire families of faith to join together—even as people are apart. Join CommUNITY Allies to learn about empathy, community activism, and global connections from the safety of your home. This curriculum was initially marketed to mostly white, upper-middle-class communities, inviting them into awareness about race and responsibility. The team defined racism, discovered beauty in diversity, and explored privilege and resources (playing games that teach that some people start further ahead in life, and others start further behind), thus creating a coming-together-while apart VBS for the whole family to continue conversations around these important and challenging issues.
JOIN THE REVOLUTION OF LOVE!
CommUNITY Allies should take about an hour a day to complete as a family. The kit contains Bible verse coloring pages, activity plans and worksheets, stories, step-by-step craft instructions, and lots of flexibility for customizing the activities for your learners and your home. Virtual interactive participation in online forums is another way to stay connected and share your VBS creations.
WHO IS COMMUNITY?
They are an interdisciplinary team comprised of seven leaders who committed to learn and grow together. Jennifer McLaughlin, Director of Family Ministries at Edmonds United Methodist Church, envisioned an anti-racism VBS to maximize the biggest community gathering opportunity of the church year for facilitating a revolution of love. This work was successful, thanks to an equity consultant named Courtney Wooten, a woman of color from the community, who trained an interdisciplinary team of volunteers about racism and co-wrote and co-led the curriculum.
The key to the success of this VBS curriculum was finding an equity consultant willing to teach, and an interdisciplinary team of volunteers ready to learn. Together, they have created a transformative experience and a wonderful vacation Bible school.
- Day 1: Seeing the self in others
- Day 2: Seeing the self in others through justice and allyship
- Day 3: Looking beyond ourselves
- Day 4: Connections to the world around
- Day 5: Community in action
SCRIPTURES OF FOCUS
- Micah 6:8
- 1 Peter 3:8
- 1 Corinthians 12:26
Rev. Kevin Johnson is the Director, Children’s Ministries for Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Kevin’s hero Fred Rogers suggests that we, “listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.” This quote defines Rev. Kev’s approach to ministry. Kevin, an ordained elder of the Kentucky Annual Conference, has over fifteen years of ministry experience in which he has thought of the children first. Prior to ministry, Kevin worked with children in the hospital setting and in group homes for emotionally and physically abused children.