VBS in the life of a church is when the Children's Department goes into full swing. There is first of all a theme, then lots of recruiting, decorating, extra hours, stress and then high energy as a wave of children hit the church doors. For adults it can be lots of fun, tiring, stressful and maybe even a little mechanical; it's something the Church does every year, so every I do part.
When I was six years old, my parents had broken tradition with my hispanic family and did something very unusual; we moved more than 25 miles away. My parents decided that they needed something different for their young family than the urban Los Angeles life they had grown up in. My dad got a job transfer and we moved to Colorado Springs, CO. Life in Colorado was very different from sunny/smoggy Southern California.
As a new family on the block, my brother and I were invited to attend a VBS at a local church. Great! My mother could get us out of the house! It was there where I walked through the doors of a Protestant church for the first time. It was there where I found so many teens and adults who were happy! It was there where I could be a part of team and earn points for playing games. I was challenged to bring pennies and nickels to help some family who were missionaries in Africa. What was a missionary? Why did they live there? Did they live in a house? I didn't know what it meant, but I brought my pennies and I gave.
The best memory of all, was when my counselor (who seemed so grown up to me, but in reality was a high school girl) told me that Jesus loved me, and He wanted me to go to Heaven and be with Him when I died! I was ecstatic! You mean VBS could last forever in heaven? I wanted to be a part of that so I raised my hand and she led me through a little prayer.
I did not understand the full theological implications of what I have done. I have spent the rest of my life living out that simple prayer, understanding what it truly means to be a child of God and sharing that very same message with children. I believe whole heartedly that my conversion at the tender age of 6 was real, and that my call to ministry began to form and develop.
As we begin to prepare for VBS, yes it is work. It takes a lot of people, doing little things to make a big event successful. As we prepare the doors of East Gate to be flooded with kids, remember you never know what is in the heart of each child as they wiggle and run and struggle to listen.
Let's all pray for the children as we invite them, send out postcards, make phone calls. We've heard the Gospel many times, but many of these children will hear it for the first time and their experience here at East Gate could be the one that changes the course of their life, just like it did for me.
I am reminded of the song our children just sang in the spring musical "When others see a shepherd boy, God may see a King, even those our lives are filled with ordinary things. In just a moment, He will touch you, and everything will change. When others see a shepherd boy, God may see a King."
Where has the summer gone? We just got the letter in the mail from my daughter's school giving all the details for the new school year; what time to be there, what to bring, where to go. My goodness! So in preparation for the beginning of school, this last week of vacation we are getting ready. We are going to bed at "school night time", getting our clothes for the next day organized, and getting up at "school time".
Here in Children's Ministries we are doing the same thing. It has been a very exciting time for me personally gearing up for the fall and winters quarters in the life of our church. I would like to take a minute to explain what we are doing this fall and winter in Children's Ministries.
Wednesday Sept 5th is the official kick off for our fall children's programs. Children's Quizzing (led by Beth Simmons) starts at 6pm in the Family Center (FC-105). It is a small group just for kids. Kids will study the Book of Acts and compete in area quizzes on their knowledge of Acts. They have the opportunity to advance to the district quiz and even the World Quiz held in Indianapolis, IN in June 2013. I am personally SUPER EXCITED about it being a World Quiz year. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for children to meet other "quizzers" from across the entire United States who also studied the Book of Acts.
We will also kick off our Wednesday children's program, CONNECT. It is a high energy, program that will not only engage your children in God's Word, but also provide a perfect avenue for your kids to invite their friends. They will CONNECT with God's Word, CONNECT with friends and leaders at church and CONNECT with new friends. They will not want to miss out!
The Christmas Musical, "Meet Me at the Manger" is high gear. Practice begins August. 26th, during the Children's Church hour on Sundays. There are opportunities for kids to participate in a sign language song, special choregraphy, solos and speaking parts.
You will also see some family events and kids events coming up for you and your family to participate in.
I love fall! I love buying new school supplies, anticipating the changing of the leaves, the excitement of Children's Ministries and the opportunities for your children to grow spiritually!
This summer has been an exciting time here at East Gate! We just came back from children's camp at the VA District Campground. We put together at 2 minute video of the highlights of our experience. You can view this video on the Kidz Ministries page.
Camp was fun. Sure it was hot, and the days were long - but it was completely refreshing to be in a place where they children were isolated from the "outside world" of technology and distractions and be completely focused on nature, God's Word and building relationships with one another. For me personally, it was great to be with other children's ministries professionals and partake in the common interest of pointing children to Christ. That's why we were there. That's why we exist.
I came with a bit of a cold, but also with a renewed sense of calling and determination deepen, broaden, enrich and ignite our Children's Department here at East Gate.
But camp is just the beginning. VBS is right around the corner July 23-27th from 6:30-8:30pm. If you aren't completely sure about what our church is doing for VBS let me explain. It is a sports-themed VBS. We will offer 5 sports for children ages 3-5th grade: Cheerleading, Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball. Children will choose their sport and stay with that sport for the entire week. By staying with their sport, the coaches will be able to help them expand their skill level and build relationships with them.
During the devotional time, they will be hearing God's Word from coaches and athletes who have been a witness to Christ in area of sports.
We are also in the middle of the "Amazing Race" our Wednesday night summer program. We have adapted and adopted the concept from the hit TV reality show where teams of people travel the world doing amazing contests. We are learning about Jacob's family (the 12 sons of Israel and specifically Joseph) and doing amazingly crazy games and fun crafts that tie into the lesson. You may have seen us out on the fields, doing 3 legged races, looking for clues to a puzzle or just plain having fun.
I love summer, the weather is great, the kids are free from school schedules so we can play just a little bit longer than normal. I love kids, telling them about Jesus, teaching them about the Bible and just plain having fun.
Check out the highlight video of summer camp on the Kidz Ministries page. Keep checking out this page from time to time, I will keep you informed on the life and pulse of East Gate's Children's Mini
Have your heard the newest Newsboys song "God's Not Dead"? Pastor Matt and the worship band played it for the End of the Year celebration and I can't stop singing it. I found it on YouTube and played the video over and over while I was doing housework. Around the fifth time it played, I put down the broom and watched the video... It was a very accurate and sad commentary of our culture, people constantly being inundated with the concept of "God being a myth" and "we are all animals". Then, Christians standing up and saying "NO - we are not animals, we are not an accident, we are the created by a loving Creator". As a mother and Children's Director my heart pounded, my pulse quickened and
as I get ready for a night of Caravan my task is clear; my job is to tell your children " 'God's not dead, He's surely alive. He's living on the inside roaring like a lion.'"
As we go through the routine of our week; going to work, cleaning the house, whatever it may be - let's link arms as parents and the church body and tell our children "
Yes, I know - I don't hide my feelings or thoughts very well. It's intentional, I don't even try. What you see is what you get. I realized this morning that we have several new families at East Gate who may not completely know what the different programs are in the Children's Department, so I thought that I would take a moment to say "I Love Children's Quizzing" and also "we do Children's Quizzing too!"
Children's Quizzing is a Bible Study for kids. There is a six year cycle, and each year they study a book of the Bible. Throughout the year, there are competitions between other Nazarene churches in our area and then at the end of the study, there is a competition for those whole qualify for the whole district. Quizzing even goes beyond that; there are regional and even an international competition.
Our culture loves competition. Competition definitely has its merits and flaws. There are strong points for both sides of the argument. Me personally, the trophy my daughter earrned for Bible Study in Children's Quizzing is much more meaningful in our house, than her martial arts trophies. Her trophy represents knowledge in her heart that will never rust or be destroyed by moths. Martial arts can save a life, but Bible Study can foster that intimate relationship with Jesus can save her soul.
If your children are not involved in Children's Quizzing, consider having them got involved this fall. Your kids will enjoy digging into the Word!
Ok, quiz time. Can you put these Biblical characters in chronological order: Apostle Paul, Joseph, Deborah, Jesus, Noah, Lydia. This sounds like a simple exercise, but in order to do this, one would need to know a basic timeline of the Bible. Beyond that, key events that surround each person flash through a person's mind as each character is put in order. This is how I did this exercise: Noah and the Ark, (first), Joseph, prime minister of Egypt (second), Deborah the judge in the Promised Land (third), Jesus (fourth), Paul the missionary of Jesus' message (fifth) and Lydia, the business woman converted by Paul (sixth).
Basically, to put these people in order, I had to have an idea of where they fit in the time line of Scripture.
Each program in our Children's Department at East Gate has a specific purpose. When put together, they all fit like a puzzle. For example, Sunday School teaches snapshots of Biblical stories in detail, but they are not necessarily in order. Children's Quizzing takes a school year to the teach one book(s) in depth. Caravan teaches life skills and Nazarene doctrine. Children's Choir provides an avenue of worship and entertainment. Children's Church had a make-over to complete the puzzle. Children's Church focuses on the timeline of the Bible. We started right at the beginning~ Genesis.
As many of you know, I have a background with curriculum development, specifically Children's Quizzing. What I LOVE and learned about the power of the Children's Quizzing book cycle is how it encapsulates the timeline of the Bible. Children's Church loosely follows this book cycle and allowing for a few extra items.
What I really love about learning about the Bible in this fashion is that children begin to see how things flow together. They are see a person/the nation of Israel in their present state and then read ahead and see how their decisions affect their future.
One of the best example of this is Joseph. We meet Joseph as a 17 year old boy and then we fast forward in his life and read how his choices as a 17 year old affect his life as a 30 year old. We see how his faith in God motivated the choices he made. Children can't see their own future, but they peek into Joseph's future and learn from him. This is a powerful learning tool when teaching chronologically.
Children can learn to see the big picture and help children to relate to Joseph as a real person. By learning about his whole life, children can see what is was like for Joseph to live in a family where their was favoritism, bullying, dysfunction, yet he chose to follow God. Most importantly, they see God as the Hero of the Bible. It is God that saved Jacob's family by sending them to Egypt during the famine. It is God that kept Joseph safe during his trials in Egypt, and it is God that reunited Joseph and his father.
We are planning to study these books, skipping sections that may be deemed inappropriate for children. Remember, the Bible is the Bible, it is not necessarily a "G" rated book when it comes to violence and "adult themes".
Genesis - how the world started, where we come from, the beginning of the Israelites through the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)
Exodus - Israelites in Egypt! slavery! Moses raised up, the nation of Israel is given their own land. God is the Leader of the Israelites through human leader, Moses.
Joshua/Judges - Moses has died; Joshua is raised up and the Israelites moved into the Promised Land. God leads through a series of judges.
1 & 2 Samuel - Trouble in the Promised Land! Samuel is the last judge, Israel wants an king. Saul and David are first to rule as king.
1 & 2 Kings - Good kings, bad kings and the ups and downs of Israel. A nation is affected by the choices they make.
Matthew - focuses on the life of Jesus - the center of it all.
Acts - how the Bible reaches to the 21st. century from ancient Israel and the Jews, to the missionary journeys to the Gentiles.
Is this an ambitious task? Yes. Will it take time to do this? Yes. However, in Children's Ministries, we have time on our side, we will have these children for up to five years, we have time and material.
If you spend any time at all around me or my husband you will soon realize that we both really love the Bible. It's a big part of our lives. I recognize and affirm that a HUGE part of a child's spiritual formation is their personal familiarity with their own Bible.
When I took reins of the Children's Department, the FIRST thing I incorporated in Children's Church was to incorporate a SWORD DRILL. A sword drill is a time dedicated to learning the mechanics of the Bible; how to use their Table of Contents, what chapters and verses look like, and looking up verses. I have given out lots of gold coins to both the fast kids and those who help new readers.
For children, I am a fan of the paper Bible. I know that there are many great programs for technology, but navigating the paper Bible gives a sense of chronology to Scripture that technology doesn't. If your children have a "story Bible" that has "stories" in it I would encourage you to get them a simple Bible with chapters and verses. Children's Church is actively and consistently teaching kids to feed themselves spiritually, and familiarity with God's Word is a basic skill.
Learning to navigate the Bible is directly connected to learning the chronology of Scripture, which is also a focus of Children's Church (and the topic of my next blog). Parents, I officially invite you to Children's Church; don't forget your Bible!
I got a call from my best friend today. She was worried about her 4th grade son. His classmate had brought a pocketknife to school. Her son knew that it was wrong and told their teacher. Of course, the boy with the pocketknife was sent to the principal's office. As she told me the entire story a few things rose to the surface. First, he had a strong sense of right and wrong in this situation. He knew that that his classmate broke a big rule. Second, her son liked his classmate and although they were friends, right and wrong was more important.
I reminded her that developmentally, fourth graders have a strong sense of right, wrong and justice. Children in the elementary ages see "black and white" or "right and wrong". Children are very sensitive to what is considered "fair". My eight year old daughter is no exception. She is quick to point out if she feels either herself of her friends were treated unfairly.
Spiritually speaking, the elementary years of a child are prime years to teach the great truths of the Bible. Biblical narratives, or the 'stories' of the Bible ring true for kids. They love them! They love thinking about what Jesus may have been like as a child. They sympathize with Jesus' younger siblings, having a 'perfect' brother. They love hearing the miracles of Jesus' feel the sting of unfairness when the Pharisee try find ways to kill Jesus.
As we enter into the season of Easter, find those opportunities to speak to your child about the "fairness" of Jesus being wrongfully accused and punished. Explain that every person has done something wrong, they have sinned, and deserve punishment. The punishment for sin is death and being separated from Jesus. But while Jesus was innocent, He died on the Cross for our sin. It wasn't about what "was fair" it was about His great love for us.
Many parents worry about being able to accurately explain something they might struggle with understanding themselves. It's a natural reaction. The doctrines of sin, grace and salvation are complex enough to keep theologians writing books for years to come, and yet simple enough for a young child to understand and accept.
If the opportunity allows, the "Roman Road" is a tried and true set of verses to introduce to your children about sin and the gift of salvation.
Romans 5:8 tells us that God loved us so that "when we were in our sin
Christ Jesus came to die for us."
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord."
"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart
that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a
person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he
confesses, resulting in salvation."
"for Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
This is a common question young children ask - and usually it's when parents are not prepared to provide a answer. While many explanations and analogies have theological cracks in them, here is a good one to keep in your arsenal.
Imagine an anthill with ants coming and going. Now, imagine standing next to the anthill watching the ants as they work, walk in lines, and carry things. The ants can't see you, you are too big. All the ants see is their world, the other ants around them, little tiny pebbles, and leaves. Ants eyes are not capable of seeing a person, they weren't made to see anything that big. However, just because the ants eyes won't let them see you standing next to them, doesn't mean you aren't there.
That's kinda like God. God is so big, we can't see Him. We're like the ants; all we see is what is around us. God is much bigger. He's right next to us; and He sees everything around Him, while we only see the anthill.
Keep in mind: This is a word picture to help kids grasp the "bigness of God" and that God is Spirit and people are of flesh and blood, just as people and ants are made differently.
If you have spent any time around the children's department, then you know about the van ministry. It's vital...and crazy! It's like a wild horse that will take you places fast....if you don't fall off at full speed! So, in an effort to direct the energy of this 'wild horse' in the right direction, Karen Yarborough has stepped up the challenge of being our "Tinker Creek Team Captain" for the van ministry. The van will now go only to her apartment in the Tinker Creek apartment complex. She will be the point person for loading and unloading and will ride the van to church to 'contain the energy' on the van. She has a vested interest in the success of our van and children's ministry - all four of her kids are a vital part of this church! When you see her in the halls, encourage her, support her and give her the understanding smile. You know the one, that smile that says "Oh yes! I've ridden that wild horse too!"