Sunday, December 30, 2007

Teaching children, with God's care: Vacation Bible Schools combine religious learning with serious fun

I found this article from 2003 about Vacation Bible School in The Anniston Star online archives. When I worked for the Calhoun Baptist Association, VBS time was always fun! It was fun to go back and read this...

By David Coombs Star Staff Writer
The Anniston Star
Published: June 7, 2003

In the chapel at Parker Memorial Baptist, 18-year-olds Britney Palmer and Erica Yonker were leading a group of second-graders in song. Accompanied by a portable stereo, the second-graders sang, "Let compassion be my compass, let kindness be my key…"

The compass and the key are both means and end in "cracking the Christian character code," the goal of the Vacation Bible School programs taking place this week at Parker Memorial in Anniston and West Side Baptist in Jacksonville. Cracking the code is the central mystery of this year's "Caper in the Kingdom" program, a series of activities and lessons with a Great Britain theme.

In keeping with the British theme, the Rev. Truman Norred, pastor at West Side Baptist, wore one of Sherlock Holmes' double-billed, houndstooth hats while leading the children's recreation sessions.

The halls of Parker Memorial were filled with Sherlock Holmes silhouettes and life-size inflatable Scottish terriers, while cardboard versions of Big Ben, a London double-decker bus, and a red British phone booth decorated the church altar.

Down the hall from the singing second-graders, Parker Memorial's "sixth-grade sleuths" were given worksheets decorated with "confidential" and "top secret" stamps that were part James Bond and part Mission Impossible.

The worksheets have encrypted the two foundations of Christian character, and the sixth-graders use a key to decode the message, finding kindness and compassion again. After they finished, their teacher, Theresa Shadrix, led a discussion about kindness and compassion in the Bible passage studied that day, the Book of Ruth.

Earlier, the sixth-graders participated in a Ruth-themed relay during their recreation period. Instead of batons, the runners had to retrieve potatoes or onions, mirroring Ruth's gleaning wheat to support her widowed mother-in-law.

Combining activities and Bible study is the central concept of Bible school, and the spiritual growth it encourages is one of the main reasons for children to attend, said Chris Pennington, a Parker Memorial congregation member whose two children have attended the program there every year they were old enough.

"Exposing the children to the gospels is our primary goal here," said Gwen Moore, the Bible school director at Parker Memorial.

Appropriately for a program including the Book of Ruth, which emphasizes the power of kindness and devotion to cross barriers of ethnicity and nationality, Vacation Bible School also places importance on community building.

Copyright, 2003, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.