Posted on : Tuesday October 7, 2008

ELLICOTT CITY, Md.-Children at Bethany Lane Church are experiencing the kingdom of God and sharing it. Actually, they’re giving tours. In fact, over 200 people toured the kingdom on Sept. 20 on the church grounds; one hundred of those visitors were first-timers.

The students, under the leadership of children’s minister, Rachel Williams, built a huge city-48 by 64 feet with 150 buildings and 66 streets, named after the books of the Bible. The walls of the “buildings” depicted Bible stories in an assortment of ways, representing how they learned them. Visitors were escorted through the buildings where they experienced “kingdom life.”

“It was wonderful,” Williams said. “We had several kids from each age group giving tours and telling the stories.”

The four and five-year-olds led people through the books of Law and told the stories that went along with them. The first and second graders took visitors across the “Jordan” and told them about history, poetry and prophets. The third, fourth and fifth graders led people into the New Testament area, which culminated at God’s palace. The buildings were made of cardboard, but the palace was made of wood and was seven feet tall. Of course, to get to the palace, visitors had to walk down the roads of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, where they all intersected at the cross, before going on to the palace.

Along the kingdom path, folks could share some of the experiences they were hearing about. They could use a slingshot with foam balls to knock over a nine-foot Goliath.

“The youth department made Goliath out of cardboard and duct tape. He was 3-D and my eyes came to his waist,” Williams laughed.

Visitors could also tumble the walls of Jericho with a rock that had “God” written on it, since they knew it was only the strength of God that made those walls fall. In the New Testament area they came to an orchard where they got some fruit of the Spirit. At Paul’s post office, adult leaders prayed over those who stopped by and also took written prayer requests.

“People waited in line to turn in prayer requests and be prayed over,” Williams said. “It was so cool!”
Some Bible characters also showed up along the way, including King David, Esther, and a Roman guard.
As they neared the palace, they came to four towers representing Jesus’ teaching, his miracles, his birth and His resurrection. At the intersection stood a wooden cross.

Four walls surrounded the palace-the wall of salvation, the wall of martyrs, the wailing wall and the wall of the cloud of witnesses.

Smoke and light filled the palace.

“Our kids worked so hard,” Williams said.

The program was the culmination of two years of studies. Each age group studied the Bible, stressing different parts. The pre-k and kindergartners had a kings and princesses theme and learned about the patriarchs. The first and second graders had a super hero theme and learned about poetry history and the prophets. Third through fifth graders learned about the New Testament and missionaries. Each group built part of the kingdom based on what they learned.

Williams explained she got the idea when she was trying to find a way to help kids learn about the Bible in a meaningful way. Combining the hands-on activities, and having them be “tour guides” enabled the kids to not only learn the lessons, but also be able to teach the lessons to others. Seeing the buildings helped everything click for the children, she said.

She also wanted to teach them to be bold.

“I wanted children at an early age to get used to telling others about Jesus-talking about Him in a natural way,” she said.

The kingdom will be rebuilt in two years. During that time, the kids will be moving on to the next level, learning about different parts of the Bible and building different parts of the kingdom.
Williams said her goal is for the children to know about each book in the Bible and to be able to tell at least one story from each one.

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent