Posted on : Monday March 1, 2010

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

COLUMBIA, Md.—As Maryland/Delaware churches look towards spring, thoughts turn towards new ministries, camps, mission trips and of course, Vacation Bible School (VBS). According to LifeWay, VBS remains the most popular and most effective outreach in Southern Baptist churches. Now’s the time to make plans and build excitement for this year’s program. LifeWay’s offering this year is a western style VBS called “Saddle Ridge Ranch”—Roundin’ up Questions, Driving Home Answers – all based on a “dude ranch” theme.

June Holland, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) missionary for preschool/children, VBS and weekday education, said LifeWay actually tailored this year’s curriculum around what kids today want to know, based on research – asking them. They found that children want to know who they are in God’s eyes, does God care for them? What is His plan for them, how can they be like Jesus? And, “What do I do now?” To answer those questions, this year’s VBS covers the Genesis creation account, the story of Joseph and how God provided for him through his struggles; Jesus’ visit to Zacchaeus and God’s plan for our lives; Jesus as our example, reading about Jesus worshiping and teaching in the synagogues, providing for people through miracles, learning about how we can be like Jesus; and studying Paul’s admonition to the Philippians as the children learn to live in a way that honors God.

“They begin to understand who Jesus is—more than just facts,” Holland said.

Kids gallop to the “Bible Study Bunkhouse” then head ‘em out to “Music at Campfire Creek” and then mosey on over to “Missions at Firefly Cavern.” Mission lessons include highlights from missionaries working with an ostrich farm project in South Africa, missionaries who take kids from children’s home to the Grand Canyon and tell them about Jesus; a cowboy church in North Carolina; missionaries who tell Bible stories in West Africa and those who work with the Yaminahua people in the Amazon River jungle basin.

Recreation and snacks are all based on the dude ranch theme. Snacks include “horse feed,” “cowboy cobblers,” “firefly sandwiches” and “round-em up corrals.” Games are “circle the wagons,” “bandana drop,” “hat in the ring” and “stampede.”

Holland said the music is great, especially “Tumbleweed,” this year’s ABC song which teaches kids the steps to salvation while having them do a two-step.

“It’s the most active ABC song yet,” Holland said with a laugh. “The kids will love it!”

She explained that “Tumbleweed” talks about not being like a tumbleweed, blowing here and there, but living a solid life in Christ.

Holland said a big emphasis for 2010 VBS is to really use the material for VBS and beyond, and to do more follow-up.

One follow-up she suggests is using Club VBS for the rest of the summer, or at other times during the year. Club VBS is an alternate program churches can choose for their traditional VBS, or to use for mid-week programs, day camps, mission trips or spring or fall break events. This year’s Club VBS theme is a road trip, called “Route 254,” based on Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.” The motto is “Know, follow and choose God’s path.” Lessons include creation, choosing to say thank you, based on the story of the ten lepers; Jesus’ death and resurrection, his appearance to his disciples and God’s plan for salvation.

Club VBS is set up like traditional VBS, but it’s based on a two-hour daily schedule instead of three and is more broadly graded. It has Bible study, crafts, recreation and snacks and a worship rally. Decorations and accessories are more limited.

Holland said one of the best parts of VBS is its adaptability, using it in whatever format works. Some churches last year, she said, had VBS in a “one room schoolhouse” type of environment with older and younger kids going to different corners for Bible study. Another church had a bilingual VBS. Holland is looking forward to see what creative ways churches choose to have their VBS this year. No matter what the format, she believes God will bless and souls will be saved.

One of the most fun parts of having a western themed VBS, for both the students and the leaders, is wearing Stetsons or ten-gallon hats and boots and pretending to be cowboys and cowgirls.  Of course, the most important thing is knowing that when that student takes that final ride into the sunset that they’re heading in the right direction.