If the past year of ministry has taught me anything, it is the importance of intentionality when designing children’s ministry programs. For the first half of the pandemic, I could barely keep up with the learning curve of online classrooms, video creation, and curating family ministry content for families stuck at home on Sundays. As all those new skills became part of my tool kit, I began examining how we were creating relationships and discipling our families in a time of chaos and crisis; in other words, I began to explore the intent in my teachings.
A Call to Intentionally Address Injustice
As the wife of an African male and the mother of two brown babies, the seemingly endless list of black lives ended by police, the chaos at the Capitol, and the ever-widening gap between the marginalized and the wealthy, creates an anxious ache in my soul and a call to action in my ministry. The community I serve is a predominately white upper-middle-class congregation in suburban Dallas. We have a long history of reaching out to the marginalized and bringing our resources to the aid of others. But during my time as Christian Formation Director, we had not directly addressed the issues of justice that were impacting the marginalized members of our community. With the nation in chaos, there was no better time to look at our intentions around justice and the church’s response to the anxious ache in our collective souls.
Connecting The Work of Justice & VBS
We serve roughly 200 students from Pre-K through the sixth grade as well as 30 high school and adult volunteers through our week-long Vacation Bible School program. VBS presents the perfect opportunity to address justice issues intentionally in our local context. Here are a few recommendations based on the ways we have begun purposefully connecting justice issues with our VBS program.
- Adapt, curate, or create curriculum that includes various races, abilities, cultural and gender representations. Our church family consists of several refugee families making justice issues around inclusion, identity, and economics a particular lens through which we examine curriculum. In 2021, we are adapting a VBS curriculum from Abingdon Press.
- Intentionally utilize a variety of media representations in your teaching. Images that represent the endless variety of God’s people help shape our identity and understanding of the other. It is vital for all children, but especially those in the minority, to see themselves represented in the stories of God.
- Seek local partners on issues of importance in your community. Most of the big box VBS programs have some Outreach/Missional element to their programming. Adapt this portion of the teaching to your particular community by partnering with community experts. Create direct links from your teaching of scripture to the needs of your local context.
- Collaborate. Work with colleges, ministry partners, parents, and community leaders to create your own VBS curriculum on an issue of justice specific to your community. Allow your particular skills and passions to highlight and speak into a relevant issue from the Gospel perspective. Help children shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of injustice and see your community impacted.
- Lean into your relationships. Look for opportunities to connect the stories of scripture with the lived truths of your church family. Justice issues often can be found in the pews of our church buildings and justice seekers too.
Setting intentions as we start planning our VBS programs allows us to connect our actions with our values and make a greater impact in the lives of the children and the local community.