How one assembly found a way to keep their summer children’s ministry intact.
The year 2020 will long be remembered as the year of the coronavirus and the way we approached our Vacation Bible School (VBS) in a new way. Zoom, which we had never used before at Mountain Ridge Bible Chapel, had now become the de facto way of gathering for all our meetings. We had no idea how the Lord was about to use the assembly in this effort. God had a purpose however in the pandemic so that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ could still go out in a triumphant way!
As the summer of 2020 approached, it became apparent that we would not be able to use the chapel premises for our VBS. We began to question among ourselves, “Will we be able to have a VBS this year?” This was a big deal for us as we have been in our local community for over 50 years and have always had a Summer Vacation Bible School. Indeed, it was perennially the best attended youth event.
An announcement was made to the assembly that there would be a Zoom meeting to discuss our options. At this meeting, we discussed two possible options. We could physically distance with a limited size group, or we could do the unthinkable—have a virtual Bible school. It was unthinkable because no one had any idea of how we could pull it off. In the end, we decided meeting in person was not viable. Therefore, we decided to start looking for third party material to build our virtual program around. We prayed together and left the meeting encouraged.
Eventually, we decided on a program from “Share Faith Kids” called “Daniel—Courageous Faith.” It was based on the first six chapters of Daniel. Comic material and a short, animated video were purchased to introduce each day’s lesson. Our original target date was July13, but we had to reschedule to the week of August 17. But all was not lost, because through a Know the Word conference, we made the acquaintance of our brother in Christ, Robbie Youssef of Axios One International. He was to become the linchpin in helping us put together several pieces of program content into a functional work and provide technical support. Where do you start when you want to do a project like this? We needed a program director and Dorothy McLaughlin stepped up to lead the effort. Positions were identified including Emcee, Activity/Music Coordinator, Verse Leader, Speaker, and Registrar. As we went forward other ancillary ideas formed. Dorothy added fun Bible songs that served as an activity, a message for the parents and a missionary component, both of which could be accessed by a separate daily link.
What did we do to create the modules for the program? Each lead person was responsible to record their portion of the program within the allotted time limit. Axios One gave access to Google Drive so that their videos could be uploaded to a single place. The main program would run about 35-40 minutes, the parent’s message 8-10 minutes, and the “Missionary Connect” 7-8 minutes. Then we got busy recording in a place of our choice with a simple background (sometimes a white sheet) and kept re-recording until the final product was suitable. Honestly, there is a lot more to the recording part than we had anticipated. The program director reviewed the final product. Then the cut that we liked was uploaded to the group account on Google Drive. From there, Robbie could access the videos for editing and put all the different components together to create a daily program. Before the final release, the elders had a chance to preview the entire program. Axios One also designed and coordinated the sending out of the invitations.
We encouraged everyone at Mountain Ridge to post the invitation to all social media platforms, local Facebook pages, relatives, and anyone they would like to invite. An invitation even went out to every missionary family listed in the CMML Handbook! The pre-planning period up to and including the presentation was bathed in prayer. I remember the Tuesday night prayer meeting the week before the VBS. As each prayer went up to the Lord the enormity of what He was doing in our midst was overwhelming.
The final version for each day followed this format. First, Mrs. Dorothy introduced the theme for the day. Then Miss Emily taught two theme songs. Next, we played the pre-packaged animated story from “Share Faith Kids” followed by a gospel presentation with Mrs. Maria, assisted by Harry and Eva. Then a song-break with Madison, Hunter, Haylie, Caden, Emily, and Tyler led by Mrs. Shawna and Mrs. Linda warmed our hearts. Next, Mrs. Angela with help from Ethan taught the Bible verse for the day, followed by a wrap-up with Mrs. Dorothy. The “Missionary Connect”, put together by Judy Gallagher, featured a different missionary family each day. The gospel message for the parents, presented by Doug Tremper, coordinated with the daily lesson for the day.
So how did it turn out? The response was tremendous! We could not have imagined what the Lord would do! Children from our own local church and local towns from New Jersey, as well as children from around the United States and the world participated, many from missionary families. It was without a doubt far beyond what we had ever envisioned for the outreach. Isn’t that just like the Lord? “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or even think.” May the Lord Jesus Christ be praised! by Doug Tremper