by Claire Bramma
“Gardening God, We plant. We grow. We share with others. And all God’s kids said, AMEN!”
This was the opening prayer for our Vacation Bible School (VBS) held last week. The theme of the camp was “ReNEW”, growing in God’s love. The camp was held in the mornings, over Zoom, and involved prayers, songs, Bible stories, crafts, snacks and interactive games. We also promoted creation care by learning about how plants grow and sustain us, and by using recycled material for many of our activities. 15 children participated and the advantage of the online platform meant that children joined us from across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as from Ottawa and Texas! To make VBS possible there were dedicated volunteers that were present each day (3 junior leaders and 4 adult leaders), plus there were a number of people from our congregation who helped develop the curriculum and record videos for the Bible stories and crafts. (You can view the songs and stories here: ReNEW Playlist.)
What was Jesus saying to the children during ReNEW VBS?
The children heard about the nature of God’s love and of His Kingdom as we studied five of Jesus’ parables. First Jesus revealed the amazing potential of the seed of God’s love to grow abundantly through receiving and nurturing it (Parables of the Sower and the Mustard Seed in Mark 4). Second, Jesus reminded us to love our neighbours and to be merciful, especially in situations where we find it difficult to do so (The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Lost Son in Luke 10 & 15). Third, Jesus taught us about humility, as told through the parable of the Wedding Feast (Luke 14): to welcome all people to the table and to not seek a place of privilege.
Throughout the week, I heard Jesus telling the children that they are loved beyond measure. Jesus gave reassurance that he helps us to face of challenges and that he gives us eternal life (John 3:16). This reminded me of the famous Gospel account that confirms Jesus’ affection towards young children (Mt. 19, Mk. 10, Lk. 18).
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mk. 10:14-15)
I also like how this passage encourages everyone of us to have faith like a child, which caused me to reflect on the question, what were the children saying to me during ReNEW VBS?
I saw firsthand how children have a remarkable capacity to embrace the Word of God; whether through scripture, story, prayer, or song. The Good News of God’s unconditional love and how it grows and spreads is a message that children can embrace and see as a reality. An adult lens is too-often tainted with logical thinking, a broken heart, or cynicism. In the company of the children attending VBS, I felt a renewed identity as a child of God and the ability to hear the Gospel anew. Everyday there was something that a child said or did that encouraged my faith and helped me see the Kingdom of God in a new way. Indeed, Jesus was speaking to me through the children!
This VBS experience confirmed that Children’s ministry is an essential part of Christian community and that volunteering in this capacity is a multi-layered blessing. How might you be able to support children & youth ministry, whether in time and talent, or financially?
For, if today’s children receive God’s love and hear Jesus’ teaching, how bright the future can be!
Closing Prayer: Creator God, thank-you that you call us your children and that you have planted the seed of your love into our hearts. Bless all the children who participated in ReNEW VBS this past week, and help them, and us, to hear your Word and to grow in your love. In Jesus name, AMEN.