I’m leading Vacation Bible School at my church this week, in the evenings after work. The theme, which my friend Tina brainstormed, is “Super Heroes for Faith.” Last night was the first night and to be honest, I didn’t know that I’d have many kids show up. We are a central-city church with very few children in our congregation. I was hired in February as the youth ministry leader to help bring new families with children to the church, and to make those with kids who do attend feel at home with more comprehensive youth programs.
Needless to say, I’m at the bottom of a very big hill. I thought a fun week of evening activities at the church would help get kids familiar with each other and with me. I figured this way they’d be more interested in coming on Sundays to play at Sunday school, etc. If you’ve worked with children in this capacity, you know the resources available are lackluster. There are thousands of websites dedicated to specific educational products but nothing that I’ve been able to find to: get kids to trust you, get parents to trust you, get both parties interested, explain complex issues of faith in simple, clear terms, make children comfortable with the super scary stuff that happens in the Bible ( Let’s not sugar coat this. Our leader was hung from a cross with nails and eventually cut open to bleed to death. When Old Testament God (cranky God, as I like to call him) got angry, He killed in swaths without mercy. We love to talk about Noah, but how about everyone else who drowned in that flood? Pestilence, wrath, pilars of salt … Lovely imagery when you are ultimately trying to teach, “Love everyone!”)
This week, and my youth leadership generally, is geared toward the happy side of faith. I’m always willing to discuss the heavy stuff, but summer vacation to me means fun. It’s pizza, movies, super hero capes, reading great books and swimming with hot dogs barbecuing nearby. It doesn’t mean memorization, castigation or guilt.
When I asked the kids last night what their super power would be — after discussing Noah’s means of getting all the animals in the ark in twos, Jonah’s ability to survive in the giant fish, Jesus’ talent for walking on water and feeding the masses with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish — their answers varied. One little boy in particular had the adults giggling with his immediate response — “telekinesis!” I had to later ask him what that meant. The 7-year-old impressed me wildly with his eye roll and quick, disgusted response, “Mind reading. Duh.”
Rather than following a set curriculum for purchase for this week, I’ve thrown together four nights of activities that I hope will both engage the kids and meet some of the goals listed above. Last night was decorating our own capes. Tonight we are watching a movie. Tomorrow we are learning the art of storytelling. Thursday we are swimming.
I may just ask them to try to walk on that water on their way in the pool.