Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

20 small churches sign up for pilot VBS program


Discussing VBS props and curriculum, from left, are: (seated) Connie Barnett, Lee Ann Simpson, and Alma Flores; (standing) Justin and Michelle Graves, Wendie Jencks-Wilson, J’Nevelyn Lloyd, and Laura Flores. PHOTO BY DERREK BELASE

Even children like to get mail. They will receive daily letters from Paul when they attend Vacation Bible Schools at some 20 small churches in a pilot program of the Oklahoma Conference’s Rural/Small Membership Church Commission.

For 2018, the commission approved a custom VBS curriculum, “Ready, Set, Go,” to assist rural churches with minimal budgets to more fully engage in their communities.

The trial program also fits the denom-ination’s #SeeAllThePeople initiative.

“Conference officials want to hear from those 20 to make decisions for the future,” said Derrek Belase, staff liaison to the commission and director of Discipleship. Rachel Parrott chairs the commission.

“VBS historically helps you break out of ‘we can’t’ mode,” said Rev. Belase.

On Feb. 24, training was offered for the participating churches.

Based on four chapters of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Ready, Set, Go” was written by J’Nevelyn Lloyd of Austin, Texas, with music by Justin and Michelle Graves. It is designed for 4-year-olds through fifth-graders.

Lloyd said she wants kids “to know the Bible is a current book. It’s very important to me that the kids know it’s their book.”

So costuming and decorations are contemporary. “This VBS isn’t an ancient marketplace. Everybody is in normal clothes. A mailman delivers a letter each day. Sometimes there’s a prop with it,” she said.

A leadership group of only two people could successfully present “Ready, Set, Go,” according to Lloyd and the Graveses. The 10 songs can be taught using videos that include lyrics and movements, so a music leader is not necessary. One large room could accommodate all the activity centers.

The material can fit a five-day, three-day, and even one-day VBS schedule, with notes for each included.

However, the goal is to make VBS a churchwide event. “This isn’t me by myself trying to pull off a kids’ event,” Lloyd said.

To recruit volunteers, she asks people to pray about serving. She doesn’t merely say, “Will you come and help?” She begins with prayer and scripture study well in advance. She also advised that it helps recruiting when your pastor says from the pulpit, “We’re praying about VBS.”

Justin Graves suggested using some VBS songs in worship before the event.

“If you start now and ask people to pray about it, you’re asking someone to really give some thought about it,” Belase said. “If people can only do a day or two, maybe have them read the curriculum and then ask what they can commit to do.”

Graves added, “Even if people commit to one day, they will see the energy and be a part of something — and not want to miss at all next year!”

Churches enrolled in the pilot program are: Antlers-First, Atoka-First, Fitzhugh, Healdton-First, Heavener-Faithbridge, Holdenville-Barnard Memorial, Madill-First, Marietta, Newcastle, OKC-St. Luke’s at Asbury, Otterbein, Pawnee-First, Redland, Skiatook-First, Springer, Tulsa-University, Wanette, and Waynoka.


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