Tuesday, January 19, 2016

VBS 2016 - Joy in Jesus by Abingdon Press - Top Pick in Music 2016

Today I'm happy to share with you Joy in Jesus from Abingdon Press. This is a VBS curriculum with a very specific vision - it was designed to engage the church, parents, children, families in black and/or brown communities and equip them to do several things - pass on a heritage of faith, build families, build communities, educate children about their heritage, help them understand how valuable they are, and build bridges between this community and authority figures. A big vision. One which I believe they have done extremely well!                                                                                                                                                              But, while the primary audience for this resource may seem obvious, I want to challenge and encourage you to take a serious look at Joy in Jesus whether your church is made up primarily of one race or a mix of different races. I personally believe this would be an excellent resource for any church, as we all need to honestly face prejudices and mis-information in ourselves and deal with them as God wants us to, so we are able to help the children in our ministries grow up to truly believe with all their hearts the song they learned as little ones - "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."

In this day and age where racism, anger, mistrust and misinformation divide us - in our communities and sadly, in our churches, Joy in Jesus is a resource which can help bridge the gaps which divide, by helping us understand others and believe the truth - God loves and values us all. Absolutely take a serious look at Joy in Jesus, and whether you use it for VBS or not, find a place in your ministry where you will use it.

  1. Celebration - Room for praise - Psalm 100 - We will enter God's courts with joy.
  2. Gratitude - Room on a roof - 2 Kings 4:8-17, 32 - The prophet thanks the rich woman.
  3. Healing - Room without a roof - Mark 2:1-12 - A paralytic is lowered through a roof for healing.
  4. Teaching - An upstairs room - Acts 20:7-12 - As Paul teaches, Eutychus falls asleep.
  5. Faith - Under a roof - Matthew 8:5-11, 13 - A Roman centurion believes in Jesus' power.
Setting – Roofs & Rooms
Message/Theme – "Through celebration, gratitude, healing, teaching and faith, as articulated in the overall Scripture, joy from God strengthens people to live with hope. As Bishop John Bryant said at the funeral of South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, 'When God is in the house, there is joy.'"
Focus – Bible Content, Evangelism, Understanding, Community
Strengths –
  • Joy in Jesus has strong Bible content and focus on helping us see and understand how God made all of us in His image and He absolutely loves us all.
  • Lessons mostly engage the children - I'd like to see more of this.
  • I LOVE the "Parent Empowerment Pages" with tips for empowering parents, devotionals, Scripture, activities, prayers, resources and more - I LOVE this!
  • I LOVE "Outreach/Follow-Up" info - focus on helping children understand what they have learned and how it lives in their lives - could absolutely use this - or more of it after VBS to engage and involve children in serving their community!
  • I LOVE the focus on affirming to children how valuable they are.
  • I LOVE the focus on generations passing on a heritage of faith - excellent!
  • I really like how each day's Scripture is provided in three or four different versions - excellent focus on understanding.
  • I found the options for crafts to be creative, varied, affordable and fun.
  • The "Heritage/Drama" portion is a great way for children to learn about their heritage/people who showed their great value and it is also an excellent opportunity for those of us who are of a different race, to learn the truth about others who we may not really know.
  • Excellent information on engaging children with special needs.
  • Engaging music - TOP PICK for MUSIC 2016
Would like to see –
  • More excitement and engagement of the children in the opening and close - perhaps add science projects or games to get their attention and reinforce the point.
  • I would like to see open Bibles and more engagement of the children in the Bible lesson. Perhaps add Bible dramas or children reading from the Bible during the Bible event.
  • Information about how to keep your VBS safe with volunteer screening, severe weather/fire, etc.
Abingdon says, "Joy in Jesus will help all of God's children - girls, boys, young and old - understand healing and happiness go hand in hand and whether on a roof, under a roof, in an upper room or a room without a roof, joy is found in the mighty works of God through Jesus Christ. They will better understand God's promise in the overall Scripture, 'The joy from the Lord is your strength.'"." 

I really love how Joy in Jesus focuses on helping children learn about how God loves and values them so very much. I found the heritage features to be extremely interesting and I learned much from them. As a white person, I did not truly realize how life for people who do not look like me can be so very difficult and different. Yes, I pay attention to the news, but I really just did not, "get it". Joy in Jesus was "eye opening" for me and has challenged me to face and address beliefs I did not even realize I carried with me. We all must join together to help our children - all of them - understand and believe how much God loves them and the truth about how He has a plan for them . . . all of them. Joy in Jesus will help you do this. Definitely take a close look at this for your VBS this year - and like I said above, if you do not use it for VBS, absolutely find a place to use it in your ministry - no matter what color the children are in your ministry.

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