Summer school: Churches infuse fun with Bible studies
July 5, 2013
Vacation bible school is a long-standing summer tradition in Nevada County, and an opportunity for kids in the community to learn about God's word while having a blast, according to churches.
Each program has a unique theme, but the desire to provide community children with knowledge of God and the Bible is shared by all.
"What we really want is to expose the kids to bible stories," said Neila Whiting, a fourth generation Nevada County resident, and long-time vacation bible school volunteer.
Whiting has been involved with the vacation bible school program at the United Methodist Church every summer since the early 1980s, but has a long history of helping with the program prior to that.
"I was first asked to teach in 1962 when I was in college," Whiting said.
Laughing, she recollected her first year helping with vacation bible school, "I was sent to the bell tower in the Methodist church with five fifth-grade girls, every day for two weeks," said Whiting.
The vacation bible school at the United Methodist Church has been a collaboration between several area churches since the early 1960s.
"Two or three months before, we get together and come up with a theme." Whiting said.
"Everywhere Fun Fair: Where God's World Comes Together" is this year's theme.
Each day participants will hear a Bible story, do a craft that relates to the story, play games, sing songs and learn about a different country; Japan, Zimbabwe, Mexico and Australia, Whiting said.
The Summer Sensation program at Sierra Presbyterian Church in Nevada City is focused on teaching participants that God and the Bible are relevant to everyday life.
"We changed the name from vacation bible school to Summer Sensation," said Heather Garren, the children's ministry director at Sierra Presbyterian, "Kids don't want to go to school in the summer."
Each day Summer Sensation will focus on a different athletic principal, which goes with the "going for the gold" theme of the program, Garren said. The athletic principals — training, team, integrity, faith and victory — are integrated into a story with live drama about the prophet Daniel and his three companions, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego.
"If we can pull them into the story by capturing their imaginations, we can capture their hearts," said Garren.
In addition to the bible story, kids will participate in singing with a live band, water games and crafts.
"The kids are wet all day," Garren said, "They have tons of fun."
Penn Valley Community Church is hosting a Kingdom Chronicle vacation bible school.
Joyce Gleason, the program coordinator, described the church's goal in hosting a vacation bible school as "evangelism; bringing kids to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."
Kingdom Chronicle participants, mostly from outside Penn Valley Community Church, will hear a bible story, play games and make crafts related to the story.
Abundant Life Community Church in Grass Valley is taking a somewhat different approach to vacation bible school this year.
Rather than the typical, week-long event, Abundant Life hosts a Wednesday evening program, Kingdom Rock, each week through Aug. 21.
"We wanted to do something for adults, as well," said Cheri Barber, a children's program coordinator at Abundant Life.
While the kids participate in Kingdom Rock, where they will learn to "stand strong for God," adults will participate in a study of the Old Testament, led by Abundant Life associate pastor Gabe Barber.
Much like other vacation bible school programs, kids will hear bible stories, do crafts, play games and sing songs. They will also participate in an activity called Imagination Station.
"It's a science experiment that goes with the night's theme," said Barber. "Last week we made Truman Tumblers. A piece of card-stock, representing King David, was only able to move once a marble, representing God's love, was put inside."
"We want the community to know they have a place within our church and also in God's kingdom," Barber said.
The collaborative vacation bible school at the United Methodist Church, 236 S. Church St., Grass Valley, will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, July 15-18. It is open to all children from three years to going into sixth grade. The cost is $10 per child, but scholarships are available. For more information, call 530-273-4680.
Sierra Presbyterian Church's Summer Sensation will be next week, from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, at 175 Ridge Road, Nevada City, 530-265-3291. It is free to participants from 4 years through those going into sixth grade.
Kingdom Chronicle vacation bible school will be at Penn Valley Community Church, 11739 Spenceville Road, Penn Valley, 530-432-1161, from 9 a.m. to non July 15-19. There is no charge to participants, and children from 3 years old to those going into sixth grade are welcome.
The evening Kingdom Rock program at Abundant Life Community Church, 10795 Alta St., will be Wednesday evenings from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. through Aug. 21. A parent or other responsible adult is required to stay and participate in the adult bible study. To inquire further, call 530-273-1139.
Jessica Snapp is a freelance writer in Nevada County.