Gold Medal Ministry – the VBS Olympics

Creating a Vacation Bible School from scratch may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it! It is an opportunity to flex my creative muscles and work with some pretty fantastic people. It was only a few years ago that I was introduced to the idea of creating my own VBS by Pr. Joie Baker while working with the churches in Sharon and Hermitage. There has been no looking back.

In my last four summers with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fairview, our VBS participants have been superheroes, spies, sailors, and Olympians. This being an Olympic summer, it only made sense to link this great DSC_9851world-wide tradition with stories from the Bible. Using the values of the Olympics and Paralympics – friendship, respect, equality, courage, inspiration, excellence, and determination –  each day we explored them within the stories of Ruth and Naomi, the Good Samaritan, David and Goliath, Nehemiah, and the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The themes are highlighted in a rotation of daily activities: music, science/art, storytelling/snack, and games. We keep our VBSers and volunteers busy the entire two and a half hours they are here.

It is quite amazing to see God at work in this ministry over the last few years, guiding us in steady growth. In 2013,DSC_0368 we hosted 27 children and about 13 volunteers. This summer, we hosted 55 children and had 27 volunteers! It is
hard to find the words to express the amazing community that continues to be built around this ministry. We see many of the same families, as well as meet new ones, and it is so much fun to watch the children grow from year to year.

I will be honest, as I really started thinking about VBS back in April, my biggest concern was not having enough volunteers for the number of children that I anticipated. It is all well and good to have an influx of children, but you absolutely need the adults to match it. I was overwhelmed by the response to my plea for volunteers from around our St. Stephen’s community. We had members of the church, Nursery School teachers, parents, grandparents, and teens offer to share their gifts with us for the week.  It was a comfort to know that we could handle a significant amount of kids in a fun and safe environment.

DSC_0039Volunteers are the heart of this ministry and, I believe, are the reason for our success. Ministries within the church are about lifting up and sharing the gifts that God has given us for continual building of the Kingdom, which is something that I strive to do within a VBS program. Being able to mold your program to the strengths of the volunteers is one of the benefits of creating your own program. The volunteers have just as much fun as the children who participate. And in the end, VBS is truly a team effort.

While much of our program remains the same, we are constantly evaluating it and finding ways to improve. One of the things that I am already thinking about for next summer is how to accommodate further growth. There is always something to adjust from year to year, but that is part of the fun!

Vacation Bible School is a great ministry that all churches can offer. It is a DSC_9741wonderful way to engage both the church and the wider community. It also brings a wide range of ages together to learn and share with each other about the love of Christ. As I said before, I love Vacation Bible School. It is an important and worthwhile ministry that I am always happy to talk about and share with others.

Missy Greene Christian Formation Associate at St. Stephen’s, Fairview

One Church Presentation at ECW Annual Meeting

“One Church” was the message presented by the Reverend Melinda Hall at the ECW Annual Meeting in Youngsville, May 7.  Members of the diocesan Dominican Republic team each spoke of their mission to the church in Santiago De Los Caballeros and the children as they assisted in the Vacation Bible School.  This coming year will be the second time the team travels there.  Recently,  Melinda requested support from our diocesan churches by way of crafts and financial support for “treats” for the children.  On hand at the ECW Meeting,  Gloria McIsaac, President of the ladies guild of Emmanuel Church, Emporium was able to present two crafts to the team.  Supplies for bead bracelets and flower pens.  Melinda pointed out that the ten member team was a collaborative effort from our diocese as no two people were from the same church.  Missy Greene also shared her role working with The Vine, a youth ministry in the Erie area.  The Episcopal Church Women offer their prayers and support for these two outstanding efforts.

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Pictured from left to right: Missy Greene (Erie), Sue Frontino (Brookville), Valerie Marshall and Gloria McIsaac (Emporium), Tina Mills (Hermitage) and Rev. Melina Hall (Dubois)

The Diocesan Mission Trip to Cristo Salvador Starts this Friday July 24th

Melinda with kidsThe Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has ten people adventuring to the Dominican Republic starting this Friday July 24th to help host a Vacation Bible School with our new partner congregation, Cristo Salvador.

Cristo Salvador Episcopal Church in Santiago offers hope amidst the drug use and poverty of their neighborhood, ever trying to reach out to those around them. Part of the reaching out involves running a pre-school for the neighborhood. Education in the Dominican Republic is underfunded, with over-crowded classrooms, under-prepared teachers, and high drop-out rates. For over a hundred years, the Diocese of the Dominican Republic has been involved in education, with congregations opening and running schools. But with the cost of paying teachers’ and assistants’ wages and managing a building, the churches often have difficulty funding the school; Cristo Salvador is no different. Additionally, families often struggle to afford the cost of attending the school, even if attendancescared girl offers their child the chance for better education and thus a better job.

Our assistance with the Vacation Bible School kicks off our relationship with Cristo Salvador. Rather than simply sending money and never meeting one another, folks from our diocese will work with the folks there, getting to know one another, learning from each other, and experiencing different ways of life. Additionally, the VBS will help Cristo Salvador proclaim the good news to the youth and adults of their neighborhood. We are going to support them, hoping that what we do furthers their ministry in that community. But the VBS is only a small aspect of the overall partnership with Cristo Salvador. The partnership focuses on helping Cristo Salvador maintain and operate their preschool. Education for young children is lacking in the DR, but the earlier children Kids at tablebegin school and the earlier parents begin to value education, the more opportunities open up for that child and his/her family. By partnering with Cristo Salvador, we can assist them in changing the lives of countless children and their families. We have much to learn from their way of life and the incredible revival of the Spirit happening across the Dominican Republic.

Follow the Diocesan Mission Trip right here on the blog (July 24th thru August 1st). There will be regular posts from members on the trip about their experiences.