Julianne loved reading stories of missionaries as a young child and always looked forward to hearing from missionaries at her church. God used these stories and people in her life to begin building the desire for her to serve as a missionary herself one day.
Earlier this year, she moved to Macedonia, where she will share the good news of Jesus, disciple new believers, and encourage her Macedonian friends to reach their country and the world for Christ.
Could one of the children signed up for your church’s Vacation Bible School end up becoming a missionary like Julianne? Little ears can grasp big ideas — even ideas as huge as the Great Commission.
“But,” I hear you saying, “This year’s VBS curriculum is already set in stone.” Don’t fret – you’re not too late! Here are a few tips for adding quick missions moments to your regularly scheduled VBS programming.
1. Let a T-shirt be your guide.
When children are gathered in small groups, check the tag on one child’s shirt. Pray together for the country where it was made; ask God to send workers to that land so that any unreached people there can hear the good news of his love. The next day, check another child’s shirt and pray for a new (or possibly the same!) country. If leaders have their phones on them, it might be helpful to pull up a world map to show the children where the country is. If you do this in a large group, you can hang a world map and have the child place a star on the country.
2. Make it a game.
Kids learn through play, so why not take one game session during the week to “teach” about missions? One idea that uses supplies you probably already have on hand: Set up an obstacle course — tunnels to squirm through, chair bridges to cross, cones to dodge, ropes to walk along, a water hazard if you’re outside in the heat. Explain that there are unreached people all over the world who don’t have any Bibles or any people to tell them that God loves them. Missionaries carry God’s good news to these people, even when the journey is tricky or dangerous. Hand each child a balloon on which you’ve written the name of an unreached people group. (Here’s a list of the world’s 100 largest unreached people groups.) Challenge them to carry their balloon “Bible” safely through the obstacle course. Another idea: Play “Smuggle the Bible” — similar to Capture the Flag, except that you’re trying to sneak “Bibles” (again, these can be balloons) INTO the other team’s side without getting caught.
3. Invite a missionary.
Unlike most missionary presentations, VBS is wild and fun — but missionaries can get crazy, too! If your church has missionaries in town on home service, invite them to participate in a way that keeps the fun flowing, but also broadens the children’s understanding of the world. Perhaps the missionaries could run games one day, but the games could be from the country where they serve. Or they could take over one day’s snack time, but serve something slightly foreign (but still delicious).
4. Write a missionary.
It can be tricky to know how to entertain kids when most of the group is still eating or crafting, but a few already have finished up. Missionaries to the rescue! On the first day of VBS, flash a photo of a missionary family and tell about their country and ministry. (Bonus if they have school-aged children so that the VBS kids can relate.) (Double bonus if the missionary family will record a brief video to show at VBS.) Throughout the week, as children need a quick little something to do, hand them notecards and a pencil, and ask them to write a note (or draw a picture) to send to the missionary family.
5. Pick a project.
Ask the missionaries that your church supports (or if it doesn’t support any missionaries, ask a missions organization) if they have any child-friendly projects that could use some cash. Think: Craft supplies for a village Sunday school, uniforms for children in need, balls for a basketball outreach. Get a big ol’ bucket and challenge the children to fill it up with coins. Show progress by asking children to come up each day to try to lift the bucket. Many kids love the chance to get up on stage, and hopefully lifting the bucket will get harder and harder as the week progresses! (Here’s a great story about one AWANA club that gave generously to refugees in Europe.)
Read on …
Cheerful giving can start in childhood: Six ideas to help kids develop as missionary supporters.