Gloria Williams fondly remembers attending vacation Bible school as a child growing up in Harlem.
“On my street there were lots of little children. We’d all walk down the dirt road,” she said. “We’d stop to pick plums along the way.”
Vacation Bible school was simpler in those days, she said. It was mostly teaching children lessons from the Bible.
Today, vacation Bible school is much more complex, she said.
Williams and Shelia Wilson have coordinated vacation Bible school for Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church on Furys Ferry Road for the past three years. This year’s Bible school was held last week, and they chose the theme Jesus Family Reunion.
They decorated the fellowship hall to resemble a picnic, with red checkered tablecloths and family trees on the wall. Pictures taken the previous night flashed across a television screen while Minister of Music Janie Mathis played the keyboard.
Vacation Bible school is a good opportunity to focus on spiritual growth outside of regular services and Bible studies, said the Rev. Jennie Roberts, one of the church’s lay ministers.
Through it, the church can teach the gospel to different age groups on a level that they can understand, yet in a format that is more focused and hands-on than in a typical Sunday school class.
“It’s down to earth and I can really get it,” Williams said.
Because she recently moved from Washington state, last year was the first time 16-year-old Alex Agee had ever attended vacation Bible school.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be like when I came, but I really loved it,” she said. “I like that we have a different thing to talk about each day.”
The theme at Fleming Baptist Church on Peach Orchard Road last week was Kingdom Rock.
Each day’s curriculum centered on a different Bible point, teaching children how the Bible, trusting God, prayer, family and friends and God’s love all help them to stay strong in their faith.
Children participated in Imagination Station, which used science experiments to tie into the Bible points each day.
“We want the kids to go home and leave here with something to do with the Bible point,” said Minister of Children David Bivins. “They can go home and show a family member or mom and dad. Crafts end up in the back seat. This hopefully they will keep.”
He said on average 140 children attend – all in third through sixth grades – and at least half are visitors.
On Sunday, all children who attended who were not members were invited to bring their families to the worship service.
Bivens said the church hopes to reach youth in a different way and to reach deeper into the community through the Bible school.
“It’s a time we can have a large impact on our kids to teach them in their own learning styles about what it really means to follow Christ. We’re not using traditional ways of teaching kids,” he said.