Summertime is the season for VBS, and we are so excited to share with you how St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church used An Illustrated Compassion curriculum for their VBS program! We recently caught up with Rona Pasch, Director of Children’s Ministry at St. John’s, and she gave us the skinny on how it all went.
The Search for VBS Curriculum
Rona, before we get into Illustrated Compassion specifically, have you typically come up with your VBS program?
I am relatively new to children’s ministry (my background is in elementary and early childhood education). So, this will be the second VBS I have planned. I used a free curriculum last year as a base and molded it to fit the abilities and personality of our church.
What are your thoughts on the standard VBS curricula out there in the children’s ministry marketplace?
I think all models of VBS can be good. It all depends on the size of the church and what the demographics are. We are a medium sized church, so I probably have more creative wiggle room than I would otherwise. It means I have many options and don’t necessarily have to use a boxed VBS.
Choosing An Illustrated Compassion
What made you think about using ICM’s Illustrated Compassion curriculum?
First, I loved the broad theme of compassion. Like it says in the ICM description, no matter where you are on the theological or political spectrum, it’s clear our world needs more compassion. I was also drawn to the creative side to the curriculum. We have used the coloring posters in the past, and they work for all age groups. Additionally, this curriculum allows for a lot of flexibility. I could tweak it to fit our church’s personality, which I’m a big fan of. I also love that it includes the music, which was a major selling point for our music director. We even sang both of the songs during our worship service and hung up the coloring posters the Sunday after VBS.
Making It Their Own
How did you use ICM’s curriculum?
We used An Illustrated Compassion’s Module 3 to create a 4-day VBS, using each day as a different Bible story/verse. What I found most adaptable was the Compassion in Action portion. I used local resources whenever possible for those activities.
For example, I’d already discussed doing blessing bags with our priest. So, when I saw the idea for Compassion Packs in the curriculum, it was perfect! We got donations from the congregation, and the kids packed the bags during VBS. Then, they handed them out the following Sunday. We also have a garden of veggies we grow to donate to the local food shelf. So, we spent time weeding and picking produce. I worked with another local organization to write “welcome home” letters to people transitioning out of homelessness.
What did you add or change to make ICM’s curriculum usable as your VBS program?
First off, I added a creative arts portion that included painting, recreating stories using Lego, etc. This was also a time used for coloring the posters. Also, we colored kindness cards that lined the walkway up to our church and were sent home with the children to hand out or sneak into library books. Additionally, there’s a great selection of picture books about showing compassion. So, I created a small reading area with those books available during down times. Lastly, I added a time for a physical activity. Since the theme was compassion, we did team building games. There weren’t specific winners; instead, team members encourage each other along the way.
Hopes for the VBS Curriculum
What did you hope your church community would get out of An Illustrated Compassion curriculum?
I hoped to educate the kids and adult volunteers about what the Bible teaches about showing compassion to one another. In addition to that, I hoped we’d discover how easy it is to do so. And by tying in local resources and organizations, I dreamed that this would inspire our church and families to support our local community and to build on what we’re already doing.
Takeaways from the Experience
Why do you think it works well?
Well, first, it has a great layout and includes fabulous ideas for telling the stories. It also has follow-up questions and ideas for activities and projects, which are great. I know many other colleagues are already using resources and products from Illustrated Children’s Ministry in their churches, and it lines up with our theology very well. I could feel confident that the kids will not only be learning specific Bible stories and verses, but also how to use those in their everyday lives to show compassion to others.
Would you recommend ICM curriculum for VBS to your friends and colleagues?
Yes, absolutely! I would definitely encourage other churches to use this curriculum.
We loved hearing Rona’s story about how they used An Illustrated Compassion for their Vacation Bible School program. If you are thinking of using it for your VBS program, or you want to think of other ways your church could use it, I’d recommend downloading our free summary page of this blog post. Our free summary highlights what Rona’s church appreciated about An Illustrated Compassion, and how they were able to customize it to their ministry context. You can download that PDF here.