Creative Vacation Bible School Curriculum Reaches Children and Adults across the East Ohio Conference

By Brett Hetherington*

This past summer the members of the two churches highlighted in this article stepped outside of their comfort zones and became the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities. The people of Grandview UMC (Canal District) in Cuyahoga Falls reached out to children in their neighborhood who had not had an intentional Bible camp experience in over a decade. Around the same time, the congregation of Main Street UMC (Mid-Ohio District) in Mansfield opened its doors to people in ways that had not ever been tried in the city, combining their efforts to share the Gospel with practical helping aids that their audience needed in their day-to-day lives.

May your church gain some encouragement from their stories.

Music Mania Bible Camp

(special contribution by Rev. David Hull-Frye)

It has been many years since Grandview United Methodist Church held a Vacation Bible School program, so, for the first time in 13 years, the church hosted Music Mania Bible Camp. The ministry had 22 children attend throughout the week of July 18-21 and the consensus was that great fun was had by all.

During the week of Music Mania Bible Camp children learned music from Shauna Knight, coordinator of Music Ministries. They explored varied instruments such as bucket drumming, Boom Whackers and engaged in interactive games.

I led a small devotion each day in which children recited Psalm 150 and played the instruments mentioned within the passage, including the lyre. Adrienne Jones, serving on the Grandview staff as director of Congregational and Community Engagement, led the children in making musical crafts, coordinating volunteers and daily lunches.

Following the finale of camp, the church celebrated with Music Camp Sunday on July 24 during the Sunday Morning church service.

The cost of non-music related items was covered by donations from the Grandview UMC congregation. The camp could not have happened without the hours of sacrificial love that volunteers gave to make the week possible, and I want to extend a special thank you to Richard (Dick) L. Smith for his gracious endowment which provided music-related items for the music camp. 

Grandview UMC is an inter-generational multi-cultural Christian faith community located in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

VBS for Adults

(special contribution by Pastor Lori Douglas Weaver)

Vacation Bible School is a ministry that is often thought of as being reserved just for children. But Main Street United Methodist Church has no young people, so in the summer of 2022 we decided to focus our efforts on holding a VBS for the adults in the community.

“Older people are having trouble finding a place to go to church because everybody wants contemporary worship. [Churches are] chasing after the young couples, but [we’re] not going to do that,” said Pastor Garland “J.R.” Harvey, who is in his second year serving the Main Street UMC community.

Harvey was inspired with the idea for an adult VBS shortly after being appointed to the church. Soni Childs, a member of the church for over 30 years, came up with the theme. “I want to do a Son Cruise,” exclaimed Childs. She took the idea and ran with it.

“The smartest thing that I did was stay out of her way,” confessed Harvey.

“I figured not many adults have been on a cruise,” explained Childs. She gathered a three-ring binder full of ideas for crafts and snacks. The crafts were kits with a Biblical cruise theme ordered from the Oriental Trading Company. Participants also cut out Bible verses and put them on a large book ring to carry for easy memorization.

The snacks included:

  • “Crab” sandwich; mini croissant sandwich filled with chicken salad, with a mini marshmallow atop two toothpicks for eyes on the top to look like a crab
  • “Seaweed spiral” wrap sandwich
  • “Tuna” salad sandwich

In a clear sandwich or snack bag:

  • Grapes labeled “fish eggs”
  • Small pickle labeled “sea cucumber”
  • Pretzel sticks labeled “driftwood”
  • Cheese balls labeled “beach balls”
  • “Wavy” potato chips
  • “Oyster” crackers
  • “Sand dollar” sugar cookies

Five tickets were distributed each day. Passengers who received a ticket were invited to sit at the captain’s table during snack/talk time that day. Participants also received a lei and had a cruise photo taken as a memento. A forgiveness port was available for whenever a passenger felt like “docking” to pray.

Daily Bible lessons were taken from the Book of Jonah. The story was told from the various viewpoints of Jonah, God, the people of Nineveh, and a live mermaid who spoke on behalf of the big mammal. After story time, passengers participated in a favorite hymn sing.

“I was in charge of a compass group. That’s where I met fellow pastor Jennifer (Darling-Mellott). She told me that she was a mermaid. I’m like, oh, okay, whatever,” explained Harvey. He reasoned that if they had a ship, they needed to have a mermaid. The mermaid arrived in make-up and costume on the final day of VBS. She told the story of Jonah from the viewpoint of the large mammal while sitting in a small inflatable pool filled with water.

As for the crew members, the galley leaders picked their own team members. The team would arrive early and bag all of the snacks for the day. They would stay after and prepare what they could for the next day.

Several of the church’s men provided security. Those with a medical background became the red-shirt team and were prepared to handle any unexpected medical issues.

“If I needed a nurse in an emergency, I could look up and spot them without having to guess,” disclosed Harvey.

Harvey was responsible for finding guest speakers for each day. The speakers included an author, a representative from the local public library, leaders from an area non-profit organization, a representative of the Kingwood Center, a caretaker of the local bird sanctuary, a professional who assists people in navigating Medicare, and the head of the church’s Stephen Ministry team.

In preparation, to get the congregation excited about the upcoming VBS, each week leading up to it, Childs wore different hats and costumes and served as a cheerleader, going up and down the aisle in the sanctuary.

“I was very shy growing up, but now I just have such a good time with it. I’m the official advertiser,” Childs said. “If you have fun, they’ll have fun. I don’t mind wearing crab hats and hula skirts.”

Older adults are sometimes an overlooked part of our church population. In the rush to bring young members and families into the church, the older population can be left feeling forgotten. Ministry specifically directed toward older adults is both critical and worthwhile. It may require thinking outside of the box, like bringing a mermaid or a singing bear into the mix. However, if one spends the time and focus to put these things together, people will attend. The payoff is the privilege of being able to share the Gospel with a powerful, vibrant, loving part of the church population … while having some fun to boot!

The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Executive Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at

* Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.