Therese Finney had a vision for vacation Bible school that went beyond summer. Finney, children's ministry director at Grace United Methodist Church in Mechanicsburg, Pa., wanted to have Christmas Bible school for children.
It all began in December 2010 when the church offered Santa's Helper Day on two Saturdays. Parents dropped off their children and ran Christmas errands. In 2011, Grace extended the program to five days and designed it so 4- to 10-year-olds learn about the true meaning of Christ's birth as Christmas approaches.
"The kids learn about Mary, Joseph, the journey and the shepherds," Finney says. "We have volunteers portraying each of the characters." The curriculum is based on Adam Hamilton's The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem (Abingdon Press). Volunteers cook and serve kid-friendly meals, help with crafts and teach the lessons. The children learn and recite Bible verses.
In addition to Bible schools during the summer and Advent, Grace Church also offers Easter Bible school. "Each of the programs is free and open to the community," Finney says. More than 13 children attended the 2012 Christmas Bible school, while the late Lent program this year drew 24 from the church and community.
"It's a fun and effective ministry," says Grace's pastor, the Rev. Mark Reisinger. "We are committed to reaching out to parents and children outside our church because we want to convey God's message to them."
Reisinger attends all of the Bible schools. He meets the children and parents and participates in some of the activities. He is proud that church leaders and volunteers take the lead to plan and implement the programs.
Finney agrees. "We have been blessed with great helpers in our church," she says.
Christine Kumar is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.
AT A GLANCE Grace United Methodist Church | 216 S. Market St., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 | 717-766-3282 | www.graceumc-mech.org | firstname.lastname@example.org | Rev. Mark Reisinger | Average Attendance: 99 | Susquehanna Conference