A seven-member church in the Johnson City District stepped out in faith to reach community children with Vacation Bible School.
“They wanted to do outreach to children in the community, especially those who are poor and from single-parent families,” said Rev. Steve Butler, pastor at West Market United Methodist Church. "They didn’t think they could; they didn’t have the funds or people to it. I told them to let me worry about those things.”
With the help of two other churches, Munsey Memorial UMC and Otterbein UMC, West Market hosted a five-day Bible school for approximately 34 children in their Johnson City, Tenn., church. The congregtion used district funds and a $1,000 Change for Children grant to fund the inaugural event. Butler said his church purchased a television, DVD player, and tents. The congregation also purchased outdated Cokesbury VBS curriculum and decorations at clearance prices from the Johnson City store
The VBS featured story time with puppets and dramatizations. The children sometimes participated in skits. The event also featured Bible teaching, recreation, and crafts.
“We kept the kids busy,” Butler said.
Initially, Butler said the group provided snacks for the children, but quickly switched gears a day later.
“We found out the first day we needed to have breakfast (for the children) instead of snacks,” Butler said. “The kids who were coming weren’t getting breakfast, and they were coming hungry.”
The children usually eat breakfast and lunch during the school year. During the summer, most children in the community go without, Butler explained. For some of the adults, this was their first contact with children living in poverty.
West Market members interacted with the children. Butler said one 88-year-old woman told a story about a child she had seen doing well -- and how that child encouraged everyone else.
“There was truly a sense of community for me,” Butler said. “There was really great contact between the church and the kids.”
After this confidence-building activity, West Market UMC hopes to sponsor a Bible study for other children during the school year. They also want to plan a weekly summer movie night to draw in their neighbors. West Market and Otterbein will assist each other in next summer's VBS.