VBS: God’s Garden, God’s City

Are you a Christian educator who can’t find the kind of resources you want to use with your kids?  Are you hungry for something deeper?

“God’s Garden, God’s City” is a Vacation Bible School curriculum that offers both fun and substance, and invites exploration and growth in faith. It is adaptable to congregations large and small, urban and rural, of all budgets and building configurations.  If your VBS is configured differently than most (if you do a one-day program, for example) get in touch and we’ll help you adapt it.

The themes for the five days are

  1. Garden
  2. City
  3. Exile (view sample)
  4. Home (optional for 4-day program)
  5. New Creation

More about the music and key scriptures is found below.

“We don’t normally buy curriculum because we’ve never liked anything that is produced and we have no budget, but this is much more cost effective and looks like it’s right in line with our theology.” – Rev. Anne Stoller Thornberg, Fayetteville, NC

“Thanks for filling such a huge need!” – Rev. Elizabeth Grasham, Houston, TX

“I’m always on the lookout for curriculum that emphasizes themes of earth care, inclusivity, and provides lots of room for kids’ creativity and play. New Earth, Whole Story is going to make that search a whole lot easier!” – Rev. Collette Broady Grund, Mankato, MN

This is a progressive, open-ended curriculum designed with several goals in mind:
1. To acquaint children ages 4-12 with the faith story in its entirety.
2. To present them with the venerable symbols of the the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Zion, both represented with female imagery.
3. To connect them with deep and powerful traditions of spirituality, both old and new, that draw from these two sources, and to encourage them to make these traditions their own and to go beyond them in creativity and questioning. All of these goals deserve further explanation.

Goal #1: The curriculum begins in the first chapter of Genesis and ends in the last chapter of Revelation. Needless to say, it does not incorporate every Bible story in between! You get to share those with your children at lots of other times. What this curriculum does is to provide the framework. The faith story is one story, but so often children (and adults!) don’t experience that way, but rather as a disconnected set of stories (and other chunks of text) with no obvious connections to each other. In the four or five days of this curriculum, the overall story arc will become clear: how God created humanity to live in a beautiful garden, but humanity made a wrong choice and was driven out into the hard world. How this pattern was repeated when God gave the people a city, but once again they were faithless and went into exile. How God sent prophets to call them back, and finally sent a Messiah, by whose life, death and resurrection we are all brought into the city of God’s love forever. All the other stories fit into this story, and if we know the big story, all the others make a lot more sense.

Goal #2: In an age that is increasingly conscious of gender issues and the need for inclusion, this enormous, rich vein of female imagery in Scripture still remains bizarrely underused. Yes, there is more to the relationship between God and God’s people than the imagery of heterosexual marriage; and yes, there is a dark side (as there is to almost everything in the Bible) to some of the portrayals of Daughter Zion. But we can talk about those things with our kids (and adults!) at age-appropriate times; they are not nearly sufficient reason for denying children (or anyone!) the vision of the Holy City at the end of Revelation, the ultimate Happily Ever After ending in which all tears are wiped away.

Goal #3: The story arc and imagery above have nourished generations of Christians (and Jews before them) over millennia. This curriculum consciously includes traditional hymns and spirituals (as well as new music written for children by Bryan Moyer Suderman of SmallTall Ministries), in order to connect today’s young Christians with the spiritual riches of their forebears in faith. In most cases, the traditional hymns are actually easier to sing than much of what is written for children today; kids can easily learn the choruses of the spirituals, and the music can be taught by anyone with the basic musical competence to sing in public.

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