Selecting a curriculum for VBS is as difficult as finding the right pair of jeans. What fits for one church may not fit another; there’s so much to consider – the format, the music, the general themed decorations, how similar (or not) it is to themes in years’ past, the activities, the Bible stories covered, let alone the theology…. As to format, I’ve experienced a once-a-week-for a month-format, a one day format, an all day M-F format, an evening M-F, format….one that rotates lessons/rooms every twenty minutes, and one that has the children stay in the same room for three hours. Yikes!
What I’ve found is that most people select a VBS curriculum for the general theme (beach, mountains, super heroes, animals, etc.) and tweak the lessons to fit their needs. That is what I did this year by choosing ROAR. (I normally am a stickler for choosing within the denomination, but I wasn’t into the “mars” theme.) This year, I didn’t even purchase the curriculum, only what I needed to get the general scope/sequence because I liked the “tagline:” Life is wild – God is good!” What I didn’t like, is that all the stories were about Moses and the Israelites. (Our congregation recently spent six weeks on a series on Moses; it was great, but I wanted to cover some different stories for VBS.)
So I discerned different stories to go along with four of the taglines:
-When life is unfair, God is good (the parable of the workers in the vineyard)
-When life changes, God is good (Ecclesiastes 3)
-When life is scary, God is good (Jesus calming the storm)
-When life is good, God is good (Jesus’ resurrection)
I love writing lessons that incorporate the multiple intelligences, using art, music, drama, nature, games, etc. to help the children experience the story in different ways. Our format is a one-day VBS with six stations (two of which are bowling and lunch), so I matched the four stories above with drama, games, art, and movement.
-When life is unfair, God is good (the parable of the workers in the vineyard): Drama
-When life changes, God is good (Ecclesiastes 3): Games
-When life is scary, God is good (Jesus calming the storm): Obstacle Course (blindfolded)
-When life is good, God is good (Jesus’ resurrection): Resurrection Art
As I’m almost finished with the lessons, I see in the news that ROAR is getting blasted for its racist curriculum/activities. Had I known about this, I wouldn’t have even used the logo/theme. Sadly, many times you cannot see the curriculum/lessons to even know that this would be an issue until you purchase the set. (And for many VBS planners, by the time you look at the lessons, you’ve already publicized, recruited, and spent a good part of your budget on the theme.)
The General Commission on Religion and Race (UMC) published this article about Group’s Roar VBS, noting “criticism for the lack of cultural intelligence, its ignorance of racial/cultural realities beyond its creators’ experiences, and its scholarship.” It points out the inaccurate cultural references and its racist overtones. As United Methodists,
We recognize racism as a sin and seek to eliminate it.
As followers of Christ, we embrace love and affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God and therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. (reference here)
This kind of curriculum is unacceptable. So as a response, I’m offering this article for an alternative approach.
If you’re already set on using the ROAR theme, feel free to use the stories and ideas I posted above. If you’d like more information, please contact me and I’m happy to share it with you (for free). If you’re not set on it or if you’re able to change, the General Commission on Religion and Race (UMC) posted these helpful tips for choosing an inclusive curriculum.
In all of this, remember that the goal of VBS is to share God’s love and grace with children as they learn to love God and love their neighbor. Whatever theme or curriculum you use, may God’s unconditional love be your guide.