If you ever attended Vacation Bible School as a child, youll recall
the fun of wearing sandals and shorts to church, consuming cookies and
Kool-Aid, hearing Bible stories and creating crafts. A valuable ministry of the
church, VBS had one shortcoming: it seldom reached children who didnt come to
Backyard Bible clubs are a way to take Christ into the neighborhoods,
bringing a life-changing message to unchurched children. By learning the 5 Ws
(why, what, who, when and where) of hosting a Bible
club, any team of Christians can help children experience the joy of learning
Why host a backyard Bible club?Then Jesus said, Leave
the children alone, and dont try to keep them from coming to Me, because the
kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this (Matthew 19:14). Though
many children come to the Savior through Sunday school and church, Christians
also have a responsibility to take the light of Jesus to unchurched families.
Additionally, the example parents set for their own children while planning a
neighborhood outreach inspires them to share the gospel and reinforces their
own faith. Third, hosting a backyard club helps us build friendships with more
families in our neighborhoods. Finally, its a lot of fun! To quote one of our
guests, It was more fun than Nintendo!
PHOTOS BY KEN TOUCHTON
What is a backyard Bible club? Similar to a five-day
Vacation Bible School, but on a much more personal level, the club consists of
a few basic elements. These are the Bible story, small group time, games,
crafts, snacks and possibly music and memory verses.
Welcome and Craft As children arrive, they are
invited to join in the arrival activities, which may include the days craft
project. Children who finish early may play or create more art on their own
until youre ready to gather the whole group together.
Plan your craft to relate to your Bible story. For example, if youre
teaching on Noahs Ark, make something related to the ark or animals. In our
clubs, weve made WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets, bookmarks, tiny
decorative flowerpots, treasure boxes and other lesson-related projects.
Music If someone can play the guitar or lead simple
choruses, singing is the perfect transition between arrival activities and the
Bible story. Prepare to be thrilled as the summer breezes carry the sounds of
childrens praises off into the neighborhood.
Bible lesson Choose action-packed Bible stories or Bible
concepts you wish to reinforce. Be sure to utilize visuals, unique storytelling
techniques and lively methods that keep kids attention. Involve the children by
asking them to listen for a certain word or phrase or to hold up visuals for
you. Since youll have a mixture of churched and unchurched children, let your
lesson do double duty: expose the unchurched kids to the story for the first
time, and enrich the churched kids knowledge by teaching them something they
may not already have heard.
After the Bible story, you may choose to teach a memory verse. Try an active
game, such as writing the words on balloons and letting children pop the
balloons as they learn the verse, or letting them spray the leader with a
squirt bottle when they can say the verse!
Games For game time, weve enjoyed balloon volleyball,
scavenger hunts and relay races of all kinds. Hot potato, where an object is
passed until the music stops, can easily be adapted to the days lesson. Weve
also had great success with Bible Club Olympics, in which we divide the group
into two teams who compete for points in a series of events such as
whipped cream eating, ice cube passing or other unique competitions. A Get Wet
Day featuring running through sprinklers and playing with water balloons is
always a big hit. Carnival Day, another popular game option, lets kids redeem
tickets to play games such as bowling over an array of tin cans or tossing a
football at a stuffed animal. After playing each game, they win a small prize
such as a sticker or a piece of candy.
Small Groups Depending on your churchs customs, this time may be used to get
to know the children, to make sure they understand the basics of the days story
and the gospel message, or to give them an opportunity to pray and ask Jesus to
be Lord of their lives. Again, kid-friendly teaching methods should be used
during this time. For children who respond with a decision for the Lord, talk
to them privately later and make sure they understand the gospel message that
was shared. Communicate this with their parents, follow up according to your
churchs procedures and rejoice with them!
Snack Choose snacks that are not too messy or difficult to
prepare. You may build up to a special snack, such as ice cream sundaes, on the
last day of club. One year we served a picnic lunch on the final day. When the
moms came, the kids were contentedly munching on corn dogs and were in no hurry
to go home. You may also coordinate your snack with your Bible lesson. For
example, if youre learning about the sower and the seed, try making gummy worm
gardens in chocolate pudding mud and chocolate cookie crumb dirt.
Whom will you invite? Who will help you run the club? Your
neighborhood is probably full of more unchurched children than you realize.
Make up a colorful flyer with details of your club and tantalizing previews of
what youll be doing each day. Publicize your club to families with young
children (older children may participate as helpers). In addition to inviting
people you already know, make the rounds of your neighborhood at a time when
most people are home. Knock on doors of homes where you think there may be
small children, introduce yourself and invite them to the club. Assure them
that parents are welcome to attend if theyre hesitant about leaving their
children at a strangers home. (You wont be strangers for long.)
Despite your efforts, you may end up with mostly churched kids at your club.
Dont be disappointed! Youre still faithfully teaching Gods Word to children who
need to hear as much of it as possible. And this may be the week that one of
them decides to make his own commitment to Christ. Remember to plan your
lessons to build on the faith of the churchgoers as well as to introduce the
Bible to the seekers. You may want to encourage children to bring a friend and
win a prize so that your club will grow as the week goes on.
Who will help you with the club? For a smoothly running club, try to have
three or four adults and one or two youth helpers. Ask a couple of good friends
from your church to help you. You may supplement your staff with other
Christian adults and teens in your neighborhood. When planning your club, make
a full list of your tasks, then divide them up among your helpers. In our
clubs, weve had from 12 to 24 kids attending each day, including helpers kids,
so be prepared. To cover costs, a few options might be asking your church to
help, splitting the costs among the club leaders or asking childrens parents to
bring specific snack items or craft supplies.
When is the best time for a club? Middle to late summer
works especially well, for boredom has set in and kids are looking for
something different to do. You may hold a morning club if children in your
neighborhood are available then or an early evening club when families are home
and the temperature is cooler. If you cant manage five days, try a two- or
three-day club. At Christmas and Easter, the same concept can be applied to a
one-day club or party.
Where should we hold the club? Obviously, a summertime club
with lots of kids lends itself to being held outside. Youll want to designate
and equip areas for games, crafts and snacks, and youll want quiet (preferably
shady) areas for the Bible lesson and small groups. In case bad weather spoils
your plans, have an alternate location in mind: someones basement or garage,
The Reward Words cant express the joy of seeing a child
understand a Bible concept or make a first-time commitment to Jesus Christ.
Youll want to follow up on each childs decision according to your churchs usual
outreach procedures. This may involve inviting them to church, giving them a
Bible and other literature and most important, arranging to continue a
friendly, loving relationship. What an eternal joy it is to know that youve
been obedient to Christ by bringing His message out into your neighborhood!
Summertime. Sandals and shorts. Cookies and Kool-Aid. Bible stories, games
and crafts. It sounds just like VBS. But theres one key differenceyoure
bringing Bible school to neighborhood children instead of hoping neighborhood
children will come to Bible school. And dont be surprised if the children
request a repeat performance next summer!
Denise A. Boiko is a freelance writer living in San Jose,
California. Over the years, her familys backyard (and home!) has been the site
of several neighborhood Bible clubs.
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