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Alabama Baptist churches reach communities with VBScomment (0)

August 18, 2011

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

Yellow taxis are not a common sight in Alabama, but as churches around the state geared up for Vacation Bible School (VBS), the sights and sounds of New York City caught the attention of children and adults alike.

According to James Blakeney, an associate in the office of Sunday School and discipleship at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, most Alabama Baptist churches used LifeWay Christian Resources’ “Big Apple Adventure” curriculum, which featured New York City sights and sounds and the theme “Where Faith and Life Connect.”

In sanctuaries, fellowship halls and Sunday School rooms, scenes from Battery Park and Times Square, including skyscrapers and blow-up versions of the Statue of Liberty, sprang to life, creating a big city mood. In Washington Baptist Association, volunteers fixed up an older model car and painted it “taxi cab” yellow. The “taxi” visited several churches in the association throughout the summer.

“It has been a great advertisement and a lot of fun,” said Elsie Moss, VBS director for Washington Association.

Volunteers played an important role in everything from teaching to crafts to recreation to snacks. At Hopewell Baptist Church, Geraldine, in DeKalb Baptist Association, 101-year-old Nettie Crow helped with snacks and did her best to stay busy.

“They wanted me to sit down, but I told them if I was going to sit down, I would have stayed at home,” Crow said.

Community outreach was an important part of VBS, since many families are introduced to a church through the ministry. After joining New Salem Baptist Church, Clanton, in November, Karen Reeser saw the need for Bible school even though the Chilton Baptist Association church had not had one in more than 10 years. She said the main goal was to reach the children in the community, and it did — more than 90 students enrolled over the course of the weeklong VBS.

“Each day, we had more and more kids,” Reeser said. “The Lord really blessed us.”

Reeser, who served as VBS director for the first time this year, said one advantage of using the LifeWay theme was sharing materials. Since New Salem Baptist held its VBS in July, it was able to get decorations and lesson materials from other churches that held VBS earlier in the summer.

“We didn’t have a big budget, so the help we got from other churches was appreciated,” Reeser said.

“Big Apple Adventure” VBS lessons emphasized how Jesus connected with individuals who needed Him and how believers can connect with others and share the gospel. According to Blakeney, this year’s numbers show that many connections were made this summer through Bible school.

As of the end of July, 763 churches — about 35 percent of Alabama Baptist churches — had submitted VBS reports, he said. Twenty-seven churches reported enrollment of more than 500, and statewide enrollment had reached 107,463. Churches had given $254,623 through VBS missions offerings — $33,894 of which was given through the Cooperative Program with the remainder going to other missions projects, including disaster relief efforts.

Many decisions were made as well — 3,207 professions of faith have been reported so far. While final numbers will be available later this year, Blakeney believes that VBS efforts around the state have been positive.

“Vacation Bible School is the largest evangelistic event that many Alabama Baptist churches have on their calendar. When we teach the Bible and give adults, youth, boys and girls the opportunity to accept Christ as Savior, we see positive results,” he said. “Bible study, music, missions, crafts and recreation and snacks: What could be better?”

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