The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America continued on the heels of its recently launched Year of the Child and Adolescent with the unveiling of its new Vacation Bible School program last week.
More than 160 children’s and adolescent ministries directors from across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory gathered for a two-day workshop in Miami, Florida, on Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, to reaffirm their commitment to one of its strongest outreach programs of the year.
“We are here to double our efforts in leading children to the feet of Jesus,” said Dinorah Rivera, children’s and adolescent ministries director for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the event. “Your passion for this ministry calls for humility and surrender so that God can use you to touch the lives of the greatest resource we have in our churches and communities.”
That passion will have to be translated into efforts leaders will transmit to the more than 300,000 children and adolescents who will take part in this year’s vacation bible schools featured at thousands of local churches and small groups throughout Inter-America.
“We want to once again ignite this ministry of VBS through this training workshop because we want our union and local field leaders to grasp the importance of this concept of VBS and transmit the same to the countless men and women who volunteer at our local churches every summer,” explained Rivera. Interacting among leaders from different regional territory is also an important part of the gathering, she added.
The workshop focused on ensuring more inclusiveness across churches by also catering to children with special needs, practical solutions for child safety, and transitioning children in the life of the church after VBS.
Delegates rotated through the different stations they will have to feature the VBS program each day at home to include character building values, how to conserve natural resources and the environment, hands on craft activities, outdoor team-building game activities, healthy eating habits, taking pictures and video reporting, and more.
“Every decoration that we used to highlight the theme this year was made with recycled items and materials that can be easily obtained and very affordable in their local territory,” explained Rivera, who created the VBS program.
The program, which will be available in English, Spanish and French, also includes theme songs and music for every day of the week.
Gabriela Barrutia, children’s and adolescent ministries leader at the Baja California Conference in North Mexico, said taking part in the workshop will help inspire and motivate the 420 teachers who will be taking part in a VBS and Sabbath School workshop next month in preparation for the children’s outreach back home.
“I’m excited to transmit the theme which will teach children that the Bible is an adventure that leads us to learn how God loves us even with our differences,” said Barrutia. Barrutia said 129 of the Adventist church congregations in the conference could see more than 3,000 children this summer. “Some churches can have 20 children in the VBS program, others more than 100, and so forth, so connecting, listening and loving children is such a delight and an important responsibility we have,” she added.
Barrutia is one of 15 delegates from the North Mexican Union, the largest delegation at the VBS program this year and one of the strongest VBS outreach programs across the IAD, said Rivera.
Norma Villegas, children’s and adolescent ministries director in North Mexico, reported that last year’s VBS program reached 45,000 non-Adventist children and adolescents. The previous year reached 37,000, and this summer teachers are expecting over 70,000.=
“We know by experience that these children want to stay and our duty lies beyond the VBS program,” said Villegas. It’s another phase of the program to retain children, continue the connection with them with more activities and teachings to transition into the life of the church in Sabbath School, Adventurer Club and so on, explained Villegas.
Villegas led with the team of union directors who presented this year’s Inter-American Friendship Club program, a club that invites children to take part in weekly learning activities after the VBS program has completed.
The eight-week themed program to be featured at the Friendship Club will focus on the special value God places in each child as well as eight historical persons who have made a significant impact in the world, said Rivera who oversees the yearly programs for children and adolescents. Once the club completes its program, additional bible study programs continue in the Sabbath school every Sabbath, Rivera added.
For Debra Henry, children and adolescent ministries director for the church in the Caribbean Union, being at the event meant a step closer to motivating local churches across the dozens of islands in the English Caribbean region. She brought eight of her conference/mission leaders to the workshop so they can see, feel, and be inspired to motivate local church leaders to organize a VBS program this summer.
In the past, many churches pick VBS programs they find online and feature it for the summer, said Henry.
“There has been a decline of our VBS programs across some of our islands, she added. “In one case, one island that has 32 churches held only five VBS programs last year. This cannot be,” said Henry. She has been working for the past two years to change that and said now is a great opportunity to reemphasize the importance of this evangelism tool to reach out into the community.
“Our group has seen and felt it, and we are committed to ensuring local churches in the Caribbean region hold one VBS program,” said Henry. “Our goal is for every church to reach out with this program, seeking out those with special needs and prepare them to learn more about the Bible and of Jesus love.”
That’s the ultimate goal to draw children and adolescents to Jesus and teach them to share Him wherever they go, Rivera said.
To learn more about Inter-America’s Year of the Child and Adolescent, and information about this year’s VBS Program, visit their Facebook Page HERE.
View a photo gallery of this event HERE