Sunday, June 29, 2003

Kids on vacation with Jesus

Local summer programs appeal to families across denominations

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] At United Church of Christ of Oakley's vacation Bible school, coordinator Katherine Lomboy (left) asks children who or what they want to pray for during the prayer circle at the end of the school day.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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Sophia Weathersby loves to color and sing. Last week, the 5-year-old and her sister, 8-year-old Gabriella, did a lot of both while learning about Jesus at United Church of Christ in Oakley.

"Every day, when they come home, I don't even have to ask them what they did today," said Gina Weathersby, their mother. "They're just immediately telling me about what they did and singing the songs they learned all day."

The Weathersbys are just two of the thousands of children who will attend vacation Bible school all over the Tristate this summer. Bible schools can range in size from the 30-student class last week at the Oakley church to the more than 800 students that Christ Church at Mason expects for its class July 21-25.

And as these summer staples have grown in popularity, so has their level of sophistication. They're also appealing to families across denominations, regardless of where they go to church.

"It's wonderful to see the unity of all the children. They're so good to one another," said Katherine Lomboy, organizer of the bible school at the United Church of Christ, 4100 Taylor Ave.

[IMAGE] Daisy McMillon-Cason, 9, paints a wooden cross in the Rancho Roundup vacation Bible school program last week at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hamilton.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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Lomboy, like the Weathersbys, attends nearby St. Cecilia Catholic Church. But that doesn't stop the educator from teaching Sunday school and Bible school at United Church of Christ.

This year, she used activity books, decorations, crafts, skits, videos and music to teach the 25-student class about the Beatitudes and finding happiness in Jesus.

While some teachers, like Lomboy, make up their own curriculum for vacation Bible schools, many are finding that publishers, such as Mount Healthy-based Standard Publishing, offer packaged and themed materials to help develop the week.

"There's a lot more emphasis today on creating a whole VBS environment," said Kay Moll, director of vacation Bible school ministries for the Christian book publisher. "People are looking for things that will draw the kids in, and something that is easy to decorate and create."

This year's theme from Standard, the nation's oldest producer of Bible school materials (80 years), is "Treasures of the Nile: On an Expedition to Jesus." The kit costs $49.99 for basic materials.

John Bartlett, manager of the Family Christian Store in Eastgate, sells Bible school kits from Standard and other publishers.

"A lot of churches open it up to the entire community. It's perfect for the individual who's not involved in a church and wants their child exposed to Bible stories," Bartlett said. "It's also an easy way to introduce yourself to a church."

Teresa Roberts, organizer of the Sharonville United Methodist Church's Bible school, said she often sees the same children from the community each year, but the program is growing.

The church, 3751 Creek Road, usually has between 100 and 125 children, with 75 to 100 volunteers working for all or part of the week.

"I'm noticing a bigger pre-registration this year. I'm not sure whether it's excitement over the program, or more parents looking for something for their children to do," Roberts said. "We really just want them to get the message of Christ - that he died for them."

Vacation Bible schools

Here is a sampling of upcoming vacation Bibles schools. Most are free.

First Baptist Church of Dent, 6384 Harrison Ave.: "321 Bible Academy, Buckle Up for the Ride of Your Life," 6:30 to 9 p.m., July 14 to 18. Free and open to children ages 4 through sixth grade. Call 574-6411.

St. Paul United Church of Christ, 5312 Old Blue Rock Road: "Shine," 7 to 9 p.m. July 21 to 25. Free and open to public. Call 385-9077 for information or to register.

Christ Church at Mason, 5165 Western Row Road: "Treasures of the Nile," 9 a.m. to noon July 21-25. Free and open to public. Call 229-3200 for information or to register.

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