I was led by the Lord to lead our VBS last summer after the church council had decided to drop it because they thought no one wanted the job of leading it. When the Lord told me not to let our VBS die, it was already June and everyone said it couldn't be done in such a short time. The Lord knew better, and when I began to search for a workable theme that could be done quickly and easily by our small country United Methodist congregation, Sadlers Chapel UMC, Dexter, Missouri, the Lord led me to your website.
Immediately the "King of Kings" study of Daniel stood out to me, and I knew immediately that was the Lord's choice for our session. Our VBS lasts only four nights, with the last night being a special program for the parents, so I had to adapt your curriculum to fit our timeframe. I also wrote a skit to be performed at the end of each evening. Basically we had a different king each night seated on a throne in the palace. When the curtain was pulled back to show the king, the children in unison asked, "Who are you?" There was a different king each night (Nebuchadnazzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus and Darius). The children then asked, "Are you the King of Kings?" The king then told of his bold exploits and conquests. At the end of his speech the children said, "You aren't the King of Kings. Leave!"
On the final night instead of a king on the throne, there were three men standing up in front, wearing uniforms of their period, with medals, sashes and decorations. The first was Alexander the Great, the second was Xerxes, and the last one was Saddam Hussein. All three told of their powerful ruling over Babylon. After the children told them to leave, a poorly dressed shepherd came in, carrying a crook and a crown of thorns. The children asked if he was the King of Kings. He told what things he had done, and his shepherd's crook was used to lead lost souls to heaven. His crown of thorns showed the pain he suffered when he took on the sins of others. Then the curtain that had hidden the throne on each night previous was pulled back and instead of the throne that the children expected to see, a spotlight shone on a cross. Jesus told the children that the cross was his throne, where he had given his life as sacrifice to save them from their sins. Then the children said in unison, "You are the King of Kings!" Jesus repeated John 14:15 and John 15:17. All the audience said, "Jesus, we praise your name!" That was the end of my skit, and Jesus turned to leave the stage. It was a thrilling moment for me when one of the children shouted, "Don't leave, Jesus! Stay with us!" Out of the mouths of babes came the most fitting ending of all.
In our nightly lessons we used a different pair of teachers each night, who taught the same lesson to all three age groups, adapting the lesson appropriately to the younger and older listeners. The teachers who taught about the men in the fiery furnace made a large "furnace" from refrigerator boxes and lined it with red cellophane. They placed white Christmas lights under the red plastic to look like fire, and we used a fireplace prop we already had for the back wall of the furnace. During the skit Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were put in the furnace. We shone plenty of light inside while pushing in the three men, so the kids could see there was no one else inside. There was a secret door cut in one side near the back of the furnace, and during the telling of the story, one of our members dressed in a white robe slipped inside the furnace into a dark corner behind the other three men At the proper place in the story he clicked on a flashlight under his robe. The children gasped when they saw the man in the glowing white robe amidst the fire.
For the handwriting on the wall story, another pair of teachers set up a half wall of cardboard, then tacked black plastic to it and to the wall behind it so that viewed from the front it all looked like one solid black wall. We cut a slit in the plastic where it stretched from the half wall to the actual wall. We then taped two white poster boards to the plastic on the wall above the slit. At the right time in the story, the lights in the room were turned off. At the same time a black light hidden on the wall was switched on to shine on the poster boards. A person clothed in black all over and hidden behind the halfwall, reached up through the slit with a yellow highlighter marker and in bold letters wrote the message on the wall. It was another awesome sight for the children, since none of the writer could be seen except the shape of his hand against the white poster board, and with the blacklight on, nothing showed on the wall except for the fluorescent letters.
The other story we did was King Nebuchadnezzar eating grass, and the two teachers that night used members of the church to act out a skit, and the king ate green-tinted coconut from the floor. (On clean plastic, of course.)
We decorated our sanctuary to look like the City of Babylon. We made pillars out of cardboard covered in white paper for the stage to mark the front of the king's palace. We had elaborate hangings and items of gold and silver all through the palace area, and we covered the throne with a purple curtain. We made a fez type of crown for King Neb, and we had a huge cardboard cutout of the the golden idol, covered in gold wrapping paper with the details added in black magic marker, hanging on a distant wall. We used lots of ferns in the palace, and also had a gold decorated styrofoam ice chest as King Neb's treasure chest On one wall near the pews in the sanctuary, we had the elaborate hanging gardens of Babylon, and on the other side wall we had the Tower of Babel. We had palm trees and lots of plants throughout the room which were loaned to us by church members. One of our members is the children's librarian at the local public library, and she loaned us their animal pupperts for the week, so we also had huge stuffed lions, tigers, and other animals, including a cobra placed here and there. At the entrance to the sanctuary we made the doorway look like the gate to the city. We had "bas-relief" carvings of animals (made from paper on paper) all through the church, and our three age groups were named Eagles, Lions, and Bulls (pre-schoolers, early elementary, and late elementary). Each group had two middle school or high school guides (called Palace Soldiers) who led their gruops to each activity and helped keep them in line. They also gave the report each night for their group. We bought hats for each guide to give them an air of authority. (We'd had little interest shown by our few older kids in participating in VBS, but giving them so authority over the younger ones was a good incentive for them to help. Now we hear our younger ones saying that they can't wait until they get old enough to be guides. And the sneaky part is, the older kids are learning too, by attending the classes with the younger ones. They just don't realize it.
Our music leader chose songs to fit the theme of each night's lesson, and our snack leader chose snacks to reflect that night's lesson. (For example, when the king ate grass, the kids were served cupcakes that had tinted coconut on top of the frosting. A few of them thought it was yucky, but they got the point anyway.) Everyone who said their Bible verse during the closing assembly was allowed to come to the stage and choose a treasure from King Neb's golden treasure box. The "treasures" were things such as gum or candy, combs, stickers, pencils, Hot Wheels cars, etc. On the final night all the students said their verses together for their parents, so we made sure that each child could come forward for their treasure. That night they were surprised to find that instead of the cheap trinkets and candy, they received a true treasure. Each person received a new Bible, appropriate for their age group. (We purchased the Bibles with the money we were able to save by not purchasing pre-packaged VBS materials.)
It was a wonderful week for all of us, and the best part was that three new children began attending our church, and since then they have brought five more youth to our congregation. There was no mention this year of doing away with VBS. I want to thank you so much for your material that helped make it possible for us to carry on the Lord's work.
Thank you so much for all that you do.
May God richly bless you and yours.
Sadlers Chapel United Methodist Church