How "God's Word and Me" came to be : It's background and history

In 1986, Barry McWilliams volunteered to write this material after talking with Richard Longfellow. Barry was a part time associate pastor of a conservative Presbyterian church in Lake Stevens, Wa. and had worked some with Reachout Ministries, Inc. in developing their VBS materials. Richard had a ministry called Mission Church Fellowship in Longview, Wa., which served small struggling churches in the Pacific Northwest and which has also provided Summer Bible Camp and Home Schooler's Camp programs. One of Mission Church Fellowship's ministries was a program called Student Active Leadership Training or S.A.L.T., where a teams of young people would assist small rural churches in putting on Vacation Bible Schools after a couple of weekend training retreats in the Spring. Mission Church Fellowship printed their own materials and costs were a factor. The churches would provide housing for the teens as they staffed the VBS programs in the mornings and did visitation in the afternoons.

Dick mentioned that he was having a hard time finding materials to work with that used the New International Bible version. Barry offered to try to write some. "God's Word and Me" done in the Spring of 1987 was the result.

The nature of S.A.L.T.'s ministry required materials that did not require a large staff, or expensive printed materials which many commercial VBS Curriculae require. It also had to be something that Christian teens could both learn and benefit by, and then put to effective use in small churches with limited congregational resources.These materials were developed to be used by teens in small churches after several weekend training sessions. It's goals were: "hands on" training of teens for ministry using a variety of methods; a curriculum for children based on solid Biblical content; and adaptability to situations with limited resources and staff.

The material got good response that year - especially the memory program, so Barry developed three more between 1988 - 1990:

Continuing under the leadership of Bekalyn Steigers and Terry Tollefson, MCF staffers, with able groups of teen volunteers from several NW states, who gave up three weekends in the Spring for training workshops, and then several weeks in the summer, VBS programs were done in small churches in Washington, Oregon and Canada each summer. The four curriculae have been used on a rotating basis by Mission Church Fellowship until Dick Longfellow's retirement in 1995.

In 1996, Barry McWilliams decided to put Hypertext versions of "God's Word and Me" on his web page for the use of churches and Christian organizations. The materials can be printed out and used simply by e-mailing for permission without charge, though donations are welcome. Some Art work downloaded as GIF files can be printed, enlarged with a photocopier and reproduced as well. The other four VBS Curricula were similarly added. The material was been used by a variety of ministries since.

In 1998, Barry designed a VBS program for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church's evening VBS program on a Medieval theme. He called it A Pilgrim at the Fair. Limited in space, and with a simultaneous Adult program occupying our indoor spaces, Pilgrim used an outdoor campus of tents and a makeship stage with haybale seating. To dress things up all the staff dressed in Medieval costumes, which had the side benefit of "bringing the child out" in them as well. With lessons based on Luke's Parables on the Theme of Jesus came to seek and save the Lost. The evening began with an activity fair with various booths, followed by the assembly and class times in tents dressed up with colorful flags. The children earned Robin Hood Hats with their memory work. A series of skits using staff characters as the Jesters added to the lessons and enhanced the daily themes. Friar Barry also did Quest books with lesson materials, songs, and other materials for the children. The climactic highlight of the program left the children's mouths hanging open when the King actually rode up on a Black stallion, just as the sun was setting on a beautiful evening.

The following year, 1999, Barry designed another evening program, this time using an American West Theme also for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. Wanted! Children after God's Own Heart! again used an outdoor setting - this time including tee-pees and a Western Ranch styled gateway, and an assembly area with hay bale seating. The lessons were on David's "outlaw years" and Saul's jealous pursuit narrated in 1 Samuel. Memory verses were from Psalm 34 - with the key verse: "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all". Barry wrote a six part Melodrama on Davy the Outlaw, it wasn't too hard to transfer the story to the West - Saul became a Sheriff, Philistines became Indians, etc. and all the showdowns and Indian battles fit with David's Story as well. We began the week with a Bar-Be-Que and Barn Party complete with some western music. The Staff did Wanted! posters of all the children for decorations, using a digital camera, and they attempted similar T-shirts using Iron-on Transfers. Handouts resembled Old Time Newspapers. The staff all dressed western for the week. The Melodrama was repeated in one complete performance the following Sunday afternoon.

In designing both these Theme Curriculums, Barry made extensive use of the internet and computer technology for researching the theme and costumes, finding appropriate graphics and fonts, doing posters, decorations and handout materials. With Wanted! Barry added the curriculum to his website as it was being written, complete with many helpful links, for teachers and staff, and making it all available for others as well. Ironically, a church in Grover, Colorado, used his Wanted! curriculum that same summer for their Crow Creek Bible Camp - Barry's grandmother, Estella Wilson, had grown up on a cattle ranch near that small community in Eastern Colorado and the famous Pawnee Buttes.

© 1991 Barry McWilliams and Mission Church Fellowship, Hypertext Version © 2000 Barry McWilliams
This Curriculum may be downloaded, copied and used with permission of the author by any Church or Christian Organization - Donations are welcome to my Mission Fund.

I am currently raising support for my next Mission Trip to Uganda, probably in 2009. My most recent mission trip was in November of 2007. Even small donations to our mission fund would much appreciated. I also ministered in Uganda for three weeks in March 2003, and again May, 2005. My wife has done three mission trips to Hungary with International Messengers. Donations toward our future mission trips can be sent to McWilliams' Mission Fund, 1609 Lombard, Ave, Everett, Wa., 98201; made out to Barry McWilliams.

For Permission and other information contact Barry McWilliams at

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