With things hopping in London, our 2012 theme was the Olympics. The event was Friday night and Saturday. Upon registration, families got a large piece of paper to create a family flag. We gave updates on the location of the torch until it arrived and led us into the opening ceremonies (like the parade of nations with music, dramatic lighting, smoke, and a live video feed to the big screens). That night our church’s worship band led music and we heard a short lesson. Small groups of single or multiple families had a short discussion time. The evening ended with more music and mini confetti cannons.
The highlight for many came on Saturday: a Skype interview with two women - a collegiate weightlifting coach, who had trained kids at an Olympic Training Center, and a (non-athlete) student she trained at her university. The student, a vibrant young woman from Belarus, is the victim of Chernobyl. Families got to see her prosthetics and deformed limbs after hearing her story of resilience and hopes to be on the Paralympic team.
For 2013, we adapted VBS curriculum with a backyard theme. Part of our stage design was an amazing tree house that was auctioned off to benefit missions. Some changes for the second year included having kids on stage to lead music and motions, moving into a smaller, flexible space and going for four evenings. The last night we held huge party that we encouraged participants to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to. (We also passed out invitations to a low-income apartment complex that isn’t far from the church.) It was a great success!
Both years, families were split into four teams and rotated through four activities: games, snack & family time, crafts, and service projects. For 2012, with the help of their parents, each child made a garden stepping stone. In 2013, each family member made a tile coaster. Service project included rolling bandages or packing baby care kits for a hospital in Papua New Guinea, packing emergency response kits, and decorating grocery bags for our church’s food pantry.
It’s an exciting, fun, and memorable time. But here are a few more reasons we do FamJam:
1. Families are busy and detached; FamJam provides a place for the whole family to be together.
2. It’s a place for families to dialogue about God. Part of our responsibility as church leaders is to equip and encourage
parents—especially to talk about God and his kingdom with their kids (Deut 6:4-9). FamJam provides time, space, and a guide for families to have spiritual conversations, maybe for the first time.
3. Staffing: while FamJam set-up can take almost as many people as VBS, it takes a fraction of workers over all.
4. One of our church’s core focuses is to connect – with God and others. Families grow together and with other families
5. Quality: Knowing parents are participating motivates me away from the cheesy factor and from crafts that quickly become trash.
There was definite pushback the first year, however with the second year complete, the event is gaining credibility and momentum.
How about you? What do you do that's different from the traditional VBS? Can you identify the "why" behind what you do?
Evan Offutt is the Children's Pastor at the Huntington First Church of the Nazarene in Huntington, IN. She is an avid collector of "Jesus in Scrubs" and "Quarterback Jesus" pictures.