Introducing the Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet VBS

Young children love to sing, clap, and dance. They are passionate and responsive. That's why it's so important to point them toward responding in worship to their Creator while they are young.

Worship is like a cosmic game of follow-the-leader—“Simon Says” without any tricks. It works like this. God speaks then we respond. God says, “I have restored your fortunes” (Psalm 126). Then, we respond with laughter, because we know we don’t deserve it. God says, “I am God. I made you. You are mine. You are my people and the sheep of my pasture” (Psalm 100). Then, we respond by shouting for joy and giving thanks for his goodness. That’s just how worship works. God speaks, and he shows us who he is. Then, we respond.

Every time we lead kids in worship, we instinctively call them to worship responsively—“Clap your hands! Sing out! Raise your hands! Shout Hallelujah!” But this five-lesson VBS and Bible club curriculum will teach four- to eleven-year-old children how and why to worship responsively. They will learn, through the life of David, who God is, what he has said, and how they can worship him—by coming to him in gratitude, supplication, repentance, and prayer. As children learn to hear God speak about who he is and what he has done for them, they will want to respond by clapping their hands and stomping their feet. 

Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet was created by the church, for the church. Our team of authors and illustrators are pastors, Sunday school teachers, and stay-at-home moms who simply love kids and want to share God’s good news with them. As practitioners, we have designed a VBS Starter Kit to make it easy for you to plan, advertise, and implement a successful VBS. Your starter kit includes a director’s guide, games guide, craft and assembly guide, printables, and much more. It even includes a studio-recorded children’s worship CD and digital songbook produced by Sojourn Music. Purchase now from New Growth Press. 

 

Grace for Pirates... Like You and Me

Chore charts, report cards, standardized tests, recitals, and athletic banquets … the overwhelming message to kids is that what they do determines who they are. Kids grow up thinking, “I am what I am because of what I do or because of what I’ve failed to do.” But this message of performance is different from the Bible’s message of redemption. In 1 Corinthians 15:10a, Paul writes, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”

I learned about God’s grace while sitting with my dad in his Dodge pick-up truck after school. I was in ninth grade, and things that seem silly now—schoolwork, acne, girls—overwhelmed me. My dad said a few simple words that I pray I’ll never forget: “What God says about you is more important than what others say.” 

The message of grace is that what we do or what we look like does not determine who we are as Christians. What God determined for us through the work of His Son Jesus makes us who we are. We are loved even when our performance doesn’t stack up. After all, Jesus came to save sinners—not those who get everything right.

Kids need grace to make them silly with joy in God and strong in their budding faith. I love teaching it to them, because I need grace too. My own shortcomings as a parent can leave me drowning in the shame of not getting it right or of not living up to expectations. When I’m drowning, I need to drink deeply of the truth about God’s grace again.

In the Spring of 2011, Daniel Montgomery, our lead pastor at Sojourn Church, sat on the front porch of our church building with a group of men after an elder meeting. He began to outline for us a creative vision for a sermon series on grace from the book of Ephesians The series would be entitled PROOF, which is an acrostic to teach five key doctrines about God’s grace.

I sat with Daniel, took some notes, and began to think about how to teach these truths to our kids. A few weeks later, I left with extended family on a trip to Disney World. On the “Pirates of the Caribbean” boat ride the wax pirates are depicted in all of their buccaneer glory—drunk, burning villages, killing one another, stealing, and carrying off women. It’s not exactly the vision of manhood a family pastor wants to put before his children. My young girls were a bit terrified, but there were young boys the same age dressed like pirates. They celebrated these evil rum-guzzling scallywags. You can judge them (and Disney) if you want, but I saw something beautiful in it. In that moment, God took me back to those conversations with my dad. I sensed God say, “That’s how I’ve accepted you.” I made a connection to grace—enough to save a scallywag like me. 

On the day after our boat ride at the Magic Kingdom, I got up early—before my young children at Disney World—and grabbed my journal. I started doodling pictures and ideas for teaching about grace for pirates. When I got back home, our children’s ministry leaders took those ideas and ran with them. By that September sermon series, we’d hung a Jolly Roger in the children’s hallway and begun our grace treasure hunt. Here’s a little window into what the children’s ministry team developed.

Planned Grace

Ephesians 1:4-5a tells us, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us …” Before God made the heavens and earth, He mapped out salvation for His people. When teaching this deep truth to kids, we use a treasure map. We ask each child to map out the most significant events in his/her life. Then we search their story for evidence of where God has been at work—evidence of His grace.

Resurrecting Grace

The Bible says that we cannot follow God without His help. We are like dead skeletons. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Dead skeletons have no muscles, no brain, and no heart. They have no power to move on their own. But God makes people dead in their sins to live again. God can make dead men and women and boys and girls walk in obedience to Him.

Outrageous Grace

Ephesians also teaches us that in Christ we have redemption (Ephesians 1:7). To redeem something means to buy it back—to pay a price so you can have it back. God paid the price for our sins by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. Jesus gives us the riches of God’s grace. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We teach the richness of Jesus’ free gift by taking kids on a treasure hunt where the cross marks the spot.

Overcoming Grace

God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. He changes our pirate flag of rebellion into a white flag of complete surrender (Ephesians 2:8-10). God gives us His Spirit to overcome our sin and make us His masterpiece.

Forever Grace

We use an anchor to teach about how God’s grace keeps Christians safe. Even though life is sometimes like sailing on a stormy sea, God is with us, and He protects us. He brings us back to Himself like a boat guided safely to shore. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” Because of the Holy Spirit, God’s people are marked as His children forever. God always finishes the work He begins in us. He protects His children so they can never be lost.

Biblical scholars tell us the ancient city of Ephesus was a hub for all kinds of idolatry and sin. It was even a hideout for pirates, but God knew what the city’s people needed to hear. Paul began his letter, “Grace to you.” It’s the message scallywags, insecure kids, and frazzled parents need to hear most. Let’s never forget that God’s love overcomes rebellion and circumstances. It is not our performance, but grace, that makes us right with God.

Why We Aren't Doing VBS ... This Year

Last month I wrote a post on entitled "Why We Do VBS" (which you can read here). At the point of writing I thought we were well on our way. I was wrong, we were almost no where. Then, a few weeks ago, we (my VBS director and I) decided that it was time to call it off ... this year.

Here are a few lessons we learned:

1. Plan ahead. We always plan on starting in the late fall to plan for next year's VBS. We still haven't got to that point. This is completely on me, and I'm having to own that. As we look towards next year, that's is the plan. The difference this time is that now I'm being held more accountable.

2. Recruit key leaders. Had we planned ahead, we would've had leaders for key positions. We would've had a worship leader, a crafts leader, several small group leaders, a snacks leaders in place that would have been responsible for their various leaders that we could have been checking in on and helping if them if need be.

3. Block off schedules. If we would have been planning this last fall, the week would have been chosen last fall. That's important because then our leaders would have been able to plan for it. By waiting, we lost out on potential leaders and helpers to vacations and other summer activities.

4. Pick Curriculum. We couldn't come to a decision on what would work best for our church and its people. We had it narrowed down, but not picked out.

Moving forward:

1.  If we are going to do VBS, or any other activity, we want to do it well. Instead of throwing it together and doing it "for the sake of doing it", our desire was to do it well. We don't want to be running around at the last minute just throwing it together. That doesn't bring glory to God (although God can and often does bless it despite of us).

2. Most importantly, pray over it. Which means we were trying to do it in our own strength for our own glory. God isn't honored in that either.

Again, as the pastor, this is on me. This is my fault. I'm taking responsibility for that and vowing to do better. I could make all the excuses in the world, but at the end of the day, I allowed this to slip through the cracks. I allowed both personal and professional things get in the way and lost sight of it. The only thing I can do now is learn and grow from this. In the end though I believe this was the wisest course of action.