I have a lot of bad ideas, even when it comes to teaching kids about the Bible. In fact, some of them are so bad that they never get any use out of brainstorming sessions, so I decided to share them with all of you. Can’t let them go to waste, after all. (Except, surprise! They actually let me try one of these, which is proof that sometimes even the craziest ideas can sneak past and get approval.)
And feel free to comment with any ideas of your own that you’ve always secretly thought would be hilarious even if you know they sound more like a Babylon Bee article.
One: Ecclesiastes Blast-off: Stare into the Void with Solomon!
Want a truly original VBS theme for your church? Have we got the kit for you! None of this “he makes everything beautiful in its time” nonsense. We’re going to take the little tykes to the brink of despair only to provide hope on the last day about the ultimate meaning in life.
Here are the lesson themes.
Day One: Nothing Ever Changes.
Day Two: Wisdom and Foolishness are Meaningless.
Day Three: Power and Popularity are Meaningless.
Day Four: Money and Fame are Meaningless.
Day Five: Death Comes to Everyone.
Finale Night: Remember Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth (unless you broke down after Day Two and didn’t make it this far).
Suggested decorations: Lots of black and darkness. Possibly a ceiling full of stars to represent our own insignificance in the vastness of the universe. Have all of the leaders dress like the Grim Reaper for added flair.
Activities will include:
Work Projects: Need some landscaping done? How about some amateur parking-lot repavers? You can maximize your time by explaining to the kids that they’re exploring the meaning of “toil under the sun.”
Modified Snack Time: A few kids get a heap of overly-sugary snacks to “eat, drink, and be merry,” while everyone else gets nothing. Visual aid to reinforce the concept that both the very rich and very poor can’t find happiness in the pleasures of the world.
Endless Relay Races: Tell the kids you need them to bail out a pool of water using Dixie cups. Put a hose in the pool to add water as it is taken out. This will emphasize the futility of life found in Ecclesiastes 1: “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness.”
Existential Crisis Tag: Everyone is blindfolded and stumbles around in the dark trying in vain to connect with another human being in a meaningful way. Occasionally have the game leader shout ominously, “But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” The kids will love it.
Two: Fruit of the Spirit Fruit Snacks
In a conversation about campy, borderline-heretical Christian products (Settlers of Canaan? Grilled Cheesus Press? Yes, they both exist), I decided there really ought to be fruit snacks celebrating the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians. What better way to reinforce core virtues to your kids? I even had ideas for the flavors.
Love: Pineapple. Just because I love pineapple.
Joy: Lemons, because when life gives you lemons…
Peace: Peach, for when everything’s “just peachy.”
Patience: Pomegranate, because do you know how long it takes to de-seed those things?
And so on. I can’t remember all of the flavors, but there was logic for each one. Unfortunately, it turns out there’s already such a product on the market, though not nearly as clever. Basically just generic fruit shapes with the verse on the packaging. (Yes, I bought some. I’m ashamed of myself.)
They all taste like corn syrup, which I don’t think the Holy Spirit would approve of. But no one asked me.
Three: The Screwtape Vlog
This is a summer camp theme for kids, with each opening narrated by two demons named Avarice Sly and Melancholia Vainglory, who advise other demons on how to best tempt young subjects. For best effect, film in a creepy, leaky concrete parking garage and storage unit where renters keep grills, bikes, and dead bodies. Pause filming every time a neighbor pulls in and try not to look like you’re up to something sinister. In your all black costumes. While laughing manically. It’ll be brilliant, trust me.
Concerned that kids will take away the wrong message and apply the tips that the demons are teaching? Worried that you’ll hear from parents whose kids told them proudly, “Today I learned that it’s good to mix just a little bit of truth into a lie to make it sound better”? So were we. But since this is the one I actually had a chance to use, I can tell you from experience that the kids got it…once we followed up the film clip with a little more explanation in the actual lesson. (Also, none of my neighbors reported me to the police during the filming with my brave volunteers Cosette and Thaxton, something we were all grateful for.)
Four: Hymn Lingo with Fanny Crosby
Picture this: a series of short YouTube videos explaining tricky vocabulary, obscure Biblical references, and confusing metaphors found in popular hymns to the younger generation, hosted by Fanny Crosby herself, the renowned 17th century hymn writer who was blind from birth, crazy prolific, and an absolute boss. Or at least someone posing as her.
I would totally do this if A. I didn’t worry that it might come across as offensive to people with disabilities (even though Fanny would totally want to school the youths if she were alive today) and B. if I had any video editing skills whatsoever. Because guys, there is a gap in the market here. With all the hipster worship leaders adding in jazzed-up bridges, hymns are making a comeback, confusing children everywhere.
Listen, I’m 100% in favor of more hymns. Many of them are beautiful and theologically rich…but that doesn’t help if no one knows what they’re saying.
For example, I talked with a teenager once who had thought her entire life that “Here I raise my Ebenezer” referred to hefting Scrooge up, Rafiki-and-Simba-style, to God. “I thought it was a metaphor about greed or something,” she said. That’s because the passage that lyric is drawn from is so obscure that it doesn’t even make it into Bible trivia books.
I’ve also encountered several very literal kids who are terrified of the first verse of “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.” And even in the classics, there can be the odd line or two that we don’t realize could be confusing: “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say it is well” seems pretty straightforward until you realize the lots your kids are most familiar with are filled with parking spots and bad drivers.
Those are my terrible kids ministry ideas. It’s possible that serious content will be coming next week. Maybe.
Do you have any terrible ideas to share? Now’s your chance!