Vacation Bible School Program Celebrates Joy in Jesus
Vacation Bible School Program Celebrates Joy in Jesus

Joy in Jesus
Everywhere! All the Time!
Abingdon Press
Starter Kit Cost: $79.99

Joy in Jesus uses African American culture and history as a lens to examine biblical truths and the Gospel message of Jesus. The writers are particularly responsive to the events of the past year that brought about the deaths of African Americans in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina. They ask the question others have voiced: “What is there to be happy about?”

Their answer comes from Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy from the Lord is your strength.” Using art, drama, storytelling, crafts, and games, they affirm the abundance of God’s love and presence in the lives of all people, regardless of race. “As Bishop John Bryant (AME) said at the funeral of South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, ‘When god is in the house, there is joy.’”

Psalm 100, which tells us to set aside a room for praise to celebrate God’s faithfulness through the generations, sets the tone for this VBS. Using Old and New Testament scripture, as well as African Americans from history and today, Joy in Jesus demonstrates that “even in death-dealing circumstances, we can continue to joyfully hope in God to whom all lives matter, especially those whose backs are against the wall.”

Joy in Jesus predominantly reflects the music, syntax, and visual representations of the African American community, its primary audience. All churches who want to confront the racial issues our nation is facing, however, should consider this joyful curriculum that is filled with hope.

Each day includes an opening worship skit with song and dance, structured Bible study time, and time for reflection through crafts, snacks, and music. The worship DVD guides participants in movement activities, while the music CD comes with teaching versions of the songs.

The initial kit provides materials for preschool/kindergarten and elementary-aged children. Resources for teens and adults are available as a separate purchase if churches want to create an intergenerational experience.

This VBS program is designed for communities beyond the church doors. Included are detailed instructions for increasing community engagement, including structure and ideas for working with multiple churches.

Each guide – for drama, snacks, crafts, and outreach – explains how each Joy in Jesus component complements the whole. Joy in Jesus does not offer a physical activity or games rotation, which most programs would probably wish to add. Music, an important strength of this resource, is a mix of traditional hymns, hip-hop, and topic-related songs—enjoyable for all ages.

The director’s guide includes pedagogical and developmental information, alternative schedules, biographies or relevant leaders in the black community, websites, and movies. The outreach component focuses on children’s health and life in the community.

This is a VBS worth considering for an intergenerational program that includes your entire community!

Dorothy Linthicum

The above VBS program is a top pick from the CMT’s 2016 VBS Reviews. Click the link to read all the reviews.



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