VBS out of the box: First Reformed duo writes their own curriculum
By Susan Shinn
LANDIS ó You could say that Jamie Gobble and Dawn Franks are writing the book on Vacation Bible School.
Well, actually, they are.
Jamie, 43, and Dawn, 45, have led VBS at First Reformed Church in Landis for about 17 years.
Hard to believe, the duo says.
“That makes us sound older than I want us to,” Jamie says.
When it comes to Bible School curriculum, the two have been there, done that.
That’s why, about nine years ago, they decided to write their own curriculum.
“There weren’t any more choices out there,” Jamie says.
“We wanted to do more characters in the Bible,” Dawn says.
“Before we started it, it seemed like it would be a lot of work,” Jamie says.
But every year seems to get easier, she says.
One year, they’d done Marketplace AD, and they liked the concept of family groups and visiting different shops based on the theme.
They’ve carried that idea through in their own curriculum.
When the two decide on a theme, they begin to study the scripture on which it’s based.
Jamie writes a short drama to begin each evening’s activities, while Dawn concentrates on the various shops family groups visit.
Activities at shops might include crafts, snacks and mini-dramas.
“I didn’t know I could do that,” Jamie admits. “I’m not a writer.”
First Reformed’s VBS starts Sunday and runs through Thursday, with a simple meal each evening.
If you think Jamie and Dawn do this all by themselves, think again.
“We have 90 volunteers,” Dawn says. “That’s what makes this thing work.”
“It’s amazing that so many people say yes,” Jamie says. “It feels like I’m really partnering with God. That’s what the whole thing feels like for us. You have that connection and you feel like you’re a part of his plan. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
Each evening of Bible School, the church welcomes up to 200 children.
This year’s theme is the Life of David.
If you’ve ever been to Bible School at First Reformed over the years, you know that Jamie and Dawn do things in a big way.
One year, they had a spitting camel. Another year, they had a 40-foot-long whale to help tell the story of Jonah. Then there was the fiery furnace and a plague of frogs.
Last year, when doing VBS on the miracles of Jesus, the women pulled off building a stormy rapids ó complete with boat, rushing water and rocks ó in the church’s driveway.
Church members surely know by now that when Jamie says, “You’re going to think I’m crazy…” that something, well, miraculous will usually happen.
“Every idea we have, our members use their spiritual gifts to make it work,” Dawn says.
There’s the kitchen crew, the music crew, the storyteller (Melanie Deal), the drama team and more.
This year, children will see David crowned king in a drama much like “American Idol.”
Of course, the story of David isn’t complete without the battle between the young boy and the giant Goliath.
The big question Jamie had to answer when writing that night’s drama was, “What if he misses?”
So she wrote about how we all much face giants every day.
Kids typically “outgrow” VBS around sixth grade. Not at First Reformed Church.
About 70-75 kids who attend are middle-school and high-school aged, Dawn says. “They come because it’s fun.”
For kids who have attended here for years, Jamie says, “It sets a precedent. They want to keep coming back.”
Richard Myers, the church’s youth pastor, leads the older kids.
Both Jamie and Dawn are concerned that Vacation Bible School will eventually go by the wayside.
That’s what led them to write a book about their own experiences.
“You can buy a box anywhere,” Dawn says of VBS curriculum. “No matter what size your church is, you can do this.”
“It’s been so much fun and so successful, we want to share this with others,” Jamie says.
Every year, a church in Newton uses the curriculum from First Reformed’s previous VBS year.
“We would like to hold their hand through it,” Dawn says of the VBS experience.
Their book will provide examples of a week’s worth of dramas.
“The whole week, you make Bible stories come alive with the kids,” Jamie says.
Usually the last night of Bible School is when Jamie and Dawn choose the theme for the next summer.
Jamie suspects they’ll stay with the Old Testament for quite a few years to come.
“The Old Testament stories are so rich,” she says.
nnnVacation Bible School at First Reformed Church, 210 N. Central Ave., Landis, begins Sunday and continues through Thursday from 5:45 to 8:30 p.m. each evening.
For more information, call the church at 704-857-7229.