If you have seen advertising for a Vacation Bible School or a Christian camp, you probably noticed it had a theme. Themes are very helpful to planners. They allow them to decorate their space cohesively and help them find activities, songs and games that tie together throughout the time period of their classes.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to themes. Almost without fail, if the theme is even secular in the slightest, the activities will end up trending towards the secular and the Bible lessons become a minor focus. I have seen this happen no matter how great the premise was, how expensive the curriculum or how well intentioned the leaders and volunteers.
Don’t believe your theme will cause that to happen? Follow me on my hopefully random, invented theme (I apologize if this is your actual theme. I honestly tried to think of one no one would have!) Suppose I want the children in my program to really understand how much God loves them. I know the expression “I love you to the moon and back.” Let’s pretend one of the most popular kids movies of the summer is about outer space. Why not have the theme “God loves you to the moon and back.”?
Sounds great, doesn’t it? God does love us “to the moon and back” and beyond. Watch what happens though as I begin planning. Decorations are space themed of course. My songs are also space themed, with “God” words thrown in for good measure. My activities are spaced themed, but have a Bible verse on them. And on and on it goes.
Do you see how easily my Bible stories and truths slowly got buried as I planned? My focus gradually shifted from God’s love to my fun space theme. My program will look great and be lots of fun. The kids may come out singing a space song with a Bible verse as a part of the lyrics. They may bring home a few crafts that will stay around for awhile. All of that is wonderful except:
- Did the children (who tend to be concrete thinkers) think the Bible actually has some real connection to outer space?
- Did my activities remind the kids more of God and some lesson from the Bible or the latest space movie?
- Did the children learn more about space or God and His principles and commands during my program?
- Did my theme confuse those concrete thinkers more about the Bible and its connection to my theme than it made them feel closer to God?
Themes are fine if you are careful. Take a hard look at your plans though and make sure your theme ties your students as closely back to the Bible as it possibly can. The Bible has enough difficult concepts for kids to master. Don’t create a situation where they are spending effort trying to separate your very realistic theme from what actually happened in the Bible. (Coming soon we will post several free special programs with very biblical themes. We have used these to not only have a lot of fun learning about the Bible, but our themes themselves help children understand godly principles.)