If you have ever visited any preschool, you will see evidence of themes almost everywhere. “Wonderful Winter” “Farming Fun” and more are great ways to connect several seemingly unconnected subjects and concepts together in a cohesive way.
There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong or unbiblical about themes. After all, the Bible itself is full of themes. When you begin choosing possible themes for your next children’s ministry program or event though, be aware there are some pitfalls of themes you need to avoid. (Please note: I am trying to avoid any themes I have actually seen. If I happen to mention one you have used, please know it was entirely accidental.)
- Themes That Distract – Will planners, teachers and students get so caught up in the theme, that the Bible stories and godly principles are actually lost in the shuffle? Let’s say you want to host a VBS on the life of King David. You think it would be fun to compare him to the current British Royal family. If you notice the activities become more about Will and Kate, Queen Elizabeth’s Crowns and Buckingham Palace with somewhat questionable ties back to King David, your theme is distracting students from your true purpose – teaching them lessons from the life of David.
- Themes That Confuse – Does the secular theme intertwine so well with the Bible stories that children will become confused? Children, especially young children, are literal thinkers. If you have the planet Saturn as your theme and “King David” is interacting with astronauts and singing on Saturn, there is a very real chance there will be quite a few children coming away with a very confused notion of the story of David. If your theme has nothing to do with the Bible, make very clear separations between your theme and the Bible stories or change it entirely.
- Themes That Are Forced – You don’t have to have a theme to have a successful children’s ministry program or event. If your activities are meaningful, hands-on, experiential and memorable, the theme is secondary anyway. If you have a great plan with wonderful Bible stories and captivating, meaningful activities, don’t feel it is essential for you to force them into some sort of theme. If you do, it will feel awkward to everyone and distract from all of the wonderful material you have prepared.
- Themes That Are Disrespectful – This is subjective, but it is something you need to seriously consider. Does the theme make you feel slightly uncomfortable? Are eyebrows raised when you mention the theme? Does it feel like in some way it is lessening the importance of the Bible stories or possibly even mocking them? If so, it may be a theme that is disrespectful to God (at least in your environment). Just because a Christian thought of the theme or it is sold by a well known Christian company, does not mean it is appropriate for the children to whom you minister (or at all).
Themes can help tie your ministry program, classes or events together or they can distract and undermine your real purpose. Make sure your theme is helping your children learn more about God and not distracting them from Him. If it does, you are probably better off with no theme at all. (There is enough adventure and fun to be had with the Bible as it is written!)