Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Hanover Mennonite Church has been an inspiring ecumenical endeavor year after year, but the dramas of the MennoMedia curriculum were always a challenge. When it seemed in 2012 as though the VBS dramas were on the brink of collapse, the idea of having the youth film the dramas turned out to have the youth wholeheartedly engaging the Scriptures.
In past years we had the privilege to host a VBS troupe (a group of trained youth that travel around to various churches in Ontario through the summer) who modelled engagement with children and interest in the Bible as they led VBS. When we were unable to use the troupe, organizers turned to “in-house” talents and gifts. We had a photographer in our midst who added something special by sending each child home with photos of themselves and their group. One lively pastor enthusiastically led memory verse challenges and a songwriter created VBS theme songs that he found in his heart for the kids.
But dramas were a challenge. We enlisted keen participants to read parts, but peering down at notes stifled the movement in the drama, and many dramas weren’t heard well. It was fun, but the dramas were not as effective as the well-rehearsed ones the VBS troupe delivered. We wondered how we could give an exciting skit of the scripture and faith lesson, while not demanding too much time, effort and commitment.
Then came 2012 and the idea was floated to the youth at Hanover Mennonite that maybe they could help. To address some of the challenges, we decided to film the dramas. Filming would allow those involved not to have to commit to the week of VBS and learning lines could be minimized with the use of off-camera cue cards. A third benefit was that we used the curriculum Scriptures and faith focuses as Sunday school material. Each week we read through, discussed the Scripture and then brainstormed how we could write it up into a script that would relay our findings to the VBS kids.
The youth wholeheartedly engaged the Scriptures for the purpose of filmmaking, digesting them so as to feed them back to others. The film series concept had a documentary host interact with the characters of each Bible passage (either through interview or interruption) and they called their series “Holy! Water.”
Truly the Spirit moved through this project in the fun and humour the youth had with the Scriptures, through their discernment of what the Scriptures are saying, and in the growth of working together.
The irony of it all was, in the end, the youth wanted to be at VBS to help in person. I guess they caught a glimpse of God’s love in their work and it energized them to want to serve. Like the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, sometimes we find living water in the least expected places. The youth are already anticipating next year’s VBS! When God’s love rains it pours!