Bible school makes for summer fun and learning
The slippery grass behind the church was littered with tires, rubber chickens, balloons and small orange traffic cones, but the children didn't hesitate to join in the games their Vacation Bible School leaders had set up for them.
Even the games at Cornerstone Baptist Church's Bible school are meant to install a deeper lesson. On this particular day - a Wednesday evening in July - the kids are divided into teams for a relay in which they must move water from one bucket to another using a small plastic cup.
People in medieval times had to practice fetching water daily to become good at it, just as a Christian needs to read the Bible and pray daily as part of their faith, explained Assistant Pastor Jake Jones.
It's about "honing skills in a spiritual sense," said Jones, who works with the Vacation Bible School each summer.
Cornerstone's VBS is a four-day event in which kids learn Bible lessons, sing, eat snacks and play games. Children ages 3 to 12 gathered from 6:30-9:30 p.m. in a church that was built from a renovated chicken coop, but staff did their best to convince them that it was a castle.
Each year, the Bible school has a theme, explained Jones and his wife, Lauren. Last year was about bugs, and before that it was cowboys. This year, it's all about knights.
A duct-tape portcullis hangs outside the door of a classroom filled with four-year-olds, the main sanctuary is adorned with hand-painted cardboard castles and dragons and the nursery door has a sign proclaiming it the location of the "Town Criers." A stand in the lobby contains prizes - spinning tops, pencils, Frisbees - that the kids can buy with plastic gold coins they earn for good behavior.
The decorations are biblical, too. For Vacation Bible School, the organizers choose a Bible verse and "everything done is relating to that truth," said Jones.
This year, it's Ephesians 6, which describes how Christians should protect themselves with the armor of God.
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes," it reads, according to the NIV translation. "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."
The VBS organizers didn't overlook any details - even the snacks contain a message from God. Earlier in the week, half-black and half-white cupcakes demonstrated a lesson about good and evil. On Wednesday, "dragon claws" (Bugles) and "dragon tongues" (fruit roll-ups) came with a little slip of paper describing their significance.
The "dragons" described in the Bible were probably dinosaurs, according to the paper. This would mean that dinosaurs and humans were both created on the sixth day and roamed the Earth together, it explains.
But the children had started their day not with dinosaurs, but goats.
Two of Jones' younger brothers, aged 18 and 19, decided to act as court jesters during the bible school, so they performed a skit at the start of each evening. Lauren Jones wrote their scripts, and they were skeptical when she handed them out.
"Do we need a real goat?" they asked when they read a description of the jesters leading a uniformed goat onto the church's podium.
"Like, what, you've got goats out there!" Lauren recalled saying. "Bring one up!"
Lauren was huddled with other adults under a small overhang, watching the kids running in the rain under the watchful eye of a doctor (and congregation member) dressed as a knight. The goat could be heard bleating softly from the parking lot.
"Maybe I'll do a cow next year," she said thoughtfully.
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