The focal point of the Chikaming Church's VBS program for the children was experiencing the life-sized replica of the tabernacle, its services, the significance of each item to the plan of salvation, and how it applies to them today.
The theme for the 2019 VBS at the Chikaming Seventh-Day Adventist Church was “Living Sanctuary or God Within Us.”
One church member felt strongly impressed to present the sanctuary theme for VBS. She enlisted her family and, together, they led out in the VBS program July 8‒12, Monday–Friday, from 5:00 p.m.‒8:00 p.m. The elaborate planning included two of her children and a family friend, posing as time travelers, which carried us back to the ancient wilderness tabernacle erected by the Hebrews, to the Passover, and to the meaning of the sanctuary.
Much prayer preparation also was integral to the success of the program. All of the team members felt a conviction to study the sanctuary more in depth in order to be fit vessels for God in sharing this grand theme with the children who attended.
When our VBS leader was asked what inspired her to present the sanctuary theme, she indicated that it all started with family worship, which then spilled over to Sabbath school. She observed that the children reacted favorably, readily absorbing the information, and was encouraged to proceed. However, when the idea was initially mentioned to some of the church leadership, questions and concerns surfaced as to how this deep topic could be successfully done with young children. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, she made clear how the program she envisioned would unfold. The church board readily supported her idea. She further stated that she felt strongly that the Lord was able to help the children understand that Jesus is represented throughout the sanctuary and that it is, indeed, a Living Sanctuary!
The Holy Spirit brought the team members together and inspired them with practical ideas on how to make the sanctuary theme come alive for the children — from a record of daily inserts in “Moses' book” of the instructions given and the pattern God showed him on Mt. Sinai to the authentic priestly garments, from the unleavened bread for the Table of Shewbread to the essential oil for the Altar of Incense, and much more.
We were blessed with 37 children, ranging in age from 2‒13. The children were divided into selected tribes of Israel by age group. For the most part, the children stayed with their tribe throughout the program. A child was selected by their tribe elder to carry their respective banner for each day.
The children also earned wisdom coins or tickets for recitation of memory verses or answering questions about what they were learning. The coins and tickets were redeemable for assorted items in the VBS store.
“Sanctuary,” written by Randy Scruggs and John W. Thompson, was the theme song, for which the children learned American Sign Language. The memory verse song was “Sanctuary Song” by Lindsey Mills, based on Exodus 25:8 — And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Other favorite songs enthusiastically sung included “Give Me Oil in My Lamp” by Thoro Harris and “I've Been Redeemed” (Anonymous).
The children experienced a multi-sensory approach to the study of the sanctuary from the moment they entered. This included tactile stimulation by spontaneous manipulation of a desert display with sand and desert animals (i.e., snakes and lizards), assembly of the tabernacle and its furniture, to demonstration experiments that illustrated various sanctuary concepts, various multi-media presentations and hands-on activities, as appropriate.
The focal point of the program for the children was experiencing the life-sized replica of the tabernacle, its services, the significance of each item to the plan of salvation, and how it applies to them today. It was impressed upon the children that the journey through the sanctuary begins and ends with Jesus, and that everything in the sanctuary pointed to Jesus. Through Him, they can experience salvation, baptism and transformation of character from the inside out.
The Bible Story station began with Exodus 24:4 — And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord... For the younger children, active participation in songs like “Shall We Go For a Walk Today?” by Ida Truss and Aurora Shumate, adapted for gathering manna, “Jesus Loves Me” by Wm. Bradbury and Anna Warner, for the outer court, “The B-I-B-L-E” (Anonymous) for the Holy Place, and “I'll Meet You in Heaven” by Marilyn Scholes, for the Most Holy Place, were used to help emphasize aspects of the sanctuary. For the older children, the importance of following God's instructions, giving willingly to help support the Lord's work, how Jesus is represented in the various pieces of furniture in the sanctuary, visualizing the shadow of the cross in the entire sanctuary, and reviewing the 10 commandments and their meanings were emphasized.
The Health station emphasized lifestyle as revealed in the wilderness sanctuary experience and the practical application for the children today. The importance of accepting the gifts that God so freely gives us through His eight natural laws was presented.
At the Nature station, experiments were done that showed God's love for the children, and what He's doing to save them.
The Craft station centered around having the children make replicas of the various items associated with the sanctuary for their miniature models, with conversations about their meaning.
One outdoor activity that served to make the wilderness sanctuary experience real to the children was their participation in an extended walk to simulate how the Israelites felt as they wandered through the desert. The children expressed their feelings about how they envisioned this affected the Israelites.
The children conducted most of the VBS closing exercises, which included recitation of various memory verses they learned over the course of the week. They also sang and signed the theme song.
To conclude the VBS program, Pastor Diaz presented the interesting perspective of the sanctuary message, in reverse, that gave the picture of Jesus leaving the heavenly sanctuary and coming to earth to carry out His ministry. In addition, the Godhead in the sanctuary was pictured as Jesus in the outer court, the Holy Spirit in the Holy Place, and God the Father in the Most Holy Place, all interactive as One in the plan of salvation. Scripture clearly depicts His purpose of establishing an earthly sanctuary was so that He would dwell among His people permanently. So, what’s our privilege in these last days of earth’s history? As a result of God’s goodness, let us go forth and be living sanctuaries!
Parents commented on how much they were learning right along with their children. One parent mentioned how remarkable it was for God to communicate His will to the children of Israel through the high priest by the use of the urim and thummim.
One child's thoughtful response was, “I learned how much Jesus loves me.”
It was clearly evident that the children were pondering what they were learning by asking poignant questions as they experienced the Journey through the Sanctuary. Some of these questions included the following:
- With no machinery, how did the children of Israel make the gold for the furniture?”
- Where is the Ark of the Covenant now?
- Why was Jesus crucified on the cross rather than some other way?
- Why did God choose the materials and colors He did for the sanctuary?
- If the Israelites shoes never wore out, did the children's shoes grow as their feet grew?
Here are some reflections shared by the team members when asked how preparation for and participation in this year's VBS impacted their lives:
- This was by far the best VBS program in which I have ever participated.
- It was a nice review of the sanctuary system.
- It's remarkable that a subject so deep kept the attention of the children!
- The message of the music selected for the program was an inspiration for me, especially the theme and memory verse songs.
- Jesus is our sacrifice. Without Him, we have no other access.
- It was wonderful to see the level of interest the children showed in the purpose behind the articles of furniture in the Holy Place, and the meaning of the contents of the ark in the Most Holy Place!
- It caused me to think about where I am on this journey, and that I have to live it rather than talk about it.
- God wants to dwell with all of us for eternity.
- God wants us to remember the purpose of the sanctuary and to study the topic more.
- It was refreshing to observe the excitement the children displayed when constructing items for their miniature sanctuary.
- I was impressed with how open the children's hearts were to receive God's sanctuary message!
- There is an integral connection between lifestyle and faith.
- The lessons the parents learned about the sanctuary can be taught to their children often.
- The sanctuary VBS program could be shared with other interested congregations by providing materials, training and workshops.
- Prayerful study of the sanctuary is a blessing. It illumines the mind and draws you closer to Jesus. Having to present it clearly to young children requires deep careful study!
In conclusion, Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary... (Psalm 77:13 KJV)
If you are interested in running a VBS on the Sanctuary in your church, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elvy P. Rolle, Chikaming Church, Sawyer, Michigan