At Bethlehem Lutheran Church – Twin Cities, we are using the “Who is My Neighbor?” VBS by ELCA (2019). What I like about the curriculum is its simplicity, and how they worked in small group time to talk about “Who is my neighbor?” The curriculum calls this time “Family Time,” but I changed it to be “Neighborhood Meeting.” (We have a take home piece that is about “Family Time!”) What are we doing at our neighborhood meetings? Well, the VBS materials dives into the Bible story, but we do that with the large group opening and science. So I have turned to timely children’s books to use at the “neighborhood meetings,” and we will recreate a neighborhood scene.
You can create a neighborhood not only during VBS but through children’s church, summer Sunday school or a craft day. Here is how:
Book #1: Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman
Read the storybook “Change Sings,” and once done ask: The young girl sees change coming, what change do you think she is talking about? Where does change start? In her heart? In your heart? What do you see in the world that needs to change?
Say: In the month of June, we celebrate a national holiday called “Juneteenth.” Do you know what Juneteenth is about? Juneteenth is celebrated each year on June 19th to mark the date when some of the last enslaved people in the south were notified of their freedom following the Civil War. When the African American slaves learned they were free, they celebrated their freedom in their neighborhoods, communities, and across the country. It was and still is a beautiful day. It’s the change that sings in the hearts of many today!
Make: Any change that needs to happen starts at home in our own hearts. Use a brown paper bag and markers to recreate the building where you live. We are making some like these.
Book #2: God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Douglas Carlton Abrams
Read the storybook “God’s Dream,” and once done ask: What happened in the story? What does God dream about? How can you be a part of God’s dream?
Say: God dreams that everyone everywhere will love each other, be kind to one another, and to let the light of God shine through them. This starts first in our hearts, and then in our families, into our neighborhoods, and beyond. So shine away, and be a part of God’s Dream of love.
Make: Each person is a part of God’s dream! Use people cutouts in a variety of skin colors so kids can make their family, their neighbors, and themselves. Add these to the houses.
Book #3: Who is My Neighbor? by Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Read the storybook “Who is My Neighbor?,” and once done ask: What happened in the story? What did the Lemon yellow do that the other blues would not do? What is the meaning of a “Good Samaritan?” How might you be a good samaritan?
Say: A Good Samaritan is someone who does good in the world. In the book, lemon yellow was the good samaritan who helped others. Even though the blues were taught to dislike the yellows and the yellows to dislike the blues, once yellow helped blue, they realized that they could get along and even be friends. That’s the kind of attitude God wants us to have – an attitude of love, caring for others, and be a friend to all.
Make: Taking care of creation is part of being a Good Samaritan, so add to the neighborhood animals, trees, and flowers.
Book #4: The Peace Book by Todd Parr
Read the storybook “The Peace Book,” and once done ask; What does peace mean in the book? What does peace mean to you? Is it hard or easy to be at peace? Why?
Say: God gives us a world to live in, and God loves the world. But sometimes the world does not get along with each other. There is war or instability, people who don’t like each other, and greed. God calls us to be better than that – God gives us Jesus, who brings us peace, joy, and love to share with the world.
Make: Add to neighborhood a peaceful skyline including clouds, sun, stars, moon, planets. Remind your audience, that when they get a chance, they should look up at the sky, and give thanks to God for the peace in their lives.