I grew up attending church, and I am thankful my parents saw the importance of a church family and exposed me to God's love from infancy. I spent almost every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night within the walls of the church, learning about God's love and the importance of telling others the good news of Jesus. One of my first memories of experiencing God happened in "Space Cubs," the Wednesday night preschool program I attended at our church. Every Wednesday, my four-year-old self would put on my brown and yellow beanie covered in iron-on patches "earned" for various Bible activities and head to church, where my leaders, Rick and Diane, would lead us in singing, Bible stories, snacks, and crafts. I loved going to Space Cubs. It allowed me to regularly interact with God, his word, and the people of his church. My love of Bible stories was birthed in Space Cubs, and almost four decades later, I can still hear the"Space Cubs" theme song as I reflect on those early memories. I am thankful that Rick and Diane shared the stories of Jesus with me, and that my church family recognized the importance of telling people of all ages the Gospel.
My early encounters in church helped to shape my faith in Christ. As I matured, each
experience with the Gospel molded me into the Christ-follower I am today. I can look back and see how, not only Space Cubs, but youth group, Sunday school, church camp, service
opportunities, and various other faith-formation experiences in my childhood and adolescents formed and sustained me as I matured in my faith. I am not alone in being shaped by my childhood history. Early life experiences affect the majority of people both positively and negatively. As the church, we want to provide children the favorable opportunity to experience God at any age, knowing their childhood experiences will not only shape them as adults but also allows them to experience Jesus in the present. You are never too young or too old to interact with God. After all, Jesus blessed little children and sought healthy interactions with them (Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17). Jesus meets people where they are, regardless of age, race, gender, or developmental level. Jesus is for everyone, and our joy as the church is to go into our neighborhoods, sharing the love of God and the good news of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit with all ages.
God loves children and actively calls them to himself, and as the church, we should
model Jesus's attitude toward children. We must provide avenues for children to come to Jesus and experience his love, not so they grow up to become Christians, but so that they become Christ-followers now. Just like adults, children should have multiple opportunities to hear the good news of Jesus and accept him as their Savior. Never is the Gospel a "one and done" experience, but rather, we (both children and adults) must consistently experience Jesus in our daily lives.
One of the many ways Restoration Church shares the good news of Jesus with children is through Backyard Bible Club (BYBC). Like VBS (Vacation Bible School), BYBC tells the good news of Jesus in the backyards of various houses within the community. It's an intentional twist to traditional VBS. With smaller groups and a more casual setting, BYBC provides an opportunity for families to be hospitable (intentionally inviting their neighbors to their home to hear the good news of Jesus), for the church to evangelize throughout the community, and for the Gospel to be shared in a developmentally appropriate, small-group setting. It's VBS with an emphasis on intentionality.
Why We Love Backyard Bible Club
Hospitality: Children and families participating in BYBC practice intentional hospitality by inviting their neighbors to their backyard to hear the good news of Jesus. It's a great way to get out and meet those who live around them.
Evangelism: The good news of Jesus goes out into the neighborhood. Jesus came to earth because humanity could not come to God. God is a sending God. We want to go to the people.
Relationships: Through small-group interactions, as the good news of Jesus is shared and experienced, we develop relationships with our neighbors. Relationships are at the heart of Christianity. We serve a God who knows us intimately and wants us to know him. BYBC allows us to begin and continue building relationships, not just within our neighborhoods but also within our church family.
Intentionality: Our teaching is intentional and developmentally appropriate, so children can experience God in a way they can understand. With a format that includes games, Bible teaching, crafts, and snacks, we want to shape children for the future while allowing them to experience God now. We aren't waiting for kids to grow up to become Christians; we want them to be Christ-followers now.
The ancient church father, St. Jerome, famously claims, “The Scriptures are shallow
enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a
theologian to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” The good news of Jesus is for
everyone, from the youngest to the oldest and everyone in between. I am so thankful for Rick and Diane and the other Christ-followers who shared the Bible with me at different times in my life. As we prepare for Backyard Bible Club, let us take to heart that the good news of Jesus is for everyone, and pray that the Gospel will permeate through backyards all across the town of Adel.
Written by Leslie Banwart