By Rev. Dr. Sunny Brown Farley

Summer may be months away, but many churches are looking ahead to options for Vacation Bible School as they begin to fill up their 2024 calendars.

Vacation Bible School is a fun way to connect a church to the children of the community, but for some smaller or aging congregations, VBS may seem too expensive or impossible to staff.

Rev. Jill Daniel heads the Texas Annual Conference’s We Love All God’s Children ministry and says a lack of money and volunteers should not be a deal-breaker for whether to host VBS.

“We can help,” Daniel said.

Daniel, who is located in Atlanta, said she has been hoarding VBS and children’s ministry supplies for months.

Her hope is to get these supplies to churches that can’t afford them.

She can also pair larger, more affluent churches with smaller, less affluent churches for the purpose of sharing VBS materials. For example, the larger church might use the materials early in the summer then send them to another church to use at a later summer date.

Lastly, Daniel said she can “play matchmaker” and find volunteers to work at VBS for the churches who need them.

“Our goal is to change little church’s perceptions about what they can do in their communities,” she said.

Daniel said she is available to meet with churches and talk about VBS or any other matter related to children’s ministry.

The focus of We Love All God’s Children is to minister to under-resourced children in the areas of discipleship, literacy and health.

“The goal is to provide churches with three different avenues to change the trajectory for these children and their families,” Daniel said.

This means VBS, but also other programs.

For example, the TAC has worked with several churches in the conference to create United Methodist Children’s Centers. These centers are low-to-no-cost pre-schools with meals, naps, learning and activities. They are year-round and have hours that are compatible with the average workday.

“For communities where parents have to work and children may not have family around, we have a model that’s great,” Daniel said. “This is more than just a daycare, it’s a great learning experience. It’s set up like Head Start but with Jesus.”

Daniel said these centers are going strong despite church disaffiliations in the conference and that she hopes more will open soon.

She also said the issue of children and poverty will be addressed at the Jan. 18 UMC We Love All God’s Children Advisory Committee meeting. The Committee will consider challenging the congregations of the UMC to tackle a project that alleviates child poverty throughout the world – “something like Nothing but Nets,” Daniel said, referring to the 2006 UMC campaign to end malaria by providing mosquito nets to people in disease-prone parts of the world.

Contact Rev. Jill Daniel for more information on ministry to children in the Texas Annual Conference at (903) 278-2412.