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Mennonite VBS 2009 curriculum selected as a "Top Pick"


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Catch the Spirit! Join God's Work in the World

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April 28, 2009
- Cynthia Linscheid

NEWTON, Kan. and WATERLOO, Ont. — Mennonite Publishing Network's 2009 Vacation Bible School curriculum has been selected as a "Top Pick" by the Center for the Ministry of Teaching of Virginia Theological Seminary.

Catch the Spirit! Join God's Work in the World has been selected. It was cited for its "upbeat and non-judgemental tone, and strong message of evangelism." The Center's evaluation highlights the curriculum's focus on worship and the original music by Canadian Mennonite composer Bryan Moyer Suderman as particular strengths. Catch the Spirit! uses stories from the book of Acts to help children age 4 through grade 8 learn how the Holy Spirit works in their lives, in the church and with God's people throughout the world.

The Center's main criteria for selection are (1) theology: the love of God is emphasized more than the sinfulness of humans; (2) unity: a distinctive theme is supported by a cohesive program of stories and activities; (3) inclusiveness: text and graphics represent all God's people with respect, and stereotypes are avoided. Nineteen curriculums were evaluated.

Other strengths of Catch the Spirit! listed by the CMT are: the availability of an all-inclusive kit containing everything needed for a VBS program; separate guides for preschool, primary (grades 1-2), middler (grades 3-5), and junior youth (grades 6-8); provision of ideas for adapting the materials; suggestions for simple, easy-to-find materials; easy-to-learn music that supports the theme and represents a variety of cultures and languages; suggestions for working with children with special needs, including ADHD/ADD; and a mission/outreach component.

"We're very pleased the Center for the Ministry of Teaching selected Catch the Spirit! as a quality curriculum," said Eleanor Snyder, director of Faith & Life Resources, the congregational publishing division responsible for curriculum development. "Many of our churches see VBS as a primary means of faith formation and of outreach in their communities, and we are grateful that they continue to seek out and use Mennonite materials in support of their ministries. It's also wonderful when our denominational resources get a nod of affirmation from others beyond our circles."

The two potential weaknesses mentioned in the evaluation were that the outreach component is specific to the Mennonite church and that the theme "doesn't lend itself to glitzy visuals and promotional materials."

"We hope these 'weaknesses' will not be a concern for most Mennonite congregations!" said Snyder. "We're grateful for the collaboration we have with Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Church USA on our mission offering project."

Snyder also noted the significant contributions that members of both Mennonite denominations have made to VBS curriculum development. "For the past six years, MPN staff has had the pleasure of partnering with lay writing teams throughout Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA in the creation of VBS materials. These volunteer teams have worked hard to create solid materials that keep the 'Bible' in VBS. Our themes, geared specifically to Mennonite congregations, help children actively explore themes and stories that connect to their lives," said Snyder. "We continue to work at making our annual VBS resources flexible for use in a variety of settings. With fewer congregations conducting traditional VBS programs, we've designed the materials to work for midweek or after-school programs as well."

Mennonite Publishing Network is the publishing agency of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Catch the Spirit! Join God's Work in the World is available by calling 1-800-245-7894, or online at