Royal Palms Church Transformed into a Game Wonderland for VBS Conference

By Irene A. Harkleroad, Photos by Olivia and Stella Frasca | Apr 5, 2023

To say the opening rally of the State VBS Conference was exciting would be an understatement. After a welcome from Kelcey Fry, state VBS team leader, it was loud, it was wild and it was over the top.

On April 1, a group of teen volunteers led 151 VBS workers from 26 churches in a joyous time of twisting and turning, singing and arm waving as they learned the theme song for “Twists & Turns,” this year’s Lifeway VBS.

There was a touching moment when Eddy Pearson, church life team facilitator with the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists, told a story about a girl who had a lasting impact on his life.

“She loved everything about Vacation Bible School,” he said. “She came to faith as a little child in VBS and followed the Lord in baptism.”

Misty-eyed, he continued. “Fifteen years later, when we were at the University of Arizona, I met her in Bible study at First Southern Baptist Church. … I fell in love with her. We have been married 37 years.

“I’m saying this because what you do here today is important. Vacation Bible School is important. You are important. We appreciate your time [and] sacrifice. And I appreciate my wife.”

This year’s Lifeway curriculum focuses on five basic principles: Jesus is holy, trustworthy, forgiving, worth following, and He is for everyone.

Lifeway describes Twists & Turns as “a fantastical celebration of games of all kinds. From classic tabletop games to video games and more, kids will play their way through VBS while learning that Jesus guides them through all the twists and turns of their lives. They’ll find that even when they mess up it’s never ‘game over.’”

Even the snacks are edible game pieces kids can assemble.

Royal Palms Baptist Church, Phoenix, hosted the conference on their campus, providing rooms for 11 core classes and eight breakout sessions. Workers received training in specific topics geared to five age groups — preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd; grade, 3rd and 4th grade, and 5th and 6th grade — allowing children to learn at their level of understanding and VBS workers to focus their efforts.

Core classes included Bible study, crafts, music, missions, recreation and snacks. An additional class was offered for VBS directors to help them recruit, advertise, manage workers and follow up after VBS.

Breakout classes included learning the songs and motions, how to teach crafts and music, being the best helper you can be, learning styles, and sharing the Gospel.

Other classes included guiding children’s behavior in a classroom and engaging with Alphas (the new tech-savvy generation accustomed to internet exposure).

The closing rally matched the raucous excitement of the opening rally. There were more games, T-shirts flying through the air and Lifeway’s VBS materials as prizes.

One week of VBS can transform a church. According the Lifeway, 15 hours of intense discipleship + the Gospel shared every day of the week = 7 months of ministry in one week of VBS.

It’s a fun, joyful way to shape young minds for the kingdom.

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

Olivia and Stella Frasca, freelance photographers, are members of Mission Valley Church, Phoenix.

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