For some congregations, summer means hosting hundreds of children at vacation Bible school. At Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., efforts are focused on fewer children to make a big impact.
Passport students enjoy a lesson on the French explorers at the nature center.
Photo by Laura Keeley
Twenty children from grades three to five attended the church’s Passport program, which offers academic enrichment through a faith-based perspective.
Once a week for three weeks, the kids—many of whom are transported to and from the church by volunteers—played games, cooked, read books, learned Bible stories, painted pots, and went on a variety of excursions. They toured the police department, and they used math skills to spend $1.00 at the candy store. At a local nature center, they learned about French explorers and got a lesson in tomahawk- and spear-throwing.
While some kids attending Passport are from the congregation, many are students who are tutored by church members during the school year.
Before the program began three years ago, co-directors Laura Keeley and Chris Wood considered how best to serve these students during summer break. “We discovered that these kids, for the most part, come from loving homes,” said Keeley, “but didn’t have a daytime environment that encouraged them to keep up the things they had learned in school.”
The directors also wanted to bolster relationships between the students and church members. “We had been involved in the schools tutoring for 10 years and never made the connections between the kids and our congregation that we wanted. The tutors sometimes had relationships but the rest of the church didn’t,” Keeley said.
Now, with a high ratio of volunteers to students, and as some of the children return from year to year, relationships are developing.
“We don’t know how God will use these relationships in the lives of any of the kids who are involved,” said Wood. Although “one-on-one relationships are much messier and labor intensive,” she said, “they have the potential to yield greater results.”