VBS 2012: Teaching Kids About Persecution?

A new Vacation Bible School curriculum is getting real with kids. Instead of lighthearted subject matter, The Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit that works with the persecuted church worldwide, recently developed a VBS curriculum that focuses on teaching children about persecution.

The Kids of Courage VBS program also helps children learn about forgiveness, courage and perseverance – all through stories of persecuted Christians in the countries of China, Egypt, India, Nigeria and North Korea.

Todd Nettleton, director of Media for VOM, told The Christian Post that the basic question the curriculum asks kids is: “How much is my faith in Christ worth to me?”

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It explores the Christian faith of those in other countries like North Korea or China, where religious freedom is very limited. The materials give children the chance to grapple with the idea of their own faith, how much it means to them, and whether or not they would suffer to stay true to Jesus.

“I don’t think you are ever too young to start thinking about those types of questions,” Nettleton said.

The creators of the curriculum ensure parents and teachers that the materials tell real stories, but don’t talk about issues that are above the children’s age level.

“There is a lot kids can learn about persecution without going into graphic detail,” said a VOM worker who helped in the curriculum’s preparation. “They can learn that we can trust God when we are having problems, and we can even praise Him.”

The curriculum includes more than 50 stories, crafts, and skits to help leaders teach the curriculum. One of the stories focuses on a little girl from North Korea named Hyun Joo. The story explains to children that Hyun Joo and her family are Christians, but it is dangerous to be a believer in North Korea because “the country’s leaders wanted people to honor them, not God.”

The story goes on to explain that when Hyun Joo told her teacher she did well on her exam because of God’s grace the teacher got angry. Hyun Joo and her family disappeared shortly after the incident because Hyun Joo displayed her Christian faith at school.

Discussion questions for the story include: “Witnessing boldly means witnessing even when someone might not like what you say. How was Hyun Joo a bold witness? Have you ever given God the credit when you got a good grade or an award?”

Without going into graphic detail, the curriculum helps children understand the dangers of being a Christian in North Korea, but also about witnessing. Plus, Nettleton said, it is a country that many of them are aware of because of what’s going on in the news, but it brings things down to a level they can identify with.

 “As a youth minister, I tend to stay away from lessons that are watered down,” said William Thompson, a youth pastor who uses the Kids of Courage VBS curriculum. “In today’s world, I think people need reality rather than fantasy.”

Nettleton said the curriculum does just that. It “points out the value of our Christian walk or faith,” he said. It helps children, especially American children, who don’t live in a country with religious persecution, start thinking about their faith on a new level. “If there is another Christian in another country willing to die rather than renounce Christianity, what does this mean about our faith?” Nettleton said.

The stories are valuable “as we talk about future of the church. America is in [the] minority as far as religious freedom,” Nettleton said. It’s “vital that even children understand the value of their faith.”

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