The Great ADVENTure

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Rev up your Christmas program with the best
principles from vacation Bible school.

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How many times have you walked into a Christmas program rehearsal
to find kids sitting, eyes glazed over, while the director goes
over staging or lines with one or two principal players? Or the
kids run around rambunctiously while “Joseph” or “King Herod” is
fitted in his costume? This was one pitfall we wanted to avoid with
our Christmas program — getting the kids to participate just to
bore them silly for an hour.

That’s why we came up with ADVENTure — where kids spend their
rehearsals wrapped up in vacation Bible school-style activities and
learning the program. In our ADVENTure, kids begin and end each
session by singing songs from the musical, which they learn
quickly. But it’s really the time between the songs that makes
ADVENTure a success.

We scrapped our typical Christmas program where kids stand onstage
and merely perform for their parents and grandparents. ADVENTure –
our four-week Christmas VBS-style program — gives kids a fresh
understanding of Jesus’ birth and an
opportunity to minister to their audience –  not just perform
for them.

One of the best features of VBS is small groups of kids who meet
with their own leader. An ADVENTure program is designed the same
way. We form “flocks” with an adult “shepherd.” Mixing age groups
eliminates many discipline issues and builds relationships between
kids who normally might not get the chance to interact.

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To do your own ADVENTure each week, set up three learning stations
based on the program concept. Rotate the flocks and their shepherds
through each of the three stations in 15-minute intervals. Each
child should get the opportunity to participate at each station
every week.

Of course, creating an ADVENTure program means there’ll be a lot
more work than dusting off shepherd costumes, but reaching out to
the kids in your community with an event that’s educational and fun
– rather than boring old rehearsals — is well worth the
effort.

KEYS TO A GREAT ADVENTURE
Over time, we’ve learned a few lessons about what makes an
ADVENTure program click with kids — and ultimately with the entire
congregation. Here are the most valuable tips we’ve gathered over
the years.

• Share the lines. Focus on a few narrators who can read
their lines and feel comfortable, or recruit adults to narrate.
We’ve had several senior congregation members narrate the program.
This allows kids to focus on learning the songs, and it keeps just
one child from being singled out as the star of the show.

• Ditch the costumes. Unless you have a very theatrical
group, most kids are uncomfortable wearing a costume — especially
preteens. Instead, create a special Christmas shirt each year for
the kids to wear for the program.

Aim just above your kids. We look for programs targeted
toward teenagers and middle schoolers. The little ones will be
there no matter what, but the older ones need something cool.

• Make your program multigenerational. Recruit teenagers
and adult choir members to join in the program for a
multigenerational backup. We have adults, teenagers, and children
sing together. The solos and tougher parts can be handled by
smaller groups of older children and adults, and the mix builds
fabulous working relationships.

• Make it important. We insist that the program be held on a Sunday
morning in Advent. We have the sound, special effects, and
multimedia folks give it the full treatment. Then the kids realize
how important their preparation has been.

• Make it a worship service, not a photo-op. Too many
churches see children’s programs as a chance to be cute. We tell
our kids they’re the ministers and the sermon; they believe it and
treat it that way.

• Make sure kids understand what they’re singing. Too
often we don’t help kids internalize difficult concepts such as
eternity and forgiveness. Including reinforcement activities helps
focus the children on the message, not the performance.

THE STATIONS
Build your ADVENTure program using the Christmas presentation
you’ve selected as the foundation. All the stations included here
work best with a re-enactment of the birth of Christ. For
recommended nativity programs, check out the “Nativity Programs”
box below.

Each week, you’ll focus kids’ attention on one of the four concepts
in your program by using R.E.A.L. Learning — Relational,
Experiential, Applicable, and Learner-based. Make your ADVENTure
program a memorable, fun experience for kids with the following
interactive learning stations.

Storytime Station – Retelling the events surrounding
Christ’s birth not only helps kids honor this miraculous event, it
also reiterates the roles of everyone involved. Kids remember the
wisdom the magi demonstrated when they didn’t return to King Herod.
They realize the humble circumstances in which Jesus was born.
Storytime stations are a powerful tool to help kids learn and
understand the account they’re presenting.

Hands-On Learning Station — Hands-on learning allows you
to access many different learning styles to reinforce a simple
message for kids. These stations encourage play that lets kids
experience the concepts.

Craft Station -- Crafts are a great way to drive home the
point of a lesson. Kids will create crafts that’ll make your
ADVENTure a standout event.

WEEK ONE
Storytime Station: Weekly Visitor — Have an adult
volunteer dress as someone involved in the first Christmas or as a
character from your program who has a unique perspective on what
happened Christmas night. For example, invite an angel to tell the
kids about God — that he’s always existed and loved them forever.
Or invite the innkeeper’s wife to talk about the light that Jesus
brought into the world. Or perhaps invite a servant of the wise men
to discuss the way their caravan followed the star even though none
of them knew where they’d end up.

Hands-On Learning Station: Who’s Afraid? — For this station,
you’ll need a darkened room, taper candles, and paper drip
protectors (available at www.genwax-candles.com), and a lighter. Have
kids sit in a circle, and give each child a candle and paper drip
protector.

Ask, “Do you like the dark? Why or why not? Have you ever been
afraid of the dark? Explain. Imagine if the whole world was filled
with darkness. What would our lives be like? What if our hearts
were filled with darkness? How would that change us? How does light
affect our lives? When we think of light in our hearts, what does
that mean?”

Read aloud John 8:12. Say, “With the birth of Jesus, the
world knew a different kind of light. How is Jesus the light in our
lives? in our hearts? What difference does Jesus make in our
world?”

Say, “Look around you. It’s dark in this room. Let’s see what
happens when we share Jesus’ love with others. When it’s your turn
to light your neighbor’s candle, say something you like or
appreciate about that person.”

Light your candle and say something about the person sitting next
to you as you light his or her candle. Have kids take turns
lighting each other’s candle until everyone’s is lit.

Say, “Look around. There’s a lot more light in this room now, isn’t
there? How does Jesus’ love and light change the world? How can we
spread more of God’s love?”

Close in a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ light. As an “amen,”
have the children blow out their candles at the same time.

Craft Station: Light the Night — You’ll need mini
flashlight necklaces (available at www.orientaltrading.com), batteries for the
flashlights, 1-inch card stock circles, tape, star hole punches,
and a Bible for this craft.

Read aloud Matthew 2:1-12. Ask, “What do you think it was
like for the Magi the night they followed the star? Can you imagine
walking through the night through an unknown land in search of an
unknown destination? Explain. How would you have felt if you’d been
with the Magi that night?”

Have kids punch a 1-inch card stock circle with the hole punches.
Give each child a mini flashlight necklace and have them each use
tape to attach a card stock circle to the end of their flashlights.
Turn off the lights and have kids shine their “star lights” at the
ceiling.
     

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