ReNew a green vbs
Parable of the Sower

Monday, March 29, 2010

ReNew's blog has relocated!

Thanks to everyone for following ReNew: The Green VBS' blog!  You can now find our freshly redesigned (and relocated) blog at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Q&A: VBS Director Lori Cotter Shares Excitement for Upcoming ReNew Program

Earlier this month, we sat down with Lori Cotter of Sugarloaf United Methodist Church in Duluth, Georgia. She so graciously shared her perspective on ReNew: The Green VBS, that she recently purchased for this year's VBS week, and how her congregation works to be good stewards of God’s creation.

ReNew: What is life like as the Director of Children’s Ministry at Sugarloaf United Methodist Church in Duluth, Georgia?
Lori: What can I say? Being the Children’s Ministry Director at Sugarloaf is the best job I’ve ever had! Sugarloaf’s goal is to be relevant, and I can do all kinds of things to reach kids. For example, we’re in our fifth year of rotation model Sunday School where we get to teach children in a variety of way.  We call the program BLASt (Bible Learning Adventure Stations). 

Amidst other VBS programs out there, what attracted you to ReNew?

We stepped a little bit out of our comfort zone to choose ReNew. Traditionally, we have gone with another publisher with programs that worked but had become routine. Sugarloaf Kids Ministry wanted to use something that had applications to today and the ReNew program really shows that one child can have an impact. I think it is so relevant to what is happening in the world today.

When do you plan to implement ReNew?

In our church, we call vacation bible school our Sugarloaf Kids Summer Sensational because, really, who wants to go to school in the summer? Our program will take place June 14-18, 2010, and it culminates on Children’s Celebration Sunday. We will conduct it over five morning sessions that will last 3.5 hours each. Each day has a unique focus.
  • Day 1: Planting Seeds (“A sower went out to sow…”) – God’s love is a seed in me.
  • Day 2: Taking Root (Path & Birds) – God’s love takes root in me.
  • Day 3: Growing (Rocky Ground) – God’s love is growing in me.
  • Day 4: Facing Challenges (Thorns) – The love of Jesus helps me face challenges.
  • Day 5: Living Together (Good Soil) – We live together in God’s love.
Of all the activities and resources associated with your “Summer Sensational,” what do you look forward to the most?

I love the whole idea of going to worship sites. The “self” site is really showing kids that they can make a difference, the “community” site shows kids how to help their immediate environment, and the “world” site shows the young, even though they are so little, they can have a big impact on the world.

Also, I love the idea of using the same story – Jesus’ Parable of the Sower – over the duration of the program by highlighting a different portion each day. The activities are relevant and applicable to today, showing children what God expects us to do with the Earth.

How will you be putting your own spin on ReNew? What sort of thoughts and ideas do you have?

We’re going to take each area and the ideas from ReNew and write our lesson plans to work for us. We’ll put our own spin on the “self” site with crafts and for the “world” site with a mission spin and a project offering for the Navajo reservation in New Mexico our church supports. We’ll ask children to fill bags with toys and school supplies and we’ll share them with the kids at Pueblo Pintado.  And, the program will serve dual purposes. We will reuse all the supplies during our mission trip to the reservation in July.

Also, with over 600 kids, we have too many children to walk outside, as suggested in the programming, so we will be showing a video about the earth in our World Center and with the lesson that will compliment each other. I’m also looking forward to incorporating our on-site garden called God’s Garden into our ReNew Summer Sensational.

What other activities does your congregation do to be good “green” stewards of the Earth?

We recycle! There are bins in every department and for the week of our summer program we will set out compost bins. Also, we will provide reusable water bottles for the children during the Summer Sensational. They can reuse them during the program at our “water holes” and at home.

This year’s program will be “paperless.”  We will be going electronic.  From registration forms to our daily newsletter, we will utilize our website to do everything online.

Are you doing anything special for Earth Day this year?

We will do something; we just don’t know what yet. It will probably happen during the whole month of April because this year is Earth Year. Also, we will have an “Impact Wall” during April. Our congregation will have an opportunity to make a financial donation to our summer program to sponsor a child, children or a family.

Finally, why is it so important to teach today’s youth about taking care of the Earth?

I think it is important because you can go to the Bible and see that we’re supposed to be doing. I think we’re at a point where we’ve almost taken advantage of the Earth so now is really the time to recognize that it is here for a long time and we should start making a difference. I believe God made the Earth for us and we have to take care of it.

We’d like to thank Lori for taking the time to talk with us about why Sugarloaf purchased the ReNew Starter Kit and how they plan on using it. We’re so excited to hear they will be reusing the supplies and making ReNew their own; keep us posted on how the ReNew-infused Summer Sensational goes!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top 10 Tips for Making Your Congregation More Green

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day around the corner (April 22nd) we are reminded that our concern for environmental sustainability is not some new fad. As people of faith, we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation and make each and every day Earth Day.

Clearly, there is a lot we can do together to care for our planet, but what can you and members of your congregation do to make a difference? ReNew has come up with 10 easy tips to infuse green activities into your every day lives.

  1. Walk, bike or use public transportation. If you must drive, combine trips and carpool when possible.
  2. Change you incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent. Don’t throw them in the trash, however. They contain mercury and must be disposed of properly.
  3. Plant trees or other plants.
  4. Use refillable bottles for water. Reusable, aluminum bottles are available everywhere.
  5. Pay your bills online. Doing this will save paper, fossil fuels and not to mention 44 cents on postage!
  6. Use reusable grocery bags. To help you remember, leave them in your car if you must drive.
  7. Cool down with fans and light clothing instead of cranking the air conditioning.
  8. Eat local foods and freeze seasonal fruits for the winter months.
  9. Unplug your devices when not in use. This includes unplugging cell phones when charged, DVD players, CD players and anything that drains small amounts of energy when idle. It all adds up!
  10. Install a low-flow shower head to save water.

Have we missed anything? Let us know how you take care of the Earth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Earth Day 2010, A Call To Service

The first Earth Day was held back in 1970 so people around the world would celebrate the Earth and renew commitments to building a safer, healthier and cleaner world. Forty years later, a sister organization called The Earth Day Network (EDN) continues to focus on taking that mission and concept of Earth Day and translating it into real action.

The Earth Day Network of non-profit organizations, local governments, activists, and, not surprisingly, communities of faith reaches more then 19,000 organizations in 192 countries. The domestic program engages 10,000 groups and more than 100,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental-protection activities throughout the year. That’s a whole lot of action!
One exciting resource from the EDN website is its religious outreach. There, you’ll be able to read all of the encouraging activities people of faith are involved in all over the world, including a list of “pulpit resources.”

As you and your faith community gear up for Earth Day this April 22, 2010, consider finding educational programming on caring for God’s creation, like our green vacation bible school program called ReNew, or exploring the EDN website that encourages you to do your part by joining the network or donating to the cause.

How will your faith community celebrate Earth Day this year?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Affecting Change By Giving Back: One Day's Wages and Charity: Water

A key component of the ReNew Green Vacation Bible School curriculum is to encourage children to give back and change the world. So what better way for ReNew: The Green VBS to teach this lesson than to live it?

ReNew: The Green VBS has pledged 5% of all sales to One Day's Wages' Charity: Water project.

One Day's Wages is a global grassroots movement created by Eugene and Minhee Cho, a couple from Seattle, who donated their 2009 income ($68,000) to fighting extreme global poverty. ODW encourages those around the world to donate "one day's wages" and in turn partners with small and medium sized organizations around the world that are already fighting extreme poverty.

ReNew's donations go towards One Day's Wages' Charity: Water project that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. It is hard to imagine that just $20 can provide clean water for a person for 20 years, but it can! ReNew hopes to bring enough drinking water to 3000 people for 20 years. We are proud to partner with such great organizations on such a necessary cause.

Help us reach our goal by considering ReNew for your VBS, Sunday School or even Earth Day programming, or help spread the movement and share this information with others! More information is online about:

We're interested to know… how do you or how does your organization help teach kids to give back?

image source:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who are the people in your neighborhood? Caring for God's creation in our communities.

How can VBS grow a community?

Well, one way is to spread God's love in our neighborhoods and communities in ways that are special and unique to our area.

Using ReNew as your VBS curriculum is a starting point to get kids out in the community and inviting the community into the congregation - to build relationships, teach kids about green initiatives that are already taking place in their community and further identify the role and mission the congregation has in the community.

At the Community Activity Site, kids encounter the part of creation we call community and recognize God at work in our relationships with one another. They work together, with adult leaders and volunteers and with people the church invites into the VBS experience to understand why we are called to care for creation.

Let’s take a closer look at a Community Activity Site Activity:

Seed Pod Squad:

What will kids do? Kids create seedpods (dirt and clay balls filled with seeds) and choose a location to disperse them.
Why is this activity important? The seeds of God’s love provide our spiritual needs. In this activity kids share God’s love by sharing seeds for food that can be “planted” where there is little vegetation.

Leader Tips for this Activity:

Welcome kids to the Community Activity Site. Talk about the way the Sower sowed the seeds—just throwing them everywhere. Some might say extravagant. Some wasteful. Wonder together if Jesus was saying God is generous. The seeds of God’s love are sown everywhere—in expected and unexpected places. God doesn’t withhold love, even to those who seem unlovable. God knows the seeds of love just might grow into something beautiful. What happens when someone follows the example Jesus talked about and looks for ways to show love and kindness and caring? Take a few minutes to think about this together.

Ask kids if they know what a pod is. One definition is a casing that holds something inside. Examples range from green beans (seeds inside its own plant casing called a pod) to iPods (information inside a plastic casing). Today we’ll take ordinary soil, clay, seeds, and water and turn them into seedpods! Then you can generously sow them (actually toss them! wherever you have permission—that’s important.) They could turn a scrubby patch of land into beautiful flowers.

Seedpods are like secret packages—sometimes you have to wait. They will remain hard (and the seeds won’t start to grow) until a big rain melts them down and they start to grow in the great soil you wrapped them in. But before that happens, we need to roll up our sleeves and play in the mud!
1. Working on a table, scoop out an equal amount of powdered clay and soil—enough so that the finished pod is about the size of a donut hole. I’m going to demonstrate this for you, and once you see me do it, it’ll be easy as one-two-seed!
2. Sprinkle wildflower seeds on the table. Begin to roll and knead the seeds, powdered clay, and soil together until they are well mixed and stick together. You may need to sprinkle some water to help it stick. (Caution: too much water just makes goo.) Place finished seedpods on newspaper to dry. Damp mixture may take 24 hours.
3. As kids begin to work, talk about places that could use vegetation AND about appropriate places and permission to “plant.”
4. Tell kids the seedpods will be ready for tossing tomorrow. When seedpods are dry, store them in the soil and clay buckets.

Move to Act!
When seedpods are done and ready to dry, tell kids: “Look at that! With some very basic ingredients, we created seeds of love and change for our community.” Ask again, “Does anyone have any ideas where we can launch these seedpods and get growing?” Allow kids time to discuss. Look around tonight and we’ll talk tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaching and Learning From the Perspectives of Self, Community, and the World

Many VBS programs are designed using the rotation model—kids gather in a large group and then break into smaller groups and rotate between different activity sites—like crafts, games, storytelling, etc… This model is popular because it allows kids to approach the Bible story and daily theme in a variety of ways, appealing to the many different ways kids learn.

ReNew also uses the rotation model, but changes it up a bit. Instead of rotating to sites designated by activity type, ReNew kids will rotate to the Self, Community & World activity sites—where they will learn about Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and how they can go green!

At ReNew, kids dive deep into Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Approaching the Bible from different perspectives and participating in engaging activities through these lenses creates a more meaningful experience for kids. Let’s take a closer look.

Exploring the Self Activity Site:
Each day kids will discover what each person can do to grow in faith and care for creation. With the help of their leaders, kids will participate in activities that explore ecological and spiritual questions.

Activity Examples:

Growth Detectives:

Kids head outside to discover many signs of growth, some in unexpected places. Why is this activity important? We often miss the growing beauty of God’s world. We nurture our body, mind, and spirit when we take intentional time to see and remember the growing wonder of God’s creation.

Grow A New Game:
Kids create a new game out of various components of old board games, using seeds as the new game pieces. Why is this activity important? Seeds are the starting point from which something bigger grows. The seeds of God’s love are in all of us. We share that love when we care for God’s creation.

Growing Together:
Kids discover the basic ingredients for growing people, plants, and faith. Why is this activity important? While we all depend on others to help us grow, each person is responsible for accepting that help. When we recognize what we need, it’s easier to see the needs of other people.

Move to Act!
At the end of the activity leaders and kids reflect on what they just learned and plan on sharing their experience with their friends and families.

You saw that growth comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. God created a world filled with beauty and with everything needed to grow. Some people and plants have lots of what they need to grow and thrive (give examples from kids’ findings). Some people and plants have barely enough, but keep trying to grow (more kid examples like weeds growing in the sidewalk). Jesus told about the plants that grew in the rocky ground. Maybe he wanted people to think about what they needed to be healthy and strong. Maybe we can care for God’s creation by paying attention to how we can help plants and people grow healthy and strong bodies, minds, and spirits.

To be featured next on the ReNew blog: Who are the people in your neighborhood? Caring for God's creation in our communities.