ReNew a green vbs

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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Diving Deep into the Gather and Send Site

At ReNew, the day begins and ends at the Gather and Send site. Kids experience the Gather and Send space as a large group and the main focus of the site is to introduce the Bible story. Click here to see what the Gather and Send space could look like.

What do kids do during the Gather time?

At the beginning of the VBS day, kids will prepare for the day by singing, learning the Bible story, collecting the Mission Moment offering and begin their daily planting ritual. After the gather time is over, kids will rotate with other kids in their age group to the various activity sites, before regrouping at the end of the day. If a congregation is using the all kids option, the kids would stay together to experience the rest of the ReNew activities.

What is the Planting Ritual?

The ReNew planting ritual is a very important part of the ReNew VBS experience. Kids use their kid packs to make seedling pots, planting different seeds each day to remind us of God’s renewing love. The seedling pot consists of a portion of their bible book—so kids are planting God’s word as they grow in faith. Over the course of the week—kids will plant a “pizza garden” (organic tomato, basil, oregano, onion, and pepper seeds), which can be sustained, at church or at home.

Music! Music! Music!

Music is a very important part of the Gather and Send time. Kids will rock out to the seven original songs commissioned for ReNew—a great way to experience and dive deep into the Bible story—as well as enjoy the five “recycled” VBS favorites included in the music CD. The entire music CD is reproducible—you may consider making CDs for all of your kids, or sharing the music on iTunes. For music samples, click here.

How does the day end?

Kids celebrate the day by completing their planting ritual, reflecting on the day’s activities, singing songs, and choosing a ReNew It! Challenge to help carry VBS home. The ReNew It Challenges are intended as conversation starters for kids to share all of their VBS fun with their families. Kids get the chance to share their Challenge experiences with the group the next day.

To view actual Gather and Send samples and to see how ReNew may work for your congregation, click here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Upcycling" VBS continued...

Like I mentioned in my post earlier this week, when we were creating ReNew, we found that going green is a process—some changes are easier to make then others.

One of the most important things we wanted to accomplish was to make ReNew as green as possible. If ReNew is to be a starting point for congregations to begin caring for creation, it must strive to be the change that we want to see. To do so, we researched many different ways of green manufacturing and we learned a lot. For instance, we came across the term “greenwashing.” Green washing is saying something is green, but when you take a closer look at it, realize that it is not green, or that it is not as green as it could be.

So, to make ReNew as green as possible and to avoid “greenwashing” we enlisted help to research manufacturing companies with eco-friendly practices and were happily surprised to see the creative options manufacturers came back with. Soy-based inks! Biodegradable fabric! Recyclable banners!

Below is a list of all of the ReNew products and the unique ways that each product is green. I hope you are inspired by the imagination , quality and fun of these resources—and can visualize how they will help your VBS kids grow in faith, have fun and change the world!

Starter Kit Box
Made from recycled cardboard, the Starter Kit Box also serves as the
shipping box. It’s printed on both sides, with “ReNew It! Challenge”
Medallions to use during the Send time.

Program Guide
The binder is made from recycled cardboard, and the recycled paper
has been printed using soy-based inks.

Music CD & Program DVD
The ReNew Program DVD and ReNew Music CD are included in the
binder to keep everything in one place and to reduce packaging.

Work Belt
Made from a biodegradable fabric, the belt doubles as an easy way
to keep the Kid Packs together.

Bible Book
Printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, the Bible Book
includes a “planting strip” section that kids cut out each day to
create a seed pot for their Daily Ritual.

Seed Starter
Made from recycled plastic, this tool is an easy and fun way
to get kids caring for creation.

Planting Pack
During the daily ritual, kids will plant seeds from the ReNew Planting
Pack to start a “pizza garden” (tomatoes, basil, onion, bell pepper,
and oregano) that they can grow either at church or at home with
their families.

Hang this banner indoors or outdoors to promote your VBS—and
then flip it around to display the “Welcome” side during your ReNew
VBS week. Printed on biodegradable fabric, the banner is extremely
durable but still earth-friendly. For an even “greener” approach,
keep it up to welcome people even after VBS is over.

Publicity Posters
These three posters are made of recycled paper and printed on both
sides using soy-based inks. Hang up one side to advertise ReNew
VBS, and then flip them around to serve as activity site signs once
VBS begins!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“Upcycling VBS”

Upcycling (def.): Creating something new and useful out of something disposable and used up.

When we imagined ReNew: the Green VBS, my coworker, Bethany and I wanted to create a truly unique and transformational experience for kids. Our research showed that a lot of the VBS offerings on the market are very similar. They certainly look fun, are centered in Scripture and provide a lot of “stuff” to engage kids, but ultimately none were very inspiring to us or fueled our creative spirit as we tried to imagine what a “green VBS” could be.

How could we create something new and amazing in a world of theme based VBS? Could we “upcycle” VBS?

We decided to open our Bibles, and were sparked into action by Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Jesus told parables to teach people about God’s loving reign and to turn people’s hearts toward God. Parables are simple stories that often have a surprising twist.

God’s love, the gospel, is planted within us. When it takes root and grows within us, we are prepared to face challenges and to share love with others, including God’s creation.

By focusing on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower during the ReNew VBS week, kids and adults are listening deeply to Jesus as he shares God’s dream of reconciling the whole world. Following Jesus means showing love—to all of God’s creation. We have an active role as co-creators in the renewing of the earth.

This active expression of faith—kids growing, learning and sharing with their church community and greater community is what truly “upcycles” VBS.

Next, we had to think of what it means to be “green.” With what is out there today, green seems to mean a lot of things. Ultimately, going green is a process—some changes are easier to make than others. The ReNew activities are based on green practices; we offer many options to go “greener” or “greenest.” ReNew is a starting point in caring for creation. It is an active way for kids and adults to demonstrate faith and celebrate and share their gifts.

Check back later this week to learn more about how the ReNew leader and learner resources were created and discover all of the tips and tricks on how you can use and reuse them for your VBS and beyond!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free ReNew Web Seminars!

Sign up for free ReNew seminars!

These seminars will help ReNew fans discover how their kids can grow in faith, have fun and change the world next summer with an amazing VBS experience.

You will:
  • Explore how kids will engage with Jesus' The Parable of the Sower over a weeklong Vacation Bible School experience.
  • Learn how kids will encounter the Bible story and practice their faith at the ReNew activity sites.
  • View sample lessons and leader material.

Sign up today!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Win a copy of Julie Clawson's book Everyday Justice

There's still time to enter to win a copy of Everyday Justice by commenting at [] or []

If you are unfamiliar with the book, Everyday Justice explores how our daily actions (like what we eat or wear) connect us to people around the world. These daily actions can often though support systems of injustice that cheat and oppress people. Everyday Justice gives biblical support for why seeking justice for the oppressed is a faith issue and gives practical everyday suggestions for how we can choose to subvert systems of oppression and demonstrate love to others instead. (copy taken from

Julie was recently a presenter at Christianity 21, an event that was sponsored and attended by us at sparkhouse.

Green Halloween!

Check this link out for tips and tricks for having a green Halloween! []

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Have you seen the Story of Stuff?

Have you seen the Story of Stuff?

What is it?

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Check it out!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Answers to ReNew Questions

Hi, all!

In the past week many of you have been emailing me (Rachel at sparkhouse) with wonderful questions about ReNew! I thought it may be a good idea to share some of these with the rest of the ReNew audience. Enjoy!

1. Are there any ReNew samples? Specifically, music and lesson samples?
Yes--providing these to you is part of our plan! We could not put anything up until all of the items went to manufacturing, but we're working on getting them posted.

2. Is the music CD reproducible?
Yes! You may reproduce the music CD to meet the needs of your VBS program.

3. What is in the starter kit?
Everything! We put the entire program in the Starter Kit! So, you get all the lessons, the music CD, all publicity materials, the overview DVD, the director's guide and shepherd's guides in one place. Read more about the individual ReNew products in the Starter Kit here.

4. Can I return my starter kit if I decide not to use the program?
Yes! As long as you have proof of purchase and it is in resaleable condition, you may return the starter kit.

5. Do you have the scope and sequence available?
A downloadable version of the ReNew scope and sequence will be posted with the other samples, but here it is as well. The whole week revolves around Jesus' The Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:1-9, and each day, kids will explore one part of the story and a related theme.

I hope this helps, and please keep checking this blog and the website for updates!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Going Green at the Grocery Store

Hey, Twin Cities natives! Have you ever been to the Wedge co-op on Lyndale Ave. in south Minneapolis? If you haven't you should check it out. Bethany and I went last week and were blown away to see all of the different local produce and products that the store carries. We stocked up on fresh fruit and goodies for sparkhouse and when we went to check out, we discovered that when they itemize your purchases, they indicate which items are organic/local. Sweet! I think next time we go, we'll aim for 85%.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Sneak Peek of the ReNew Overview DVD Shoot

1. Sasha preparing to deliver his lines.
2. A quick snapshot of Bethany and I before we film.
3. Sasha combating the heat of the lights with a little powder.
4. Sasha on film!!!
5. Scripts, duct tape, water, etc...all of the necessary things for making a video!

Yesterday was another great filming day for ReNew. Bethany and I, along with our awesome filming crew and Sasha Andreev, our VBS decorating video host, met at the Minneapolis Photo Center to film the overview video segments.

Although we spent a lot of time under some very bright and hot lights, both Bethany and I had a lot of fun talking about ReNew and sharing our hopes and dreams for the program.

The film crew also filmed Sasha's intro segments for the ReNew decorating video. It is amazing to watch them work and it will be even more fun to see the videos once they are edited.

Here are a few snapshots we took during filming. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Welcome to the ReNew blog!

Now that you are here, I bet you are a little curious about ReNew. Well, we have got a story for you!

The ReNew story...

A seed is planted...
Across the church, the call to care for creation had been growing. Many congregations have started green teams, planted community gardens and have been leading community efforts to go green. Looking around, though, there is not one resource that helps harness this spirit and enables it to spread. Here, at Sparkhouse, we began to wonder what we could do to help churches that wanted to become environmental stewards. Could we create a resource that would inspire kids and adults to grow in faith, have fun and change the world?

An idea takes root...
ReNew began when five people gathered in a room and wondered, "What would a green VBS look like?" These five people, each with different strengths and experiences, challenged themselves to come up with a concrete and sustainable idea. From that, ReNew was born--built on a manifesto that declares:

A green VBS...
  • must be green in all ways--from manufacturing to packaging, from supply lists to decorating.
  • makes environmental stewards out of everyone, everywhere. It's a program for all who wish to become united by hope, community and service--regardless of geographic location, race, economic situation or denomination.
  • can grow faith through biblical and environmental life lessons and have fun at the same time.
The concept grows...
Excited about ReNew, the team set out to make the VBS concept a reality. They called and emailed theologians, writers, environmental educators, visual artists, reviewers, musicians, and organizations--all representing a wide range of denominational backgrounds and perspectives. With each contact they made, the team was thrilled to find that people "got" the concept of a green VBS and wondered why it didn't already exist.

Overcoming obstacles...
The team quickly discovered it's one thing to say something is environmentally friendly, and another to actually create something that is. They enlisted help to research manufacturing companies with eco-friendly practices and were happily surprised to see the creative options manufacturers came back with. Soy-based inks! Biodegradable fabric! Recyclable banners! ReNew started to become real and three-dimensional.

A promise of harvest...
After six months of creative collaboration, help from many gifted and passionate people and hard work, ReNew moved from a possibility to a reality. Launching in December 2009, ReNew is ready to help communities grow in faith, have fun and change the world!

Keep checking back as this blog grows. We hope it serves a sense of inspiration as your congregation goes green!


The ReNew Team