September 13, 2016 | Kokomo (INUMC) — In its efforts to become a more “elder-focused” congregation, Faith United Methodist Church in Kokomo is making significant renovations.
“We have lowered the pulpit, getting rid of the stairs, to make it easier for people to access the podium and play an active role in our services,” states the Rev. Jeff Newton, Senior Pastor of Faith UMC Kokomo and four other churches in the area. Rev. Newton says the church is also planning on installing a projector screen to counter the issue of hymnals that are too heavy to carry and print that is hard to read. 

But amid all the renovations the church is making, the biggest response so far has been from the newest addition to the Faith UMC’s ministries, a week-long Adult Vacation Bible School. 

The response has been tremendous, with an average of almost 40 students attending VBS per day, making it one of the church’s most popular events. 

“This is the biggest turnout we’ve ever had for any of our community events,” says, Debby Beheler, the crafts instructor and a long-time Faith UMC member. The format for the adult Vacation Nible School is quite similar to that of a traditional summer VBS program for children, lasting two hours per day and consisting of a variety of engaging classes that are precisely designed to fit the needs and interests of older students. Courses like Healthy Living, where students learn about the benefits of developing healthy habits, Bible study, arts and crafts, and drama, all formulated to help promote fun, light-hearted discussions, and meaningful takeaways. 

“When I teach children’s VBS, I have to continually come up with new things for them to do, because they have a shorter attention span. But with this, we can go a little slower, and we’re able to draw meaning from our activities,” says Beheler.

Before school, students gather for snacks, then proceed to the chapel for a short worship session, followed by a message from a daily guest speaker. Rev. Mandie Gould, Senior Pastor of Sharpsville UMC, delivered an impactful message lined with gems on how to age graciously. She encourages her audience of adult students to forgive often, grow closer to God, and to cherish their friends. “There’s nothing worse than being lost without anyone looking for you. So call that person you’ve been meaning to call.” 
Gould has been lending her skills to support ongoing relief efforts for those impacted by the recent Kokomo tornadoes. Under the direction of Rev. Newton, who is also the Executive Director of The Kokomo Urban Outreach, a local nonprofit organization offering faith, food, and advocacy to residents in need. Gould and many United Methodists throughout the surrounding areas have joined together in an effort to restore morale in Kokomo. 

Representation from nearby churches like Seminary UMC, Noblesville First, Promise UMC, Carmel UMC, and several other congregations have made relief efforts for Kokomo immensely successful. “The generosity has been overwhelming, it’s going to hit me for weeks,” says Gould, from the lower level of Trinity UMC, which has served as a haven for the past three weeks, while the KUO food pantry has been under reconstruction after being destroyed by a tornado. The pantry re-opened Wednesday, September 14, exactly three weeks to the date of its destruction.

As for Faith Kokomo’s adult VBS; it is changing lives by its own magnitude. Caroline Newton, the mother to Rev. Newton, states, “My parents were not church-goers, so I would only go to vacation bible school if a friend invited me.” Caroline Newton, has been an active attendee of the adult VBS, and stated that her favorite part has been the bible study class and is already looking forward to next year’s program. 

Below, you can view video of the adult VBS attendees singing “If you’re happy and you know it,” during the opening service of their adult VBS. 

Kokomo Faith UMC Adult VBS singing "If you're happy and you know it" from Indiana Conference UMC on Vimeo.

Photos from Kokomo Faith UMC’s adult vbs can be found, HERE.