Oakbrook Terrace Salvation Army Invites Neighborhood Kids to ‘God’s Big Backyard’
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Salvation Army officers across the Metropolitan Division to adapt many of the programs and services they offer to the community. At The Salvation Army Oakbrook Terrace Corps Community Center, Majors Caleb and Stephanie Senn and their team were determined to find a new way to offer a foundational faith-based program for children in their area.
“Vacation Bible School creates a large impact that affects the lives of children long after the summer is over,” said Major Caleb Senn, corps officer. “We did not consider VBS an optional activity this year as it remains a vital ministry which allows us to reach new friends with the Gospel news.”
After brainstorming with corps staff and members, “God’s Big Backyard” was born. Five corps members offered to host small groups of children for Vacation Bible School in their backyards. Meetings were capped at 15 children, socially distanced in backyards in Oakbrook Terrace and Villa Park.
Peggy McGee led one of the small groups. She taught the host family's neighbors, including some children who hadn’t previously attended worship services or programs at the corps. She said the backyard setup provided a casual, comfortable space for what may have been a first encounter with the Bible for some.
“To come into that environment, we don’t know people’s history, how they feel about the church, or the experiences they’ve had with those environments,” McGee said. “This was such a beautiful thing.”
McGee said the smaller group size allowed for a more personal conversation. “In that two hours, we could meet every single kid and interact with their families, which was a lot of fun,” McGee said.
A total of five groups met to discuss the Bible over the course of a month. Forty-five children, ages 3 to 12, participated. Discussions focused on Mark 12:30-31 and what it teaches about serving Jesus, friends, family, neighbors, and the community.
Each child received a bag to take home with activities and information about youth programming, emergency services, and other forms of assistance available at the Oakbrook Terrace Corps. Salvation Army staff plans to follow up with families who attended to invite them to future events.
“Inviting your neighbors and people we already know in different neighborhoods and different communities that could come to OBT, I think it gave a new, rich opportunity to not only tell kids and parents that Jesus loves you, but that we can develop a relationship with them and with Jesus Christ,” McGee said.
For more information on OBT’s programs and services, including those for youth, visit their website at: www.saobt.org.
Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus.
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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.