On March 13, the United States declared COVID-19 a national emergency, effectively shutting down our after school programs. Affected programs included Bible Club, a fun, safe space for elementary kids to learn God’s word three times per week. Bible Club Co-Coordinators Rachel Gaffin and Jonathan Knabe sensed the importance of staying connected with their students and continuing to tell Bible stories as Easter approached. After two weeks of planning with Elementary Programs Coordinator Angel Feero, Rachel and Jonathan recorded their first virtual Bible Club lesson on Zoom!
From in-person to virtual
The first video focused on the Lord’s Supper, and featured Jonathan singing and playing ukulele while Rachel danced with hand motions. They prayed, recited a memory verse, and told the bible story along with illustrations. Jonathan edited the video, uploaded it to YouTube, and then they texted it to the participants’ parents. Parents responded enthusiastically! Tyesha Hill, mother of Zimir, wrote back: “Y’all thanks so much. We really appreciate y’all checking on us; that’s very sweet. We’ll watch the video together. It’s so great to hear and see y’all.”
Sharing the Gospel
The parents’ positive feedback encouraged Jonathan and Rachel, and they made some adjustments. Jonathan added his keyboard and studio set-up for worship, and they introduced a weekly “mystery guest.” Week 2 focused on the trial of Jesus and featured volunteer and UVA student JD DeLeon; Week 3 focused on the death of Jesus and featured Angel. In Week 4, Bible Club celebrated Jesus’s resurrection (with Jonathan appearing virtually from inside of the empty tomb) with volunteer and UVA student Kellie Hartless. Kellie was grateful for the opportunity to reach Bible Club students in their homes. “I had such a blast!” she reflected. “I’m so glad I could be a part of the team.”
“Often, people will shy away from difficult, potentially political topics with kids because they’re not ‘kid-friendly.’ I’m grateful we had a chance, with Angel’s help and guidance, to show the kids that God cares about justice, and he cares about each of them.”
Weeks 5 through 10 introduced new special guests: Bible Club volunteer Ruth Scharf, Abundant Life Fellow Katy Correa, and Young Men’s Program Coordinator Bruce Boling. Together, with repeat guests Angel, Kellie, and JD, they covered the Ascension and the birth of the Church. Parents continued to respond with gratitude. Abigail Williams wrote on behalf of her children, “Thanks for doing this. [Maliyah and William] enjoy watching each week! I appreciate all you’ve done for my family this year.”
Confronting racial injustice
By Week 11, racial injustice had overtaken COVID-19 in the headlines. In response, Virtual Bible Club shifted gears to teach about how God cares about black lives, with special guest Angel explaining Black Lives Matter protests. Reflecting on her favorite episode, Rachel said: “Often, people will shy away from difficult, potentially political topics with kids because they’re not ‘kid-friendly.’ I’m grateful we had a chance, with Angel’s help and guidance, to show the kids that God cares about justice, and he cares about each of them.” Jonathan noted this episode was tied for his favorite with the Easter episode, because it allowed he and Rachel to lament together with Angel. Parents appreciated the team tackling this weighty topic. Shantisha Allen responded, “Thanks for talking about the [Black Lives Matter] movement. [Major] definitely has questions and concerns the past couple of weeks, and I welcome them!”
On the experience of going virtual, Jonathan reflected, “For me it was wonderful because we could actually focus on a lot more of the content for the kids and less on discipline.” Noting the unexpected disruption of COVID-19, he added, “God uses all things for good, especially suffering.”
Watch Virtual Bible Club’s Black Lives Matter episode below, and view all of the episodes on our YouTube playlist.