Getting to know God’s masterpieces

For the second year running, First Baptist Church in downtown Baton Rouge has traded the classroom-based format of traditional vacation Bible school in favor of an arts-based curriculum to get kids exercising their creative muscles.

The theme for this year’s Masterpiece Summer Arts Camp is “Fruits of the Spirit.” Kids from kindergarten through fifth-grade can enroll.

For the $10 cost of admission, participants receive a T-shirt to decorate, snacks and a week’s worth of guided arts and crafts classes.

First Baptist Church switched from a traditional vacation Bible school format to the “Masterpiece to God” approach in 2012. “We felt like, being downtown, we could do something more artsy,” explained Ginger Conner, interim children’s director and wife of the Rev. Oren Conner.

“Downtown has become revitalized in the arts, so we are trying to fall in line with that,” she said. “We have so many talented people in our church, like Mike Howes, who teaches sculpting, and several art majors from LSU. The great thing about this format is it’s hands-on. Kids can get dirty.”

The change was well received by parents and children alike, Ginger Conner said. “One family called and asked us when camp would be this year, because they were planning their vacation around it.”

Classes will include sculpting, constructing Lego art, mixing and molding homemade modeling clay, building forts out of newspapers, singing and even enjoying snacks designed around each day’s theme.

“We call it culinary art,” she said, laughing. “Everything is active engagement. The kids don’t just sit and eat. When else are you encouraged to play with your food?”

Church member Eleanor Howes wrote this year’s curriculum. Ginger Conner expects these carefully planned lessons will resonate with participants.

“Pastor Oren is involved in teaching the classes, and the teachers do a great job of explaining the Bible stories and ideas in a great way that kids really understand and enjoy,” she said.

Each day will focus on a different fruit of the Spirit. For example, Monday’s activities will center on the fruit of love and goodness, she said.

“We want the kids to think, ‘How can I be loving and good? How can I show that in my daily life?’”

First Baptist Church encourages preregistration, but will accept day-of registrants. “Last year, we had about 75 participants. This year, we are planning for about 100,” Conner said.