Hi! I’m really thankful for The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus and how God is allowing us at our local church to make disciples. But I have a question: we are planning to do a VBS in June, and I’d like to offer follow-up classes for kids that are interested, and I’m wondering what material would be best? The ages would be 4th-6th graders (10-12 year olds) who are unchurched, with the exception of children from our weekly kids’ club, and I think the Lamb is just too “young” for them, but I’m afraid The Stranger would be too advanced for them. What would you suggest for that upper elementary/early junior high age?
We’re glad to hear that you have found The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus useful in helping to present a clear gospel. We had some of our staff share their experiences regarding teaching children aged between 8-12. When we run a TERM Seminar, we either use By This Name or The Stranger as the text and occasionally, parents would bring their children along to these seminars. We have seen kids as young as eight being able to follow along, read aloud and answer review questions correctly right alongside the adults. We remember one eight-year-old boy in particular who had chosen to skip hockey in order to be part of the seminar. Some of the adults in his seminar commented on the example and encouragement the boy was to the adults. The interesting thing is that we were using By This Name, which is more in-depth than The Stranger.
We highlight this simply to indicate that we don’t think that The Stranger would be over the heads of the kids. It really does depend on the child though. When it comes to teaching children, we have found that the workbooks are very helpful to check for a child’s understanding. The use of the visual aids is also invaluable in helping keep the kids engaged and in explaining key concepts. We have found that getting the kids to pick up the visual aids and explain them back to us also helps us see if they’ve understood what was taught.
However, the challenge may be the length of time that is required to teach The Stranger. It takes about 11 to 16 hours to do it right. You don’t want to take shortcuts. Now, this is where The Lamb works well. It requires far fewer hours to read through with a group of children. Although its content seems to be very simple, keep in mind that for the unchurched, all of this is going to be brand-new information to them. Again, this is where the review questions at the end of each chapter of The Lamb are helpful in checking for understanding. We know of churches who take aside new kids (from 6-12) and over the course of several Sundays, read out The Lamb to them. Because these children have never heard the gospel before, the good news was new and fascinating to them and The Lamb worked for them, even for the older kids.
So which book should you use? That will depend on several factors. 1) How much time for follow-up do you have? 2) What is the maturity level of the children attending camp? The camp leaders will probably be the best ones to assess how mature the children are. These two factors can help you decide which is better to use: The Lamb or The Stranger. We have seen churches start with the The Lamb and then follow up later with The Stranger. This way, the children are thoroughly grounded in biblical truth. A third option is to use The Story that Matters which goes a little more in depth than The Lamb and isn’t as long as The Stranger.