Now that school is out for the summer, what's a kid to do?
Several local churches will be offering opportunities for some fun and adventure, while playing games, singing songs, doing crafts, snacking and learning Bible lessons.
Spring Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church will teach children about biblical kings and queens June 16 to 20 with the vacation Bible school program "Castles and Crowns: A Royal Adventure." Children from 5 to 12 are welcome to participate, and children 13 and over are invited to serve as counselors. Special-needs children are welcome as well. Lunch will be provided.
"We'll learn about King Solomon, King Joash, Queen Esther, the Queen of Sheba and Jesus Christ, of course," said Frances Jones, the program's director. "We want the children to know God has a plan for their lives. We're not teaching doctrine. We're just teaching the Bible."
Jones emphasized that her church will provide a safe atmosphere for children.
"We have educators, elders and other well-qualified people," she said. "We have safety checks, and each child will have a color-coded number so only the person who knows their child's color can pick them up."
Above all, Jones hopes the children will have a good time.
"We'll have people wearing elaborate costumes. There will be T-shirts. We really want the children to get into this."
Children can take a "Friendship Trek" from June 23 to 27 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Masaryktown, where they will learn that Jesus is their "forever friend." Meanwhile, in a program called "From Me to We," adults can learn parenting skills.
"They will watch a DVD that will equip them to help their youngsters see themselves as part of the family," Pastor David Brockhoff said.
The children will collect school supplies to be included in the church's military care packages for troops to give to children in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The pastor said the program has three goals.
"One is to share the good news that God loves us and Jesus is our Savior; two is so kids can make some new friends, and then to give parents some resources to help raise their children in a godly way."
There is a suggested donation of $5 per child and $15 for a family.
"If money is a concern, then there's no charge," Brockhoff said. "We want to share the good news of Jesus with as many children as we can."
It will be county fair time at Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee from June 23 to 27, where children will participate in a "Son Harvest."
"We'll have a 22-animal petting zoo on Friday. We're really excited about that," said Tonya Weatherwax, director for the program.
"The children will learn to grow the fruit of the spirit," she said. "And we'll have a contest to see which age group can bring in the most canned food for our food pantry."
Weatherwax said she hopes to have more children involved this year. "We're hoping to make the families out there aware that we're here, so we can broaden our student base. We want to introduce and expand the children's knowledge of Christ's love."
Children coming to the Spring Hill Baptist Church vacation Bible school will learn how to "dig for God's truth" as they become "DinoDetectives." The program runs from June 16 to 20.
Dayspring Church PCA in Spring Hill will offer its program from June 23 to 27.
"Join us for a week of Bible stories, crafts, goofy songs and fun," Pastor Robert Barnes said. "Bring the kids and grandkids, and while they are learning there are classes for adults ... to join the new pastor for snacks and discussion on how to teach your children to understand religious literature. It's called, 'Why Can't Johnny Read (the Bible)?' ''
Several churches, including Forest Oaks Lutheran Church in Spring Hill, Hope Community Bible Church in Spring Hill, First Baptist Church of Brooksville and Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill, are using the theme "Outrigger Island" for their program.
Forest Oaks Lutheran Church's program runs from June 27 to 29.
"It will be an intergenerational experience for the entire family," said Kimberly Slaughter. "This adventure is an opportunity for families and all age groups to interact and spend time together."
The three-day event will include an opening dinner and music on Friday; crafts, games, lunch and Bible lessons on Saturday, and a worship service followed by a luau and water slide on Sunday.
Hope Community Bible Church children's director Debbie Willman said that in just five days, July 7 to 11, children will learn how to live God's truth.
"It will be an awesome week," she said. "It's going to be a ball. We're going to have a Hawaiian island thing throughout the church. As you walk in the door, there will be huge flip-flops that are footsteps leading into each area."
Willman said there will be a competition between boys and girls for how much change they bring in for missions.
"I just want the children to have a wonderful time," she said, "but the most important thing is that they get to know Christ."
Kay Seale and Alice LaPlaca are co-directors for the program that will run from July 14 to 18 at First Baptist. This will be the first year the church has its program in the evening.
"We're hoping the evening hours will bring in some new people," Seale said. "We're going to serve meals from 4:30 to 5:30 every night. The program is from 6:30 to 8:30, and we will have an adult class as well to help develop parenting skills."
Seale said an offering taken each night will go to the Florida Children's Home. She explained how the program's theme will be used to instruct the children.
"The Outrigger Island theme is based on the idea that the outrigger is what stabilizes a boat and that Jesus is the stabilizer in our lives — that we can trust what he says and that the Bible is true."
Northcliffe Baptist Church minister of children Jerri Trammel says children should get ready for the adventure of their lives as they travel to 'Hawaii' June 23-27.
"The music is awesome, the crafts are fantastic, the games at the Recreation Reef and even the snacks at the Snack Shack are fun," she said. "So pack your gear, prepare to set sail and discover how to live God's unshakable truth on Outrigger Island."