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It was a snowy winter day, and Gayle Herman was outside shoveling her driveway and talking to God about the Neighborhood Bible Club she was preparing to host the following summer. If it’s in Your plan, she prayed, this is where we’re going
to hold the club. But who will I get to help me?
“I’m not one to say, ‘God spoke to me.’ It wasn’t an audible voice or anything,” Gayle says, “but what I heard was, Go to the people you know—your Adult Community. Talk to them. So I did.”
So, each Sunday morning, Gayle would put the need for volunteers for the July club on the prayer list of the Community for Christ adult class that she and her husband, Tom, attended. And week by week, the team that would help lead the five-day program for children from kindergarten through sixth grade began to grow. The names came slowly at first, and some said they could be there for only two or three days of the five-day club, but by the time July 11 came around, Gayle had a roster of more than twenty who had stepped forward to help.
Whatever label you use to describe those who accepted her invitation—sixty-somethings, maturing adults, or boomers—the team, made up entirely of volunteers in their retirement years, represented a first in the thirty-plus year history of Neighborhood Bible Clubs.
But those volunteers belied their ages as they took on roles more often filled at other clubs by those a decade or more younger. They served as game leaders, craft organizers, storytellers, song leaders, teachers, and sit-on-the-ground small-group leaders—although they sometimes needed a helping hand to stand up again at the end of the activity.
The next challenge was getting the word out. Most NBC hosts and hostesses can count on their own kids to bring their friends and to help pass out invitations to other kids they know in the area. But how does a sixty-something, whose own kids are grown and scattered, find children to invite to her club?
“One day, I ‘borrowed’ a neighbor’s child,” Gayle says with a smile, “and he walked with me for about an hour. We’d go to a house and look for signs of children—balls, bikes, and other toys. When we saw those, we went to the door and invited them. If no one was home, we left an invitation.
“In the weeks leading up to our club, I talked to a lot of people,” Gayle says. “In just one day I put nineteen thousand steps on my Fitbit.”
The rich skills and life experiences these special adults brought to the club came through in many ways—not the least of which was the puppeteering of a retired teacher who wrote a script tied to the lesson and brought his collection of puppets. He was such a huge hit with the kids that he had to return for a second and a third appearance later in the week. And even the children noticed the patience of “Mr. Dale, Mrs. Barb, Mr. Tom,” and the others and their willingness to answer questions.
Gayle was especially pleased that a number of men were able to be involved. “I wanted them to have a real role—something they wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do when they were tied up with work. My husband gathered a group of guys to lead the games, and ‘Disciple Rich,’ that’s what he wanted the kids to call him, was our teacher for the week.”
A Long-Held Wish
For Gayle, hosting a club had been a longtime goal. Through the eighteen years she and Tom have been part of Wheaton Bible Church, she volunteered to help many other NBC hosts, frequently serving as the large-group teacher. With a degree in recreation and park administration, and a passion for sharing the Gospel—especially with children—she was a valued addition at a number of other clubs.
Even so, she never had been able to host a Neighborhood Bible Club of her own—mostly because her home was on a corner lot that had only a tiny backyard. And living at the intersection of two busy streets, she was concerned about how she would keep the children away from traffic.
Thanks to what Gayle believes was a God-sent opportunity, a few years ago she and Tom were able to purchase a piece of property adjacent to their home and surround it with a sturdy fence. She’s very thankful for the space—and the fence—that allowed her to fulfill a long-held desire to host her own Neighborhood Bible Club this year, inviting children who live near her to learn about Jesus.
Let’s Make Some Memories!
Only God knows what seeds were planted in the hearts of the almost twenty kids who came each day—a number that satisfied Gayle and her team, who were pleased at the attention they were able to lavish on the children who attended.
“I just loved watching the kids—and their interaction with the adults,” she says. She recalls a favorite moment when a little boy arrived, checked in, said his verses—and then sounded out, “Let’s make some memories!” an oft-used phrase of one of the club’s volunteers.
“Some days,” Gayle says, “we had a ton of help. Most days we had almost a one-to-one ratio of adults to kids. But overall, we were pleased to get the number of kids we had,” Gayle said. “It gives you a chance to test things out, and it trains you.
“Earlier in the summer, when I heard about clubs with more than two hundred kids, I thought, Okay God, if that’s what You do, but . . . We were learning along the way. And by the end of the week, the people who were helping were saying, ‘When we do it next year, we’ll know what we’re doing.’ And people who weren’t able to volunteer this year are saying, ‘Sign us up! We’re going to be there next year.’”
The yard and the fence—and the willing team of sixty-somethings—will be another year older when the summer of 2017 rolls around, but if it’s in God’s plan, Gayle will get another chance to host a Neighborhood Bible Club, where kids and adults will play games, learn Bible verses (as much a challenge for some of these volunteers, they report, as it is for their students), create some crafts, and make some memories together as they learn about Jesus and His love!