The kids begin arriving at a sunny backyard in Lake Highlands before 9 AM, coated with bugspray and sunscreen and ready to have fun. Watermark Members Julie Fowler, Bethany Grubb, Amy Fulmer, Lacey Liggitt, Mandy Bagdanov, and Jenny Bindra have been planning all year for this day. For several years now, this group of Watermark women has been hosting a Backyard Bible Club for kids in the neighborhood. The lessons have been planned, teaching begins, and over the next five days, kids of all ages will learn more about Jesus.
What has grown into an annual summer tradition involving a handful of Watermark families and 30 to 50 kids began seven years ago with the desire to love and serve their neighbors with the hope of Christ. “We know that God has placed each of us in our neighborhood as an opportunity to live out our faith,” said Mandy. “The families who send their kids to our Backyard Bible Club are the same friends we see at soccer games, school, restaurants, and other places. This is an opportunity to live our faith out loud and show our kids how to love and serve others in the process.”
The Lord’s work in assembling a group of neighbors for this specific purpose is evident in the unique way each woman is gifted. Amy and Lacey, for example, have a real talent for organization and administration and prefer to stay in the background. Bethany’s passion for discipling kids through Backyard Bible began when she was part of a similar ministry as a child. Julie is a gifted teacher and presents Bible stories and the gospel in a fun and engaging way.
“I have a heart for evangelism and am so thankful for the people who poured truth into me when I was growing up,” said Julie. “This is another opportunity for me to pour into others. Every summer we share the gospel with kids from a wide range of ages and experiences, and our kids serve right along with us. Just like the adult leaders, there’s a place for our children to serve in the unique ways God has gifted them. Our children are reintroduced to Bible stories and the gospel again and again, right along with the kids we host at Backyard Bible. Over the years, some of our leaders’ children have made the decision to trust Christ during Backyard Bible, so what could be better than that?”
Over the last six years as the team’s children have gotten older, their kids have taken a larger role in running Backyard Bible, from serving popsicles to leading worship to acting in skits and teaching. The kids are also the ones inviting friends from the neighborhood and sharing the difference that Christ has made in their lives.
“There is such joy in watching our kids grow in Christ and share their faith with people they know from school and our community,” said Jenny. “There’s really nothing better than serving along with our kids and watching their friends come to faith in the Lord.”
The team is upfront with families of the kids who are invited to Backyard Bible that the gospel will be shared. That has opened the door to several great conversations with parents in the community. “As more people in our neighborhood have learned that we are believers, neighbors have turned to us during difficult times and asked for our prayers,” said Bethany. “That has opened a door for us to minister to people in our community we might not have a spiritual conversation with otherwise. We love having the opportunity to care for our neighbors in this way.”
Last year a young woman who had trusted Christ 17 years ago at a Backyard Bible Club came back to speak with the new group of children about the joy she has found in her relationship with the Lord. “She’s a college grad now, and she took the time to come share her testimony with the kids in our neighborhood,” said Julie. “Her words really resonated with the kids because she had been exactly where they are today. That was a really special moment.”
“One of the most important aspects of this effort is showing our friends and neighbors the hope of the gospel in a way that is relevant and fun,” said Jenny. “In our culture, it’s not entirely normal to talk to a neighbor about the fact that I’m a sinner saved by grace. But Backyard Bible has opened up the opportunity for me to do just that in the community where we live. It’s a simple, inexpensive ministry to do, but over time it has changed the eternity of many kids and adults in our neighborhood. God hasn’t tasked me with the job of changing everyone’s mind about Christ. He has called us to be faithful. This serving opportunity has turned out to be our sweet spot in being good, faithful neighbors to the people God has placed around us.”