“Pets Unleashed: Where Jesus Cares ‘Fur’ You” by Group did not rank among Building Faith’s top picks for new Vacation Bible School and summer camp curricula this year. This VBS curriculum about taking care of pets and Jesus’s care for us struggles to connect these threads in theologically constructive ways.
This video is from the 2016 version of the same curriculum:
- Theme: Jesus cares for us
- Website: https://www.group.com/childrens-ministry/vbs/pets-unleashed/
- Publisher: Group (re-released Feb 2023)
- Church affiliation: independent
- Intended ages/grades: preschool and elementary
- Format: onsite at church
- Number of sessions: 2
- Types of activities: music, Bible adventures rotation, service and care projects, games, drama, videos
- Starter kit cost: $112.99 (kit contents listed at this link)
Scope and Sequence
- Day 1: Jesus Sheds Light on How to Live | Matthew 5 – 7, Sermon on the Mount
- Day 2: Jesus Dies and Comes Back to Life | Luke 23:1 — 24:12
Where It Shines
Weekend program design
This curriculum is designed for use as a weekend VBS rather than a week-long program. This format may be appealing to communities that would like to offer VBS but need something short or tailored to a weekend schedule.
Projects that connect Jesus’s care for us with caring for other people
The curriculum features “Projects with a Purpose,” which engage participants in community service. These projects correlate well with the theme of Jesus caring for us and enable participants to practice caring for others in tangible ways.
Flexible activities for including preschool participants
The curriculum provides various options for activities so that they can be scaled to include preschool-age children as well as elementary-age children.
What We Miss
A more theologically substantive and coherent design
The curriculum’s focus on caring for pets lacks substantive theological connection to Jesus’s care for people or to the scriptures used in the lessons. Its lessons also present ideas like “sin separates us from God” and “Jesus died for the wrong things we do.” These interpretations of sin and Jesus’s crucifixion can lead children to develop theologically problematic conclusions that run counter to God’s unconditional love, like that God won’t come near them if they do something wrong or that Jesus’s death is their fault. Additionally, the “shadow play” of Jesus’s crucifixion may not be age-appropriate for children.
Gender inclusive language for God
The curriculum uses masculine language to refer to God, which implicitly reinforces gender inequities in the context of Christian faith.
More simplified set design and implementation
This program involves complicated set and decoration expectations and the use of live animals, which may require significant time, organization, and numbers of volunteers to manage for a weekend-length VBS program.
Sample lessons or activities
The publisher’s website offers little in the way of curriculum samples. We would have liked a sample Bible study and activity guide in order to gain a fuller picture of the curriculum.