The Western ideal of the American cowboy is someone who stands tall, does what is right, regardless of danger or personal sacrifice, and who helps the helpless. Christians, like cowboys, are taught to do the same. Using a cowboy theme helps children learn basic Christian values as they “saddle up” for vacation Bible school.
While cowboys may be the theme of VBS, you also need to encapsulate this theme with a description or fun logo such as “Salvation Ranch” or “Riding the Range for Jesus.” When choosing a logo, consider the focus you plan to use for the VBS program. If the focus is about Jesus watching over us as a shepherd watches over the sheep, think in terms of how cowboys watch over their cattle. With this is mind, "Riding the Range for Jesus” works. If the focus is on sharing God's message of salvation and hope with others, use “Salvation Ranch.” Provide printed T-shirts with this logo, as well as a key Bible verse, for those who attend. You can also send home a “Wanted” list before the start of VBS that explains the theme and encourages children to dress up, if they like, as cowboys and cowgirls. The list should also inform parents, what, if anything, children should bring when they attend VBS.
Over the doorways, hang a lariat -- the cowboy's coiled rope. Toward the upper part of the coiled rope, hang a cowboy hat. You can add a key verse of the week to these arrangements. In each classroom, create a chart on a bulletin board or on poster board for learning the daily memory verse. Use a cowboy symbol, such as a pair of cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, a lariat, a saddle or even a horse as a marker. Use a different one for each class. Decorate the board corners with cutouts of the markers that you're using for that class. For example, if your class will be using horses as individual markers, add wild horses or cowboys and cowgirls on horses to the corners of the board. Add fencepost cutouts around the frame. Add the verses you want the children to memorize that week with the first day's verse toward the bottom and the last verse toward the top. Each day, those who learn the verse can move their markers to that verse. Give prizes for learning each verse, with a special prize for those who learn all the verses.
Ephesians 6:10-18 talks about putting on the whole armor of God. Translate this to cowboy gear. As an object lesson for one or more classes, show that what a cowboy wears has important functions, and relate the armor of the Ephesians to these purposes. The cowboy belt becomes the belt of truth, while the vest becomes God's righteousness. Explain that the cowboy boots can symbolize a readiness to spread God's good news of peace, while chaps can be considered the shield of faith because of their protective purpose. The cowboy hat can serve as the helmet of salvation, while the Bible can serve as complete protection. Tell the children they need all parts of the gear to be the people that God wants them to be.
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