Babies lying on blankets inspire Bible course for kids

By Dixon Cartwright

TYLER, Texas--A good way to teach a children's Sabbath-school class about Jesus feeding the 5,000 is to bring to class five loaves of bread and two fish, says Noni McVey of Carmel, Calif. That's one way she gets kids to thinking about Bible stories and principles.

Mrs. McVey and her husband, Dana, were in the Tyler area June 11-13 for a ministerial conference of the Church of God International, of which they are members. (See "Church's Donations Down, but Elders Say They're Optimistic About CGI's Prospects," June 30.)

Mrs. McVey, on the Sabbath of June 12, had presented to the elders and their wives a report about her Sabbath-school curriculum and her Bible correspondence course for kids.

The Journal talked with Mr. and Mrs. McVey over breakfast at the International House of Pancakes in Tyler June 13 about Mrs. McVey's two educational projects.

Over several years the former Noni Chamberlain came up with a Sabbath-school curriculum as a way to help teachers simplify preparations for their weekly classes. With a prepackaged set of materials, including "quarterlies," the teachers could know for two or three months ahead of time what they would cover on a particular Sabbath and be less likely to hurriedly prepare a lesson only a day or two before presenting it.

The curriculum as it stands numbers 55 lessons and is available free of charge by mail through the CGI.

"I have no idea how many people are using the course," Mrs. McVey said, "but we've had a very good response. Yesterday [at the elders' conference] some ministers came up to me and asked me if I am going to continue writing and working on the course. I said no, not right now, because I'm writing the SKY correspondence course for the kids."

SKY pilots

SKY stands for Sabbath Keeping Youth. The SKY Correspondence Course is another project Mrs. McVey has tackled, at the request last year of CGI home-office-based elder Charles Groce of Tyler.

"There's so many variables in how and why your child doesn't go to church, so Mr. Groce thought a correspondence course was a way to connect them to a church," Mrs. McVey said.

The SKY course is something like the Ambassador College Correspondence Course of old, except that it targets young people.

"The child reads it, answers the questions and sends it to the home office, and Mr. Groce grades it," explained Mrs. McVey. "Then the child receives the corrected lesson and the next lesson."

So far Mrs. McVey and other volunteers--including Sharon Hiberd of the CGI home office, Nancy DeJarnette and Marilyn Myerson of Missouri and Sharon Richardson of Memphis, Tenn.--have finished 12 lessons, which normally take about a year for a child or teenager to study.

Attention deficit

Mrs. McVey got interested in teaching kids about the Bible after the birth of her children, Elizabeth, 19, and Jordana, 15.

"We did a lot of traveling," she said. "We visited various congregations."

She noticed that many kids in the congregations would sit in their chairs or lie on blankets through sermons but didn't necessarily pay close attention. She also noticed that kids frequently stopped attending church.

"I decided, well, I need to do something with these kids. I discovered it was hard to find materials for Sabbath-keeping youth, so little bit by little bit I came up with the materials we have been using."

Beginning in 1985 Mrs. McVey also began teaching Sabbath-school classes during the Feast of Tabernacles, a practice she plans to continue this year at Bass Lake, a Feast site near Yosemite National Park in California.

Her philosophy, she summarizes, is to do what it takes to get kids interested in and involved in the way of life taught in the Bible.

"Christ didn't tell only the ministers they were qualified to teach," she said. "You're baptized and have the truth of God, so it's your job just as much as anybody else's job. Hence it's your job to teach your children how to be evangelists for Christ and to be followers of Christ. That is your job.

"When you think about it, God's Word is not passive. God's Word is active. If you get people actively involved in a church, then you're going to go places. That church is going to flourish. When you read the examples about how God communicated with His people, you aren't reading about passive communication."

Mrs. McVey believes the old Worldwide Church of God, from whence sprang the CGI and many other Church of God groups, set a perfect example of what not to do.

"Did they ever get out there and encourage people to get involved?" she asks.

Mr. McVey, with help from his family, operates a couple of family businesses. He is a landscaping contractor and Web-site designer. He designed the CGI's Web pages, which he says were the first Web site among all the Church of God groups. Mr. McVey taught Jordana Web design. She designed and maintains the Sabbath Keeping Youth section of the CGI site.

Mrs. McVey and her kids are unusually active in community work. For example, she and Jordana have "adopted" an 84-year-old nursing-home resident who has no living relatives.

Lifting spirits

"Nobody comes to visit this woman," said Mrs. McVey. "It's very sad. So we have taken upon ourselves to visit her every week. We have little parties for her and take her gifts. We sit and talk. We let her tell us about her past. That lifts her spirits. That, I believe, is personal evangelism. That's getting into your community and doing something.

"Christ said you are the light of the earth; you are the salt. If you never go out and get involved, who's going to know?"

Mrs. McVey and Jordana are part of the National Charity League, a mother-daughter organization. They also help with projects for the National Cancer Society, and they make quilts for babies with AIDS. Mrs. McVey is a past president of the local PTA.

"I guess what it boils down to is what is your good work," she said. "I think sometimes people forget that. They go to church, then they figure they've done their good work.

"I'm brimming full about this. I could give a sermon on this, but if I tried that I'd probably get thrown out."

Mrs. McVey has an unusual (for the Churches of God) understanding of Proverbs 22:6.

"Some people believe Proverbs 22:6 says if you teach your children properly they will stay with the church. But it doesn't really say that. God tells you to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it, right? That doesn't have to mean God will call him to the truth, does it? But it does mean the child, whether he becomes a member of the church or not, will not depart from the right way of moral conduct."

For more information on the Sabbath-school curriculum and the SKY Correspondence Course, write the CGI at P.O. Box 2525, Tyler, Texas 75710, U.S.A. E-mail the CGI at, or visit it on the Web at

See Jordana's SKY Web pages at

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