It’s summer time, so for most of us that regularly attend church there is that impending dread that sneaks up at the mention of preparing for VBS, or for those not brainwashed, “Vacation Bible School.” Why dread?, you ask. Because VBS is hard work, not for the faint of heart, and almost everyone is obligated to participate, children or not. It is usually quite the production for churches with money, and for churches without it becomes a cat and mouse game of hunting down cheap curriculum, volunteers and wondering if anyone will come if you are using last season’s items. It really is a hassle. As a preacher’s kid, I watched my dad (who was always at ‘poor’ churches) scramble with my mom to decide what theme to pick that would draw in a crowd but not break the bank (usually theirs’ and not the church’s).
So why bother? Because it’s important.
Apparently I’m not the only one that thinks so. Jon Acuff recently posted a humorous public service announcement about the many upcoming VBS programs, which got quite a response. It was interesting how many of the comments were negative – focusing on the hard work aspect and some even questioning the motives of churches that hold these programs… “to gain more members?…. introduce children to God who wouldn’t normally learn about him? or merely babysit someone elses’ kids for a week?” This bothered me and here’s why:
Could VBS be less of a production? Could we go without the all the bells, whistles, puppets, glitters and cheesy songs? Probably. Should we abandon it all because of the annoyance factor? Absolutely not.
When I was seven years old, my father picked a random church for my sister and I to participate in their VBS – so random, I do not remember their name, denomination or the week’s enticing theme. What I do remember is a sweet grayed-haired woman sitting with me in a dark hallway and patiently leading me in the prayer of salvation. While I participated annually in VBS, amidst the blur of penny drives, music and crafts, that moment alone is etched forever in my memory. My personal relationship with Christ began at a VBS.
As a teenager I volunteered with the rest of the youth at our church’s VBS. I enthusiastically worked on the puppet team, swept up glitter in the toddler room, and smiled through kitchen duty with the snack Nazi. And I loved it. What I loved more was the summer we took Vacation Bible School to Daytona. We set up and babysat (yes, we babysat– that was our service title) in the mornings at a variety of hotel pools. Parents got a few hours of peace and we played with their kids. We sang songs, shared a snack….. and for 5 to 10 minutes we told these kids a Bible story and answered questions about Jesus.
Another year, we went to Mobile, AL, and one of the groups visited the housing projects and spent time playing with the neighborhood children at a playground littered with dime bags and syringes. They shared popsicles, games, love, and, for just a little while, they shared Jesus.
That’s what it’s about folks! If your VBS program is lucky enough “recruit” new members, great. If your program becomes a babysitting service for a single mom who is desperate for a break…..even better. Proverbs 22:6 states,” Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I was blessed to have parents that that heeded this command, but what about the many children that attending church on a regular basis is not a common occurrence? If they get a crash course on how much Jesus loves them at VBS, then we are doing our jobs. One of the most endearing images we see of Jesus is him welcoming children that were brought to him. When the disciples rebuked him (presumably, because the Teacher’s job is not to babysit or to be bothered with childish games), Jesus responded by saying, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19: 14)
Unfortunately, we can’t wander through our neighborhoods and find our Teacher seated under a tree, walk over and place our children in His lap. We can, however, offer our laps, our off-brand snacks, popsicle-stick crafts, and, most of all, we can show the children Christ’s love. You never know, 20 years from now, your cheesy Jesus song may be stuck in someone’s heart and lead them back to Christ……