Why do we invest so much time, money, and effort into Vacation Bible School? Do our kids not learn those things every week in Sunday School and Children’s Worship? Do we actually do that much outreach? Is it worth it?
When I first signed on to volunteer at VBS several years ago, I wasn’t asking any of these questions. I was simply a new member and a new mom looking for ways to get to know others in my church. Serving at VBS seemed like a good place to start. I kept signing up each year because it was something to do with the kids in the summer and I felt like I should be contributing to the effort my church was putting into such a large project. However, this year was different. This year, I was asked to lead Vacation Bible School at CGS. I needed to figure out why we did VBS in order to best serve around 200 volunteers that make VBS happen. This year was an education for me and what I learned was entirely unexpected. What is the heart of VBS?
God has blessed me beyond measure this year serving as the VBS Director. First, by saying “yes” to this opportunity, I grew closer with members of CGS that I didn’t know that well. I saw their hearts for the children of our community and the joy they had in sharing the message of the Gospel with these little ones.
As we got the ball rolling, I had the opportunity to work closely and often with our Children’s Ministry Director, Amelia Cassar. This was life changing! I thought I knew what she did, who she was, and what she was working on for CGS, but over the last few months as we worked on this project together I got to know her and her zeal for children’s ministry so much better. So much goes on behind the scenes in preparing the lessons for our children; I’m glad that, through working with the person who makes it all happen, I got to learn more about and from her. We had many tough and deep discussions about what to teach and how to teach it and how to approach various problems that cropped up. When this all began, Amelia was an acquaintance that served my family and I, but about whom I knew embarrassingly little. Now, I can say God used VBS to draw the two of us closer into his family. She is my sister. Without this experience, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see all that she does, how much she cares, and how we could work together as one church body in service to the families of the church.
God blessed me in still other ways. I think it was on the second day of VBS, I was making my rounds, checking in and offering support. and I was struck with a sense of awe: I was getting to peek in to the heart and the giftedness of the body of Christ. I watched in amazement as Bethany Porter, with her gentle, enthusiastic smile, led over 50 children in various crafts that she developed herself. From there I moved to Gospel where Michelle Harris presented the story of God’s great love in creative and memorable ways and managed her large groups of children with the expertise of an experienced teacher. Outside, Justin Webb was directing all the energy that a gaggle of children and their teenaged group leaders can bring into high-energy games that referenced still more lessons from our Bible story for the week. I then rounded a corner and spied group leaders sharing a snack with their children. Tears sprung to my eyes. I was witnessing all the ways that God has uniquely gifted the members of his church and I was amazed.
This is what Bob Burns recently preached about and what Paul references in his letter to the Ephesians when writing about the Body of Christ. Each one of the areas of VBS required a unique gift and talent. God purposed and planned each person that was there to utilize their unique set of skills and heart in order to demonstrate his gospel with the same variety that he has created all things.
Third, this is a fulfillment of our call. Jesus has called us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20); that includes the smallest people who may not understand a 30 minute sermon, but do understand visits from a live pig, puppet shows, and dramatic retellings of ancient Bible stories. Fourth, we are one body and a body is most healthy when it is doing good work. At VBS, brothers and sisters at CGS get to use their gifts and develop relationships with one another, which won’t occur while they remain mere consumers of information and services. Fifth and finally, this is fun! It’s a week set aside to celebrate the truth, community, and joy found in the Gospel. Drawing from the Winnie the Pooh metaphor favored by our own Chuck Jacob, there is a time for serious contemplation of the world through the eyes of Eeyore, there is a time for the studiousness of Owl, and then there is VBS: our Tigger time, a time of joyful bouncing which is just as important and needed as the rest.