There are plenty of things I love about serving in ministry in a small church: despite my introverted nature I love preaching and teaching people from various walks of life; even though only a handful of people read these posts I love relating the truths of God to everyday realities; and, maybe above all, although it will only reach a couple dozen kids during one week in July I love directing Vacation Bible School. Vacation Bible School is both exhilarating and exhausting. While it brings out the best (it gives an outlet for my creative silliness) and worst (I am woefully inadequate in encouraging our volunteers), I am blessed every year by God’s presence, experienced by and through all those who participate.
My first experience with VBS was at First Church of the Nazarene in Brockton when I was invited to participate by Patty Stanley, a third grade classmate. While I don’t remember much more than going, the experience planted deep seeds within my soul. These seeds would take about a dozen years to bear fruit, and now, after 25 summers of leading children through VBS, I am beginning to realize why I love this week so much. VBS reminds me that:
- Church should be fun: Sometimes I feel that a typical Sunday morning is not what most participants would categorize as fun – majestic, illuminating, encouraging and equipping, yes, but ‘a blast”, sadly not. VBS is lively music, energetic games, sweet food, sometimes messy crafts and silly surprises. It is fifteen hours of exuberance and laughter. That is what I picture heaven to be like and those lucky enough to participate get a little glimpse of it in church basements across the country every summer;
- Church should involve everyone: I wish every program in the church involved as diverse a collection of people as VBS. Not only can kids from every aspect of our society participate (regardless of age, education, religion, race, ethnicity or economic status), VBS also attracts volunteers that reflect the same diversity. It is not uncommon for a 70 year-old to interact with a 7 year-old or a teen to laugh alongside a toddler. Again, this is what I picture heaven to be like, and those who participate in VBS get to experience that joy here and now;
- Church should share the love of Jesus: VBS does this in word and in deed. Certainly, the Bible lessons are intended to share the great truth that God loves us so much that He sent His son to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross and restore our relationship with Him. But the willingness of volunteers to give of their time, talents and resources, sacrificially spending hours of retirement or vacation time simply to share the Savior with our smallest family members expresses the great love of God. Perhaps VBS is the best example of evangelism most churches portray.
That is why I love VBS. I have fun, interact with others and share God’s love. This year, as in years past, I was blessed by all that occurred in a little church in the big city as we went on a “Deep Sea Discovery”. It has been a good reminder that God is with me wherever I go!
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go….” Genesis 28:15 (NIV)