Today is the final day of my annual week of craziness and sleep deprivation, otherwise known as VBS week. This year we went to “Splash Canyon” and heard some amazing stories of God’s fulfillment of His promises: He protected Moses as he floated down the Nile in a basket; He provided the Israelites access to the promised land as they walked between heaps of water on the dry Jordan River bed; He healed Naaman by as he washed in the Jordan; He saved 276 men, including Paul, as they were shipwrecked in the Mediterranean; and He established our salvation as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. While I am exhausted due to the activity, I feel blessed by God that I could be a part of it all.
Every year that I direct a Vacation Bible School program, I am humbled by the responsibility that parent’s place in us. They allow their most precious treasures, their children, to participate with our church in hearing Bible stories, playing games, making crafts, eating snacks, singing songs and picking out handfuls of candy each day. They trust us with their child’s physical well being, moral character development, spiritual formation and social interaction. With so many other options available to families (summer camps, sports programs, community center day programs or other Vacation Bible Schools), I am grateful for the parent’s that chose to join us for “Splash Canyon”.
According to Lifeway Kids , in 2016, more than 2.5 million children attended VBS (with over 70,000 making a profession of faith) and $6.5 million was raised for missionary causes. That is quite an impact for about 30 hours of ministry. While our church’s impact is quite a bit smaller, it must not be dismissed as insignificant. I wonder what God might do through the seeds that have been planted this week. Are we, through these five days of fun activities, building up the elders, pastors and missionaries of the mid-twenty first century? Are we, through playing duck-duck-goose and making necklaces with pony beads and remembrance stones, creating lasting memories of God’s goodness which will serve as anchors for these kids when the storms of life hit? I would like to think the answer is, “Yes”.
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 2:20
I want to thank everyone who enabled us to conduct this year’s Vacation Bible School, who volunteered their time and resources to glorify God and bless the lives of more than two dozen children. I also want to thank all those who are praying for the children who attended. It was a great week and, God willing, just the beginning of something great in the lives of all who participated.
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)
This past week I realized, yet again, that I have a great job. I had the opportunity to be with a great bunch of kids and volunteers every day at “SonSpark Labs”, the vacation Bible school written by Gospel Light©. I got to participate in Bible lessons, play games, make crafts, sing songs, sample snacks and eat candy – AND I got to put on a lab coat and perform awesome experiments that demonstrated the wonders of science. It was a great week of sun and fun and it reminded me that I am one lucky guy.
In the midst of all the fun, we learned about gravity and that God not only created all that we see and experience, but He also established laws to insure our existence. We learned about ‘cause and effect’ and that there are real consequences (separation from God) when we do things wrong. We learned about motion and that we would have remained dead in our sins had God not chosen to send His son to ‘move’ us. We learned about transformation and recognized that, with Jesus as Lord, we are something new and different. We learned about chain reactions and that we can bring about change by sharing the truths of Jesus with others.
It brings a smile to my face as I think about some of the things we did at church this week. We got to see what happens when we drop a watermelon from the roof and drop Mentos© into Diet Coke©. We got to play with polymers and discover the dynamics of density. We made (and ate) candy DNA strands and beakers full of Jello©. We made rubber balls and painted with Kool-Aid©. However, there is one more thing that brings me the biggest smile of all – we learned about Jesus.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6–7 (NIV)
As the church basement was filled with singing and laughter, I realized just how blessed I am. I have been given the opportunity to introduce people to the Savior. Sure, VBS is more silliness than substance, but it is still substantive. That is something I have experienced first-hand for nearly 40 years, ever since I was just finishing 2nd grade and Patty Stanley invited me to VBS on “bring a friend’ day. I was introduced to the Savior that summer (even though I didn’t accept His friendship for 15 years). The truths that were taught that summer, in the basement of a Nazarene church in Brockton, have remained with me. And now I have the privilege to share them with another generation of wondering and wonderful children.
I am a lucky man: I get to spend my work week having fun with a great group of kids and sharing about Jesus…but even better is knowing that I have a God who made me, who longs to be with me, who wants me to know Him, who saves me and who loves me forever!
God’s plan for you is Jesus.