I’ve learned a lot about vacation bible school and children directing VBS over the last few years. It’s one of the most exhausting time of the year for everyone involved. We dedicate all of our spare time to this event starting weeks, most of the time months, in advance. Each year I’m surprise, as I’m sure all churches are, at the way God ensures we have what we need, and all the volunteers necessary to make the event happen.
There are three things I wish everyone knew coming in to this.
- It’s not about you. Kids are loud, messy, and sometimes a little wild and can leave you wondering why on earth you’re spending an entire week of your summer saying things like, “don’t lick the table! Get that out of your nose!” VBS cuts into summer vacations and lazy summer days. Yes, being rewarded for your efforts with snacks, meals, recognition, and more can be relieving after a long week, (Or more.) and can make you feel like your effort was worth it, but VBS is about the children. (And if you’re a teen volunteer reading this, nope, not kid. 😉 The smaller ones.) VBS is about stepping out in faith for a week and giving all we can through Christ to these children. When you’re exhausted at the end of the week, know that your exhaustion may have led a child to Christ, or fifteen years from now, may lead an adult to try out your church, remembering the impact this yearly event had on them. One of my favorite stories in our church is from a yearly volunteer that grew up in foster care. She says VBS was one of her favorite events as a child, that the snacks and ability to have days of fun has always stuck with her. She now ensures we have yummy snacks made with lots of love every year. She pulls kids into the kitchen to give them special treats, and solves behavioral problems with quiet and kind words, and usually a pocketed piece of candy. You can make VBS an event to remember with lots of grace and selflessness.
- VBS is not school. These kids (Most of them.) are on a much needed break from quiet walks through the halls, rigorous schedules and intellectually challenging school work. We want them to get to know Christ, not just learn facts and memorize scripture with no context! Let’s paint them pictures of the amazing stories of God’s people, that we as adults, can translate clearly (And maybe not so clearly sometimes.) from the black text of the Bible. Let’s help them create wonderful memories of VBS while instilling in them what it feels like to be part of a church family. Telling mom or dad about every little “oops” the kid had when they come to pick up, may very well be the reason they don’t come back. I’m not saying if Susie chops off another girls ponytail you keep it to yourself, I’m saying if you had to tell Susie to stay with the group five times, or if Peter just couldn’t stop talking during the Bible lesson, you could probably just keep it to yourself or let the director or pastor know if it’s a problem. When a child isn’t following directions perfectly at a fun event, most of the time a parent reaction will be, “if you can’t behave you can’t go.” And that’s the exact opposite of what we should want! My favorite saying is, “a child that needs the most love will show it in the most unloving ways.” What better place to show unconditional, Christ-like love than VBS!
- Fun IS important. Having fun doesn’t mean they’re not learning. In fact, the more fun you can make a lesson or game, the more likely they’ll remember it. VBS isn’t school, if they miss a day, or the whole week, there are no black marks or required notes. If a child isn’t having fun, they won’t be back. Let’s turn their jumping in the halls into elephant stomps. Their running into monkey’s swinging from a vine. Entice them with imaginary lions, and and hidden animals in the “grass.” The more fun they have they more likely they’ll be back.
As volunteers in the church our goal is to serve Christ. Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of leading the children to Him, so at the end of the day when you’re exhausted, over-stimulated, and maybe a little frustrated, just remember all of the sweet faces that heard the name Jesus that day.
Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14